When you sit down in the seat of a taxi, it’s always a big question as to how much this ride is going to cost you. With Lyft, you don’t need to worry about that, as the price of your ride can be estimated before you accept it. Prices can vary based on what city you are using Lyft in, how far away your destination is, and how long it takes for your driver to get you to your destination. The price also differs based on which Lyft service you choose, and only certain options will be available in certain cities. Check out our tutorial on how to use Lyft to learn the differences between these services, as well as how to use the Lyft fare calculator.
How Lyft’s prices work
The average Lyft fare costs about $18 U.S., based on the average pay of Lyft drivers in 2015. However, this can vary based on the length and distance of your trip, as well as what Lyft service you use. If, for example, you only use the least expensive Lyft service, then your fares will likely be closer to $10.
In addition, you may incur extra fees if your driver has to pay for driving on toll roads, picking you up or dropping you off at the airport, or finding a parking spot. There are also special circumstances that add additional fees, such as a trip between New York and New Jersey (which entails a $15 fee). For a complete breakdown of fees, make sure to visit your city’s page on Lyft’s website here.
Also beware of Lyft “Prime Time” pricing; this raises the price of your trip by a percentage when there is a high demand for Lyft rides, but a low quantity of Lyft drivers on the road. See our explanation on “Prime Time” pricing below for more details about this.
How much is Lyft per mile?
The cost of a Lyft ride varies based on which city you are in, and each aspect of the fee structure can differ. For examples, look at the rates for these cities below to see what your fees will be based on a standard Lyft ride. The rates are as follows (base fare includes service charges):
- San Francisco, CA: $3.65 base fare, $0.23/minute time cost, $1.16/mile distance cost, $5 minimum fare, $5 cancellation fee.
- New York City, NY: $2.50 base fare, $0.35/minute time cost, $1.79/mile distance cost, $8 minimum fare, $10 cancellation fee.
- Miami, FL: $2.75 base fare, $0.13/minute time cost, $0.85/mile distance cost, $3.90 minimum fare, $5 cancellation fee.
- Grand Rapids, MI: $2.55 base fare, $0.15/minute time cost, $0.76/mile distance cost, $4 minimum fare, $5 cancellation fee.
- Austin, TX: $2.55 base fare, $0.12/minute time cost, $1.02/mile distance cost, $4.50 minimum fare, $5 cancellation fee.
- Denver, CO: $2.45 base fare, $0.12/minute time cost, $1.01/mile distance cost, $5 minimum fare, $5 cancellation fee.
More densely-populated cities tend to have higher fares, whereas smaller cities are generally cheaper to use Lyft in. You can check what the fares for your area will be by visiting the Lyft calculator online, or use the calculator function in your Lyft app. Tap the name of the area closest to you to see the fare breakdown, or tap Estimate Fare and then enter your starting point and destination.
Note that these fees are always changing so that Lyft can stay competitive in its industry. For the most accurate estimation of what your Lyft ride will cost, always use the fare estimator prior to ordering your Lyft ride.
Is Lyft cheaper than a taxi?
Lyft is usually cheaper than taking a traditional taxi, by up to 40% in most cases. However, in other cases, Lyft fares can be almost double what they are for traditional taxis when you factor in additional costs that may apply. This is especially true when Lyft's “Prime Time” pricing is in effect.
There may still be some benefits to using Lyft over a traditional taxi service, however, even if you are paying the same amount (or slightly more). When deciding which type of taxi service you should use, consider the following points:
- Always consider the distance of your trip before deciding which service you should use. It is very common that riding a short distance is cheaper with Lyft than with a traditional taxi. However, if Lyft "Prime Time" pricing is in effect, or you’re going a very long distance, chances are that the prices will be close. Remember that you can also negotiate flat rates with traditional taxis, which you cannot do with Lyft.
- Lyft will pick you up anywhere that is convenient to you. With a traditional taxi, you usually have to meet one, or try to flag one down in a busy urban area. This increases the amount of time that it takes for the taxi to get to you. It also inconveniences you, because you have to walk through an area with lots of other cars, which can be dangerous.
- Lyft cars also (usually) show up faster than traditional taxis, and you can track them to know exactly when they are going to arrive! You know exactly how far away the closest car is before you request the ride, and you can wait inside until your car arrives. Then Lyft will notify you when your driver is ready to pick you up!
- It is estimated that up to 35% of traditional taxis never arrive at their pick-up points after being notified by their dispatch. This is because if a more convenient ride comes up on the way, the driver can respond to that fare and ignore the previous one. Also, if the taxis do not use GPS technology, they can arrive at the wrong place, and maybe even pick up a different person instead of you. With Lyft, your ride request will not be accepted if there is no driver available in your immediate area, so there’s no chance that you’ll be standing around waiting for a ride that will never show up.
- Unlike traditional taxis, you never have to spend time looking for cash or a credit card to pay your driver when your Lyft ride is over. Lyft has your credit card on file, and will automatically charge it when the ride is complete. You can even add tips onto your price right from the app! Then, just get out of the car and walk away – it’s that easy!
How does Lyft "Prime Time" pricing work?
Lyft’s "Prime Time" is a temporary percentage-based increase in fares when there is a high demand for Lyft rides in an area, but not many Lyft drivers there. Other times that "Prime Time" pricing may come into effect include during holidays, promotions, or large events or festivals in an area. Though it seems to be a way for Lyft to make money, the purpose of Lyft’s "Prime Time" pricing is actually to help its passengers… though it doesn’t seem that way when you realize that you’ll be paying more (sometimes double) for your ride.
The idea behind "Prime Time" pricing is twofold. First, it encourages more Lyft drivers to get on the road, and thus earn more money from higher fares. With more Lyft drivers available, more passengers can be served. Second, with prices temporarily increased, only people in immediate need of a Lyft ride will likely request one, while others will seek alternative forms of transportation. This lowers demand for Lyft rides to the point that anybody in an area who wants a Lyft ride can get one.
You are made aware of the "Prime Time" price increase, if it will apply, before you accept your Lyft ride. In addition, even if "Prime Time" pricing begins in your area after you have accepted your ride, you will not have to pay the additional fare.
How does Lyft make money?
Lyft makes money through a commission-based system. The passenger pays a fare based on how far they are going and how long they travel. Lyft then takes a 20-25% commission from what is earned by the driver on each ride. There are also some additional fees associated with the service that increase Lyft’s earnings.
That's a bit of information about the costs and fees associated with using Lyft! Our review of Lyft (our next tutorial) will help you decide if you want to join, but if you’re already convinced, see our tutorial on how to download and sign up for Lyft.