I always make sure to use a middle finger to deny Lyft requests like this one. Lyft doesn’t pay extra for long pickups, so nope Dominick, I won’t drive 32 minutes only to find out that you’re going a few blocks, netting me $3.75 before taxes and expenses. Fuck no.

Uber, on the other hand, at least pretends to care about long pickups, which means I will likely accept a ping 32 minutes away. Let’s have a look at the rate card and how it translates to “pickup premiums”. Here’s what it looks like on my market:

  • Per Mile $0.6075 (same as regular fare)
  • Per Minute $0.1125 (same as regular fare)
  • Threshold 11 minutes

That “threshold” means you’ll be driving fist 11 minutes on your own dime, after which you’ll get paid standard fare, as if you already picked up your pax. Let’s do some basic math, assuming for simplicity’s sake that you’ll be driving at 60 mph, making 1 mile per minute.

  • Pickup 12 minutes/miles away will net 1 minute + 1 mile extra, or 72 cents.
  • Pickup 20 minutes/miles away will net 9 minutes + 9 miles extra, or $6.48.
  • Pickup 30 minutes/miles away will net 19 minutes + 19 miles extra, or $13.68.

If we convert it into hourly rate, things get even more interesting. 12 minute pickup translates into $3.60/hour, 20 minute pickup into $19.44/hour, and a 30 minute pickup gives us a whopping $27.36/hour. No kids, you’re not getting rich doing Uber.

Practical implications

It totally depends on your location and a current market condition. It it’s 3am in the boonies, I’ll probably accept even a 15 minute ping – not for a pathetic “pickup premium”, but because it’s likely a long ride. If it’s a slow day, 20+ minute pings are okay. However, if I’m in a bar cluster, and bars close in 15 minutes, guess what happens to all long pings?…

Gaming the system

According to Reddit, the best strategy is to crawl for 11 minutes (or whatever is your market’s threshold), then fly like a bat from hell for the rest of the distance. Unfortunately, it’s not that simple, not anymore.

Following is mostly reverse engineered by yours truly, so take it with a grain of salt:

  • Uber locks your ETA the moment you accept the ping. Keep in mind that Uber navigation’s ETA could be different from the ping’s ETA, so take a note at the time you accept that long ping.
  • If you arrive later than 2 minutes past the initial ping ETA, you’re getting paid for ETA minus threshold, not a cent more.
  • If you choose a route that in Uber’s opinion will make you 2+ minutes late (may vary on your market), Uber will give pax an option to cancel at no charge. Yes, even for a 30-minute pickup, so tread lightly.
  • If you arrive sooner than ETA, you’re getting paid for actual time and miles minus threshold.

So if you follow the Reddit wisdom on a 12-minute pickup and manage to make it in 12-13 minutes, but flying that last mile, you may get 80 cents instead of 72… maybe even a whole buck (and a speeding ticket). Or you could accidentally turn it into 15 minutes and find yourself with a cancelled trip and 0 earnings. You do you, just don’t arrive sooner than the original ETA.

Personally, for long pickups I prefer slow surface streets to highways, but strictly for fuel economy.

King of no-shows

No-shows is where long pickups get really interesting. Little known fact: there’s no threshold subtraction with long pickup no-shows. With 11 minute threshold, a 10-minute drive to pickup followed by no-show nets a standard $4.50 (X on my market), but any longer and…

  • No-show 12 minutes/miles away will net $8.64.
  • No-show 20 minutes/miles away will net $14.40.
  • No-show 30 minutes/miles away will net $21.60.

Now imagine that someone 30 minutes from your location wants to go 2-3 blocks, netting you a $3.75 minimum fare. If you complete that ride, you’ll earn $3.75 + $13.68 = $17.43 before expenses and taxes. Waiting 5 minutes and no-showing that same pax will net $21.60, or $4.17 more. Do you still feel any sympathy for a pax that had 35 minutes to get his shit together but failed to show up?…