How the Coronavirus is Affecting the Rideshare Industry [and Alternative Gigs]

Rideshare companies are providing financial assistance to drivers diagnosed with Covid-19, but the best way to protect yourself is to take precautions and sanitize your car properly.

Sara Routhier, Outreach Managing Editor, has professional experience as an educator, SEO specialist, and content marketer. She has over five years of experience in the insurance industry. As a researcher, data nerd, writer, and editor she strives...

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Dan Walker graduated with a BS in Administrative Management in 2005 and has been working in his family’s insurance agency, FCI Agency, for 15 years (BBB A+). He is licensed as an agent to write property and casualty insurance...

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UPDATED: Apr 28, 2020

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Things to remember...

  • Washing your hands is still the most effective way to stop the spread of the coronavirus.
  • Properly sanitize your vehicle before and after each ride, wiping down all often-touched areas.
  • Open your windows, if possible, for better ventilation.
  • There are many jobs hiring now which can help offset your lost income from ridesharing.

The novel coronavirus, which causes the disease known as COVID-19, has been rapidly spreading across the world. Now that the pandemic has made its way across the United States, a large portion of the workforce is having to deal with the fallout. The coronavirus will negatively impact rideshare drivers who work for Uber, Lyft, Via, or any of these on-demand car ride companies.

How is the coronavirus affecting the rideshare industry? Let’s look at how the rideshare industry is dealing with the coronavirus and how they are compensating rideshare drivers. You’ll also see what the CDC recommends for cleaning your vehicle and preventing the spread of COVID-19 and even which companies are hiring now for struggling gig-workers.

How is rideshare demand changing with the coronavirus?

Uber has reported a decrease of up to 70 percent in the hardest-hit areas of the country, such as the greater San Francisco area where several counties have been ordered to shelter in place. You can listen to the call which updated Uber’s shareholders, where they talk about the decrease the company has been facing. Lyft and Via are certainly facing the same trend.

As you can see in the video below, drivers in the rideshare industry are having to make some changes during this difficult time.

Uber and Lyft have both suspended their carpooling service, as well.

TheRideShareGuy did a survey of 191 Uber and Lyft drivers in March. You can see below that, even over just four days, the trend is obvious.

Demand for Uber and Lyft Drivers
DemandMarch 13March 14March 15March 16
Decreased75.0%78.0%80.0%82.9%
Increased12.5%5.1%3.3%2.9%
Stayed the same12.5%16.9%16.7%14.3%

Each day, the demand for Ubers and Lyfts declined, with 82.9 percent of drivers on March 16th saying they’d seen a decline in business. That’s an 11 percent drop in just four days.

With more businesses shuttering up and more states issuing stay-at-home directives, this trend will likely continue for a while.

Some drivers are choosing not to work with everything that is going on. The same survey asked drivers how they’re handling the crisis.

How Uber and Lyft Drivers are Dealing with the Coronavirus
DRIVER REACTIONPERCENTAGE OF RESPONDENTS
Driving less38.5%
Driving about the same29.4%
Stopped driving23.5%
Driving more8.6%

Most of the drivers who responded stated that they are either driving less or they’ve stopped entirely. Of those asked, 8.6 percent have stated they’re driving more than before. That may be because people are choosing to avoid crowded public transport in some areas as the virus spreads.

With nearly 65 percent of drivers reporting Uber or Lyft as their only source of income, this is becoming a financially worrisome time for them.

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How are rideshare companies dealing with the coronavirus pandemic?

Ridesharing is not the only industry being affected by COVID-19. Not by a long shot. But, it is a company of mostly gig-workers who traditionally don’t have access to paid sick leave in a pandemic where they are deemed an essential service by most states.

This pandemic is uncharted territory in a lot of ways, and it’s scary to see how fast COVID-19 has spread. The Wall Street Journal made this video detailing how this came to be.

Ridesharing is a relatively new industry that wasn’t around during the 2008 recession, so this is the time where it will be tested.

The first — and still biggest — company to enter the market was Uber. Uber’s major competitor is Lyft, but they are far from the only options now.  The major ones out there fill different niches or markets, with Via rising up to become a major competitor in its own right.

Let’s look at how the three major rideshare companies have so-far reacted to the crisis stemming from COVID-19.

How Uber is Helping Drivers During COVID-19

As the largest rideshare company out there, Uber is also leading the COVID-19 response.

Uber has issued statements regarding what they plan to do to help their drivers during this time. According to Uber’s website:

Uber plans to provide financial assistance for active drivers for up to 14 days if they get diagnosed with COVID-19 or are placed in quarantine by a public health authority. During this time, your Uber account will be placed on hold to prevent working while contaminated.

It’s important to reiterate that this does not cover any illness unless it is medically diagnosed COVID-19. It will also only cover wages if a health official or medical provider places you under mandatory quarantine, rather than a self-quarantine. If Uber receives reputable information that you have been exposed to COVID-19, it will also cover lost wages from time spent isolated.

Uber has helpfully broken this down based upon drivers in San Francisco — a heavily hit area — based upon what their daily earnings were.

Uber COVID-19 Support for Drivers Based on Income
AVERAGE DAILY EARNINGS (AVERAGED OVER 6 MONTHS OR LESS IF A NEW DRIVER)TOTAL POSSIBLE FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE (UP TO 14 DAYS)
$28.57 / day$400
$64.28 / day$900
$121.42 / day$1700

If you’re a driver for Uber, this should be able to give you some idea of what you could be eligible for. Also, all drivers will receive at least $50, even if they’ve only done one drive in the past six months.

Though there has been some recent press that Uber hasn’t been paying out what it promised, it is still too early to tell how this will all play out.

How Lyft is helping drivers during COVID-19

As Uber’s biggest competitor, Lyft is sometimes preferred by drivers for ease-of-use of the app and the sign-on bonus.

Like Uber, Lyft has said that they will compensate drivers who are diagnosed with COVID-19. At this time, the details — such as how much it will be — are still forthcoming.

Lyft is providing free hand sanitizer and other cleaning supplies to its drivers to aid in their effort to keep their Lyft workplace as safe as possible.

How Via is helping drivers during COVID-19

Via generally operates in high-need areas so vehicles driver fewer miles. The service gives drivers extra money for picking up more people for the same ride.

Via has also promised compensation for up to 14 days of lost earnings with the appropriate documentation. This is only if a licensed medical professional orders you to self-quarantine because of a potential diagnosis with COVID-19 or you have had probable exposure to the virus.

Via promises to provide disinfectant wipes to all of its drivers.

How do you stay safe while driving or riding in a rideshare vehicle?

The disease known as COVID-19 is caused by the novel coronavirus, and it’s been racing across the globe. Per John Hopkins University, cases in the United States are now doubling every three days. You can see just how prevalent the virus is in the country now.

View as image

What sort of behavior should you be practicing in order to keep yourself safe while in a vehicle with other people?

First off, don’t drive while sick. It’s just not worth it. The same goes for if you have a sick family member living in your home. Unless you’ve been tested, you don’t know if your symptoms are from a cold, flu, or COVID-19.

Though there is still a lot about this virus that’s a mystery, there are some symptoms that should make you stop in your tracks and stop exposing yourself to others:

  • Fever
  • Coughing
  • Shortness of breath

According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there are a few practices you should try to follow in order to lessen the chances of catching or spreading the virus.

  • Wash your hands often
  • Disinfect frequently touched surfaces
  • Cover your cough with a tissue or in your elbow
  • Don’t touch your face

This video from the CDC discusses how to prevent COVID-19.

But, if you’re a rideshare driver who is still working, these are some additional measures the CDC recommends.

  • Keep windows open if possible
  • Increase ventilation
  • Regularly disinfect surfaces, especially those that are likely to be touched

In addition, follow any recommendations regarding social distancing when possible.

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How do you sanitize your car against the coronavirus?

If you’re one of those drivers who are still choosing to work— or you don’t have a choice and need to work to support your family — you need to take the proper precautions so that you and your riders stay safe.

How do you keep your car sanitized against COVID-19?

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the novel coronavirus can live for hours to days on surfaces.

The longevity of the virus depends on the surface, but it can survive up to three days on plastic and stainless steel. Keep that in mind when cleaning the interior trim of your vehicle, and give it extra attention.

In the video below, a reporter from WXYZ-TV Detroit goes over which parts of the vehicle should be given special attention.

The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has an extensive list of disinfectant products that have been shown to be effective against the human coronavirus that causes COVID-19.

AutoBlog notes that you should never use a solvent-based cleaner in your car, such as alcohol or acetone. Do not ever use bleach, as it is very damaging to the interior of your vehicle. It’s worth noting that spray disinfectants only work on what they’ve touched, so make sure you get every spot if you’re using one.

Don’t forget to clean every oft-used part of your vehicle. Here’s a list in case you forget something.

Often-Touched Places in your Car to Clean
WHERE TO CLEAN
Steering wheel
Door handles (inside and outside)
Any buttons (locks, windows, radio, ignition button)
All arm rests
Shift lever
Turn signal and windshield wiper stalks
Grab handles
Cup holders
Seat adjusters
Touch screens
Rearview mirror
Gas cap

In short: clean anything you might think of touching. Better safe than sorry in this case.

It’s unlikely that your vehicle is going to be affected by the Coronavirus, but that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. So, it’s not a bad idea to read up on what your auto insurance policy covers so that you can be prepared.

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What are some alternative ways to make money during the coronavirus pandemic?

With more and more states issuing stay-at-home and shelter-in-place mandates, the rideshare industry is suffering. Fewer workers are out and about, and social hangouts are shut down. Most restaurants are only doing take-out now. That means fewer riders who would normally create the demand for rideshares.

So, without that income, what can you do?

Let’s look at a few jobs that are hiring now.

The obvious option is grocery and take-out delivery. Uber and Lyft drivers can easily fit into this niche. And luckily, a lot of these places are hiring. There’s even less social interaction than ridesharing, so it’s safer than having somebody sitting a few feet behind you. Here are just a few companies that are hiring for food delivery now.

Some companies that are still deemed essential and open are ordering deep-cleaning services, so there is a larger market for that at the time being. Papa Johns, Pizza Hut, and Dominos are also actively looking for more delivery drivers.

Other places that are hiring now:

  • Grocery stores
  • Amazon
  • Childcare for children of parents who still report to work or have to work from home
  • CVS and other healthcare-related industries
  • Online learning for students who are now out of school

The best thing you can do is just look around and don’t give up. This is a tough time, but just keep doing the best you can and practice the health and safety measures recommended by the CDC.

Number of people currently confirmed to have COVID-19, in the US
Number of people currently confirmed to have COVID-19, in the US