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If you think you'll get rich driving UberX in Toronto, think again

Metro crunched the numbers to see if the company’s claims about driver earnings add up.

Nick Raats has been an UberX driver for about a month, working 60 to 65 hours per week.

Steven Goetz/For Metro

Nick Raats has been an UberX driver for about a month, working 60 to 65 hours per week.

Think you’ll get rich driving UberX? Think again.

Uber Canada celebrated one year since launching UberX in Toronto by releasing some revealing data about the popular -- and controversial -- service that lets regular drivers earn money using their own cars as taxis. According to the company, there are more than 16,000 UberX drivers in Toronto who have collectively been paid more than $50 million.

Metro crunched the numbers to see if the company’s claims about driver earnings add up.

What Uber says

Uber spokesman Xavier Van Chau told Metro UberX drivers in Toronto earn an average of $23/hour; that’s after the company collects its 20 per cent cut and $1.50 ‘Safe Rides’ fee.

UberX drivers reportedly earned more than $50 million last year, providing a total of 4.4 million trips. That works out to an average fare of $11.36 per trip.

The company claims UberX drivers have driven passengers a total of 34 million kilometres. The average trip length is 7.73 kilometres.

The UberX platform does not offer passengers a way to tip drivers and asking for tips is strongly discouraged.

What the real costs are

According to CAA, a mid-size car in Ontario costs its owner $0.54 per kilometre after accounting for fuel, insurance, licence fees, depreciation and maintenance. For UberX drivers, that’s an average cost of $4.17 per trip.

UberX drivers earning more than $30,000 per year are obligated to pay HST. Based on the average fare, that’s $1.48 per trip.

Uber claims every ride is backed by $5 million of commercial auto insurance. But the Insurance Bureau of Canada warns that driving to generate income can leave drivers without any coverage in the event of an accident. That means UberX drivers may have to shell out for commercial insurance, which can cost five times as much as personal coverage.

What do UberX drivers actually make?

$11.36 (average trip) - $4.17 (other expenses) - $1.48 (HST) = $5.71

Driver-incurred costs potentially eat up half what UberX drivers get paid. So, if Uber’s $23 claim is correct, drivers can expect to pocket about $11.50/hour -- only  twenty-five cents more than Ontario’s new minimum wage (as of Oct. 1) -- and that’s without factoring in the added cost of commercial insurance.

Talking to an Uber driver

Nick Raats has been an UberX driver for about a month, working 60 to 65 hours per week. 

He loves the “freedom” and “power” to choose when to work and relies on his UberX earnings as he gets his web design company off the ground.

Raats said his best day was last Friday: “I made $350 driving for about 15 hours.”

That same night he had his first drunk passenger, a man who stumbled out of a TIFF party at 3 a.m. and urinated on his car after he dropped him off.

“It is an unskilled job, I mean, I am amazed I can earn $20 an hour.”

Raats would prefer Uber add HST to the fare and thinks it’s “idiotic” that he is expected to collect it himself. He’s also waiting for the details of a new partnership with Intact Insurance to offer coverage for Uber drivers.

“I am concerned that if I report I am driving for Uber, my insurance company will drop my coverage,” he said.

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