Car Rooftop Advertising and Uber Lyft Earnings

Lyft buys Halo Cars, a startup founded by four Penn students in 2018

Uber will start putting ads on top of some of its vehicles

In the past few weeks Uber and Lyft have made business moves to put dynamically-updated car rooftop advertising signs on the top of some rideshare driver’s vehicles.

I've referenced two articles… one reports Lyft's action the other about Uber's.

In this blog post I will cover what we know about the offers; expected earnings for drivers; Lyft and Uber driver contract implications; potential damage to a driver’s vehicle; and the implications of personal driving with a large sign on the roof of a driver’s vehicle.


What will the offer look like?

I’ve not received an offer from either company yet, but I’m always interested in ways to maximize my self-employment income, so the referenced articles caught my attention.

From the reports I’ve seen so far it looks like we are talking about adding a traditional taxi-like Lyft or Uber advertisement board sign on the top of a driver’s vehicle for an opportunity to earn up to $400 a month.



“Halo told Forbes that using the screens has led to higher ratings and tips for rideshare drivers. Drivers can also earn up to $400 per month when driving full-time with Halo screens…”



“Adweek says that drivers in three cities — Phoenix, Dallas, and Atlanta — will get $300 to install the rooftop displays and an additional $100 each week they drive more than 20 hours.”


“Up to $400 a month!!! 

So almost five thousand dollars in a year?”

Okay you've got my attention!!!

The car rooftop advertising signs will be digital displays following directions and displaying advertisement pushed through an integration with the driver’s smart phone:



“Halo Cars attaches smart LED screens to the top of rideshare vehicles to show ‘hyper-targeted’ advertisements that are calibrated to appear based on location, weather, and consumer profiles…”



“As you would expect with a data-rich company like Uber, the ad display will respond to both location and time of day. According to Adweek, the ads will be geofenced and can also sync with other Adomni-managed displays.”


Since the option is not available to me yet all I can do for now is think about how I will respond in the future when I do get the offer… would I be willing to have a big sign on the top of my personal vehicle?

Way back in 2016, just after my sign up with Uber and Lyft, I looked into getting a shrink-wrapped advertisement on my car… I figured since I would be driving all over Denver, Colorado daytime and nighttime hours, there ought to be a company out there who would want me?

I’ve also looked into in-vehicle advertisements using a tablet mounted to the back of my seats.

After some research and personal reflection, I decided that neither option made sense at the time… at least not to me.



Lyft and Uber Driver Contracts

When I looked at my contracts with Uber and Lyft in 2016, it appeared that I was probably prohibited from displaying any kind of car advertising in or on my vehicle. 

By “prohibited”, I mean doing something that violates the legal contracts I have with Lyft and Uber. As such, that action could result in my being permanently disconnected from the Lyft and Uber driver platforms.

Now I'm not here to tell you what someone else’s legal contract may say…

I know there have to be differences in the rideshare driver contracts from one U.S. state to the next… as example because states (and sometimes cities) define what year/make/model vehicles are acceptable for the base-level (lowest passenger fare) rideshare service.  It's just logical to believe there could be other differences… the point is read your own contract.

I’m also not going to tell you what my 2020 Uber/Lyft contracts say on the subject of car-rooftop or in-vehicle paid advertising… I don’t want to lead anyone down the wrong path based on guidelines here in Denver, Colorado.

Everyone who signs/agrees to a legal contract needs to read the contract for themselves… your contract might say something different from mine.

If you're thinking about putting advertisements on, or in, your car… or for that matter selling snacks… or promoting any other side business… or anything else you plan to do hoping to earn more income with your rideshare driving business, you should understand whether your plans violate your contract with Lyft or Uber.

If you’re thinking you should be able to do what you want with the inside and outside of your vehicle… because you’re an independent contractor… you are not alone… I’m with you.

But consider this: the passengers (i.e., customers) that rideshare drivers transport from Point A to Point B are provided by a Ridesharing company so there is a very strong legal argument that those passengers belong to the Ridesharing company, not to the driver transporting them.

And it is a fair argument… the Ridesharing companies are spending huge marketing dollars to attract and retain customers while drivers don’t have to spend anything on marketing… to get passenger trip requests, drivers just log in to the driver application and indicate that they are available to accept ride requests.

The point is to read every related legal contract (Uber/Lyft/advertising company/etc.) and as needed, seek competent legal advice or you could be risking your status as a rideshare driver… risking your ability to earn income completing passenger trips for a given Ridesharing company.



Let's get back to exploring the potential for $400 a month extra income… which is still sounding pretty good to me!

Both referenced articles communicate some caveats on what drivers will earn


Lyft and Halo Cars, Inc. advertising describes their program like this:


“Drivers can also earn up to $400 per month when driving full-time with Halo screens…”


Notice the words “up to” and “when driving full-time” presumably means a driver must average 40 or more hours per week logged on to the driver application actively completing passenger trips.


Firefly Systems Inc., headquartered in San Francisco, is currently modifying their advertising program:



“…$300 to install the rooftop displays and an additional $100 each week they drive more than 20 hours. After April 1st, drivers will be paid based on how many hours they drive.”


From those quotes notice these important words:


“…each week they drive more than 20 hours” and “After April 1st…”


Around 70% of all U.S. rideshare drivers work, on average, less than 15 hours per week… part-time drivers may not be eligible for the Uber signs… and “After April 1st” in the quote makes it clear the pay structure will change in the future.

I complete Lyft/Uber passenger trips on average 40 hours per week so I’m good there… I don’t like reading that the pay structure will likely change in the future after I’d committed to displaying the sign on my vehicle… but I suppose this is fair… who can predict what the future will look like.

I’ve gotten used to Lyft and Uber making pay structure changes at least a couple of times per year… goes with the territory.

When I see the words: “up to” in any sales/marketing message I think the message is presenting a “best case scenario” and there’s a good possibility my outcomes less rosy.

I don’t want to sound pessimistic; I’m not expecting to earn more than the launch offer in the future… more likely future changes will lower what I earn.

But that’s okay - I’ll be reading contracts carefully and if the initial offer sounds good, I’ll ask myself: “What if the offer was 25% less… or even 50%... would I still do it?”

I’m also wondering if personal driving would count? 

There is nothing in the articles on that point… but reading and thinking about the information in these early articles will help when I’m considering the legal contract for a car advertising offer before agreeing/signing.

Since the car rooftop advertising sign offers are coming through the Ridesharing companies, it wouldn’t be in their business interests to facilitate an “off-duty” driver earning revenue from the company’s sponsored advertising offer… the company’s primary business is transporting passengers… earning car advertising dollars by driving more hours could lead to drivers completing more passenger trips which supports the TNC’s primary business… again read that contract.

Also makes sense drivers may only earn income from advertisements when they are logged on to the driver application ready to complete passenger trips… but we’ll see?


Uber Rooftop Advertising – Personal Implications

From a personal point of view the first question that came to my mind is do I really want a taxi-like advertisement sign on the top of my car all of the time?  Meaning during my personal driving too.

From the referenced articles it's clear we are not talking about a static advertisement that always stays the same, or is manually changed from time to time… both referenced articles are talking about targeted advertisements on a display that can be updated at a moment's notice.

While in motion a driver would have no easy way of knowing what the car rooftop advertising was displaying at any given time.

My Lyft/Uber car is my personal car too so I’m picturing myself dropping off or picking up my kids at school or going to the local grocery store with a big advertisement sign on top of my car… am I cool with that prospect?

I often take breaks during my rideshare driving “shifts.”  Currently I’m just a car sitting in a parking lot, most people don’t notice me and my breaks feel private.  Having a large, lit up car advertising sign on the top of my vehicle will change my personal break experience a little… I think I’d feel more exposed.

It’s unlikely I’ll be able to easily take the rooftop sign on and off… more on that point in a moment.

But if I can earn an extra $400 a month, I think I can get past my personal concerns.



Driving for multiple Ridesharing companies

What about drivers who complete passenger trips for Lyft, Uber, and other TNCs or gig economy delivery services?  Driver contract conflicts could be possible?

Back when I was thinking about having my car shrink-wrapped with an advertisement from a third-party company it was a hard stop for me that my Uber contract without question stated that this was not okay.

Sure I could have done it anyway… I never have to visit an Uber or Lyft office… my regular mechanic completes the annual vehicle inspection report and I get the annual medical check performed at my regular doctor office… but rideshare driving is my full-time hours “job”… my primary source of income… and I don’t like the idea of risking my primary livelihood by knowingly violating my driver's contracts.

The idea that Uber or Lyft might someday ask me if I want to put car rooftop advertising on my ridesharing vehicle alleviates this problem… or does it?  After all a program sponsored by one Ridesharing company might violate the contract of another Ridesharing company.

If I choose Uber’s program would I still be able to complete Lyft passenger trips without risking a contract violation?

I complete passenger trips for both Uber and Lyft and where I drive in Denver Colorado my income is more or less 50/50 from each company.

It's possible that I would not be able to advertise on my car for cash unless I focused in on either Uber or Lyft… and that's not going to happen because as an Independent contractor-driver I’ve made the business decision to keep my options free and have multiple sources of income… I’m an Independent contractor, why treat myself like an employee of only one Gig worker company?


Will the advertising sign damage my vehicle?

A quote from the Uber-related article makes me wonder if the signs would damage the driver's car?


“It’s unclear how permanent these displays are and whether they will potentially damage drivers’ cars. A spokesperson for Uber declined to comment.”


The fact that the article says: “…Uber declined to comment” is meaningless.  This could mean the article’s author or someone from the news organization sent the question to someone at Uber in an email and there was no response to the email. 

Putting: “Declined to comment” could suggest to some readers that the sign sponsored by Uber might very well damage a driver’s vehicle… but again I see this as just a good question.

My 2006 Toyota Prius has over 300,000 miles on the odometer… it looks a lot newer inside and out but because of the high mileage the vehicle already has a pretty low resale value - I'm not at all concerned about a little damage to my car’s roof.

This quote did get me wondering if the signs could be easily installed and uninstalled?

I’m guessing the car rooftop advertising signs will be permanently (more or less) installed.

I spent almost 20 years in corporate America and spent countless hours in the kind of meetings where business operations decisions affecting customer and business partners were made.

Someone (likely as not me) would bring up the question:

“Should we be concerned that if the signs can be easily taken on and off drivers might take the sign off their roofs and put it in the cargo area?  The GPS would still show the sign moving about the city but we would not be getting the car advertisements out to the target market and we would still be paying the driver?”

I think it’s logical to believe the signs would not be connected and disconnect simply by magnets or suction cups like a pizza delivery sign.  I believe it’s logical to assume the signs will be (more or less) permanently attached to the driver’s vehicle.

As I said, these are concerns that I believe I could overlook for $400 a month… but for other drivers the possibility of damaging their vehicle might be a hard stop.


Car advertising and local regulations

Some cities are not going to want to “clutter up” the roads with a bunch of vehicles with rooftop signs.

Decades ago, when I lived in Dallas, Texas I was minutes away from suburb/small city North of Dallas.  The sign laws in that suburb/small city are extremely strict.

In this relatively small city, there are zero tall signs for businesses.  For example, if you’re looking for the McDonald’s you’ll have to know it’s address or look really hard to find it.

Even the building codes are restrictive, the McDonald’s is a very subtle-looking, all brick building with only a small sign by the door letting customers know it’s a McDonald’s.

If you’re responding to an offer from Lyft or Uber no worries… they will have confirmed the signs are acceptable for the area where you would be driving.

However, if you’re going direct to one of the car advertising companies make sure you ask the question: “Is a rooftop sign legal in this city/market?”

Going direct to an advertising company is an option worth exploring… if you’re thinking about going direct here are the companies who work directly with drivers.

Carvertise Inc

Halo Cars Inc

Firefly System Inc


Wondering how much rideshare drivers earn? 

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Wondering how much you could earn as an Uber driver or Lyft driver?  

The most meaningful answer anyone can give you is "It depends."

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Car advertising review – Summary

In summary, there's no way for us to know the details of an advertising income opportunity until a rooftop or in-vehicle advertising company offers us a deal and we read the contract. 

When I get an offer I will strongly consider it… additional “passive” earnings in the neighborhood of $400 a month for the same work and the same number of hours I’m already driving would be a business offer worthy of serious thought.

I hope my thoughts and concerns about Ridesharing company-sponsored vehicle rooftop advertisements will help you make a decision should you get an offer… no doubt you’ll be better prepared to ask good questions and know what to look for when you read related contracts.

These dynamically-updated car rooftop advertising signs being implemented by Lyft and Uber Technologies Inc. have the potential to significantly increase Uber Lyft driver earnings and I will be here at Rideshare Business Guide to help you maximize those earnings as much as possible.

Car Rooftop Advertising and Uber Lyft Earnings