GLOBAL ECONOMY

NerdWallet: Turn Your Regular Commute Into A Money-Making Venture

  • Morning commuters travel the 210 freeway between Los Angeles and cities to the east on December 1, 2009 near Pasadena, California.   (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

    Morning commuters travel the 210 freeway between Los Angeles and cities to the east on December 1, 2009 near Pasadena, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)  (2009 Getty Images)

  • Morning commuters travel the 210 freeway between Los Angeles and cities to the east on December 1, 2009 near Pasadena, California.   (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)

    Morning commuters travel the 210 freeway between Los Angeles and cities to the east on December 1, 2009 near Pasadena, California. (Photo by David McNew/Getty Images)  (2009 Getty Images)

While the hours you spend at work may not always be enjoyable, at least you’re getting paid. But what about the time you spend in your car, on the way to and from work? If you live and drive in one of the nation’s most congested metro areas – like L.A., New York, San Francisco or Austin – your commute probably takes an hour out of your day, and costs you in gas, too. Fortunately, if you have a smart phone, you can turn your commute into a money-making venture. Check out these services to get paid for something you have to do, anyway.

Sidecar

Founded in 2012, Sidecar is a ridesharing company that connects drivers with people who are willing to pay for rides. Registered drivers can set a price, as well as a radius of possible pick-up and drop-off locations, and then wait for the requests to roll in. Drivers who recruit passengers can keep 100 percent of the proceeds from those passengers’ rides. Otherwise, Sidecar keeps 20 percent.

Becoming a Sidecar driver isn’t as easy as simply signing up. The company has a number of requirements for prospective drivers, including:

• Background Checks. The company looks for major traffic violations, as well as criminal convictions.  
• Interviews and Training. Just like for any other job, potential drivers must go through a series of video and in-person interviews and a training protocol.
Minimum Standards for Vehicles. Sidecar vehicles must have a model year of 2000 or better, so if you’re thinking of signing up to fund a new engine for your beater, think again.

Drivers should also be aware that personal auto insurance policies might not cover them if they’re driving for Sidecar, and Sidecar’s insurance won’t always pick up the slack. The company’s liability policy only covers them if they’re carrying a passenger, and doesn’t cover collision or other damage.

Location is also a factor. As of now, Sidecar is only available in eight different U.S. metro areas – San Francisco, L.A., San Diego, Seattle, Chicago, Charlotte, Boston and D.C. – many of which already have extensive public transit. However, the company continues to expand and hire drivers.

Barnacle

Those burdened with a particularly long commute might check out Barnacle, a service which uses individual drivers to make deliveries, as an alternative to UPS, FedEx and the Postal Service. Launched late last year, Barnacle allows those with items to ship to post a maximum payment, and drivers to bid on the job. After delivery, drivers are paid via bank transfer, with Barnacle taking a 10-15 percent cut. Shippers won’t have to worry about packaging to USPS standards, and they’ll save money over other shipping methods. Drivers can offset some of the costs of their trip, whether it’s a drive to work, or a weeklong vacation.

Barnacle drivers link their Facebook account with their Barnacle profile, so potential customers can verify their identity. They’ll also undergo a background check and a driver’s license scan. There are also no specific geographic requirements. Though the company has physical locations in the Bay Area, L.A. and Seattle, where users can pick up or drop off items, they’re also interested in expanding their network, though obviously some locations will have fewer requests for deliveries.

TaskRabbit

Commuters with a little spare time in their schedules might consider TaskRabbit. Since 2008, the site has matched participants seeking a little extra money with local odd jobs. Once TaskRabbits have registered, they can bid on opportunities; the site takes a 20 percent cut of all earnings. Some businesses even find temps through the site, but workers who are already commuting might consider smaller jobs, like:

• Grocery Shopping. Need to stop at the store on the way home from work? Maybe your neighbor could use some ingredients for dinner. According to TaskRabbit, the average grocery stop costs around $35.
• Small Deliveries. Maybe a parent needs cupcakes delivered to their child’s school in time for a class party, or a busy professional can’t seem to make it to the dry cleaner. The price will depend on the distance traveled and the number of stops.

Potential TaskRabbits undergo a rigorous interview process, similar to Sidecar, and multiple rounds of background checks. And like many other money-making apps, the service is only available in a limited number of cities, including Chicago, Denver, Phoenix, Austin, Dallas and most major metro areas on the east and west coasts. That said, if the poster specifies a task that can be done remotely – like proofreading or writing – TaskRabbits can work from anywhere.

The Bottom Line

If none of the above companies are available in your area, you could always check with competitors. Lyft, another ridesharing site, serves a wider variety of cities, including Columbus, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Pittsburgh. Uber is available internationally. And Taskhero works like TaskRabbit, but only operates in San Diego.

Though representatives of some services report that users can make a living off of available odd jobs – TaskRabbit founder and CEO Leah Busque told ABC News that some TaskRabbits make almost $5,000 a month – there’s no reason to quit your 9-to-5 just yet. The thought of running from errand to errand or pick-up to pick-up might just make your desk job look tempting. But, if you have to commute, you might as well turn it into a little cash.

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