What Uber and Grab do not Want You to Know – A Deeper Insight to the Private Hire Industry

Uber and Grab advertisements are raving about lucrative earnings and work flexibility. News articles on mainstream news publications in Singapore seem to echo these claims as well. On 13 March 2017, an article by TODAY features a driver who reportedly drives 9 hours a day and after deducting all expenses, such as petrol and rental, earns $6000 a month. This job seems to be a dream come true: an easy task for good dollars, given that the median gross income in Singapore was $4,056 in the year 2016*.

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Disclaimer: The writer at the time of writing had been an Uber and Grab driver for a year. Relevant research and interviews have been conducted for this article. Viewpoints and content of the article do not represent that of the entire private hire community.

*According to Comprehensive Labour Force Survey, Manpower Research & Statistics Department, Ministry of Manpower

The Spotlight: Earnings

Theoretically, for a 12km ride, it costs $8.50 ($2.50 base fare, $0.50 per kilometre, based on the information on the Grabcar website). Trips of this distance take about 15 to 20 minutes to complete. Based on experience, there are on average, two bookings every hour which add up to a total of $17 every hour. Deducting the 20% fare commission from every ride, this becomes $13.60 an hour (this is not profits yet, this amount is before petrol and rental costs). We did not calculate peak hour earnings as fares at that time tend to be higher and will vary, due to the fluctuation in surge pricing and peak hour traffic.

Peak hours are the best time to drive. Drivers tend to wake up early in the morning to drive during the morning peak hour from 7-10am then head back home to rest and continue driving for the evening peak hour from 5-8pm. This adds up to 6 hours of peak-hour driving. Typically, earnings from the morning peak hour are enough to cover the cost of car rental, leaving petrol and parking costs to be covered by the earnings in the evening.

You may use the fuel consumption (FC) of your vehicle to calculate the cost of petrol, for example, if the FC of your car is 10km per litre, that would mean you spend $2 (cost of 1 litre of petrol) every 10 km that you travel. Reset your odometer at the start of your shift to know your total distance travelled, then calculate the petrol cost.

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