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If you use rideshare apps like Uber or Lyft long enough, you may end up getting matched with the same driver multiple times. This is especially common in smaller cities or areas of cities that have fewer rideshare drivers operating.
While rideshare companies do their utmost to ensure that all drivers are courteous, safe and competent, you may find that you prefer having a certain driver over others. It could be that you just enjoy the conversations you have with your rideshare driver, or that they understand the quirks of parking and pickup at your apartment complex.
Whatever your reasons might be, you may be wondering, “Can you request a specific Lyft driver?” With Lyft, the answer is “sort of.” But you have to understand how the Lyft algorithm works to match drivers with riders. Let’s look into the process in greater detail, so that you can have the best possible chance of getting the Lyft driver you want.
Why Request a Specific Lyft Driver?
Some of you reading this article might be wondering why you’d want to request a specific Lyft driver at all. After all, all drivers should in theory be the same. They accomplish the task of getting you safely from Point A to Point B on time. What else matters?
Anyone who uses Lyft regularly, however, knows that the service is about more than the destination — it’s also about how you get there. On longer rides, having a friendly driver can make the difference between a boring ride and an enjoyable one. You might also prefer to have a driver who is a native of your city, as they’ll know how to navigate in ways that GPS can’t.
Aside from these reasons, you might also have a friend or family member who drives for the service and want to help them earn driver earnings guarantees or other promos. This isn’t something Lyft encourages, so tread carefully.
So how realistic are these requests? Is it possible to get the driver you want?
How Lyft Matches Riders and Drivers
You cannot request a specific Lyft driver using the Lyft app. In order to discourage discrimination and give drivers equal opportunities to get fares, Lyft matches drivers and riders based on several specific factors.
Lyft doesn’t want passengers to have to wait long for rides. If wait times are too long, passengers will give up and either use Uber or just take a taxi. To minimize wait times, the Lyft app uses an algorithm that matches a passenger with the closest driver.
2. Driver Waiting Time
Proximity isn’t the only matching factor Lyft uses, however. If you think about it, this makes sense. Let’s look at a common scenario in which you’d request a Lyft: airport pickup. Airport pickups can be some of the most lucrative fares out there for drivers, as they often involve long trips. For this reason, drivers will tend to congregate at the airport in the hopes of snagging these fares.
This is a situation where matching only based on proximity can create problems. If a driver has been sitting in the airport pickup waiting area for a couple hours, they could potentially get beat out for a fare by another driver who’s just dropped another passenger off, all because that driver is physically closer to a new requesting passenger.
To keep things fair, the Lyft algorithm also takes into account how long a driver has been waiting to pick up a fare when matching passengers with drivers. This helps ensure that drivers waiting at airports or other popular pickup locations are rewarded for their patience.
3. Ride Type
There’s one final factor that affects which Lyft driver you get: the type of Lyft ride you request. In addition to its standard service, Lyft also offers the following types of rides:
- Lyft Plus (rides for up to six passengers)
- Lyft Premier (like the standard Lyft service but with a high-end car)
- Lyft Lux (the highest end Lyft service with rides in an ultra-high-end black car piloted by a top driver)
- Lyft Lux SUV (same as Lyft Lux but in a larger vehicle that fits up to six passengers)
- Lyft Line (Lyft Line rides let passengers save money by offering lower fares in exchange for sharing a ride with another passenger)
The availability of these services varies based on your city. Assuming your city does offer them, however, the service you choose will affect the driver you get. Anything beyond the basic Lyft car service is going to have fewer available drivers due to the additional vehicle or driver requirements.
How to Use the Lyft Algorithm to Request a Specific Lyft Driver
Knowing what we do about how the Lyft algorithm works, your best bet for getting a specific driver is to arrange for the driver to be as physically close to you as possible before placing the Lyft ride request (and waiting for a longer amount of time if you’re in an area with lots of Lyft drivers).
You can also increase the chances of getting the driver you want by ensuring there are no other Lyft drivers nearby. Even then, however, this method isn’t foolproof; you may have to cancel an accepted ride and request again to get the specific driver.
Because of this, we suggest that if getting a specific driver is important to you, you either privately arrange to pay someone you know to be your personal driver, or use a limousine or private driver company (where you can usually request a specific driver, though be prepared for the higher cost of this service).
Note also that, even with scheduled rides, the above principles still apply, since Lyft doesn’t assign drivers in advance.
Can You Request a Female Lyft Driver?
The above sections address most reasons you’d want a specific Lyft driver, but there’s still one area we haven’t covered: female passengers requesting a female driver. While it’s sad to say, sexual harassment and assault do occur with rideshare services.
And even beyond the danger of assault, some female riders feel safer with female drivers. This has led some female Lyft riders to wonder if you can request a female driver. As with other specific driver requests, there is no way to currently do this with the Lyft app.
That being said, there are other rideshare services that exist to meet the need for female-only passengers and drivers. These services are currently more localized than Uber or Lyft, often being confined to a specific city.
For example, Safr is a women-only rideshare service that operates in Boston. Overall, however, female-only rideshare services are still scarce in comparison with the national and global reach of Uber and Lyft. Hopefully this is something that Uber and Lyft will address in the future.
What About Uber?
We’ve focused in this article on Lyft, but how does Uber stack up in comparison? The same basic principles apply as with Lyft. You cannot request a specific Uber driver using the Uber app. To maximize your chances of getting a particular driver, have them be as physically close to you as possible. Still, this isn’t a guaranteed way to get the Uber driver you want, so we once again suggest that you look into another service if having a specific driver is important to you.
Hold Drivers Accountable With Ratings
While you can’t control which Lyft driver you get, you can help make sure that the drivers who are on the road are maintaining a high standard of customer service and safety. The best way to do this (aside from reporting any drivers who break the law or make you feel unsafe) is to rate drivers after your ride.
It only takes a few seconds, but it helps Lyft make sure that their drivers are the best out there. And while you’re at it, make sure to leave your driver a tip if they provided exceptional service.
Keep Lyft Fair and Safe
Overall, we think that Lyft’s policy of assigning drivers based on distance, wait time and desired ride type helps keep Lyft fair and accessible for both riders and drivers. There are still certain areas where this system isn’t perfect (such as when female riders would feel safer with a female driver), but overall the best thing riders can do to make Lyft safer is to report any illegal or questionable driver behavior.
If you need help contacting Lyft for any reason, check out our guide to contacting Lyft support. Have a safe, pleasant ride!
Brett Helling is the owner of Ridester.com. He has been a rideshare driver since early 2012, having completed hundreds of trips for companies including Uber, Lyft, and Postmates. In 2014 he acquired Ridester.com to share his experiences with other drivers. His insights are regularly quoted by publications such as Forbes, Vice, CNBC, and more. He is currently working on a book about working in the Gig Economy, expanding his skill set beyond the rideshare niche. Read more about Brett here.