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How to Use Lyft: A 2020 Guide for First-Time Riders

By: // Updated: August 14, 2020

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You’ve likely heard of Lyft, but do you know how to use it to get around town? We’re going to show you how to use Lyft in just a few steps so you can start reserving rides with ease.

Lyft launched in 2012 in San Francisco and has since grown to be one of the most popular ride-sharing options on the market. Since 2012, Lyft has given more than 1 billion rides across 644 cities in the U.S. and Puerto Rico.

This guide will tell you everything you need to know about Lyft. We’ll cover how to sign up, how much it costs, and how you can reserve your first ride.


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What Is Lyft?

Lyft is a ride-sharing app that simplifies urban transportation by giving you on-demand access to drivers all around your city — all from your mobile phone. Lyft lets you request a ride from a Lyft driver and will have you at your destination in no time.

Ridesharing with Lyft has some parallels with a traditional taxi service but has distinct differences. The traditional taxi service arrives at your pick-up location and takes you where you need to go — just like Lyft.

The difference is that with Lyft, the entire transaction is handled all through your mobile app. On top of that, you won’t receive a ride from a taxi driver in a yellow cab. Instead, your driver will be a gig worker who picks you up in their own vehicle.

Let’s dig a little deeper and explain exactly how Lyft works.

How to Use Lyft

The Lyft app is like a one-stop-shop for the entire ridesharing process. Ride reservation, payment, and communication with your driver are all handled through the Lyft app.

Download the Lyft App

You’ll need to first download the Lyft app and sign up. Signing up is incredibly easy and only takes a few minutes.

You can download the smartphone app for iOS at the App Store or for Android at Google Play. Once you’ve downloaded the app, you’ll need to provide the following information:

  • Full name
  • Address
  • Username
  • Password
  • Payment information — debit card, credit card, PayPal, Apple Pay, or Google Pay
  • Photo (optional)

You’ll also need to confirm your phone number with a verification text message. You can also reserve a ride from your computer if you don’t have access to a smartphone.

Once you’ve downloaded the app and verified your account, you can start requesting rides.

Request a Ride

Lyft automatically detects your current location. When you open the app, you’ll be able to see all the Lyft drivers in your general location.

Type in your destination and you’ll be given an estimated cost for your trip. You’re able to choose between multiple Lyft ride options depending on your city’s availability.

Here are the Lyft ride options:

  • Lyft (1-4 passengers): The standard Lyft option that gets you there in a hurry
  • Shared Lyft (1-4 passengers): Lyft’s carpooling option for people who don’t mind sharing a ride for a cheaper fare
  • Lyft Shared Saver (1-4 passengers): Similar to Shared Lyft, but you may need to walk a block or two to meet your Lyft driver
  • Lyft XL (1-6 passengers): Added room and comfort so you can fit more friends in your vehicle
  • Lyft Lux (1-4 passengers): Luxurious vehicles so you can arrive in style
  • Lux Black (1-4 passengers): Black car service with leather interior for those special occasions
  • Lux Black XL (1-6 passengers): Professional black car service, but with additional space to fit more people

Select your ride option and tap the “Confirm pickup” button. Your request will then be sent to the nearest driver.

Wait for Your Driver to Arrive

A Lyft driver will receive your ride request shortly after you confirm your trip details. You’ll then see your driver’s details, like their name, vehicle type, license plate, and a photograph.

As you wait for your ride, you’ll be able to see the current location of your driver. You can also see the estimated time of arrival.

Keep an eye on the arrival time and be ready to hop in the vehicle once it arrives. You’ll have five minutes to get to your Lyft vehicle after it arrives, otherwise, you risk being charged a cancellation fee.

Before getting into the vehicle, your driver will ask your name to verify you’re the correct passenger. You can also check the license plate, vehicle model, and driver’s photograph to ensure you’re getting into the right vehicle.

Enjoy Your Ride

Riding with Lyft is a breeze. If you want to ride shotgun, go for it. If you want to sit in the backseat and enjoy some peace and quiet — you can do that too.

It’s important to be respectful and considerate during your ride. Make sure to not leave any garbage behind, mind your manners, and avoid slamming the door once you exit.

Your driver will be rating their interaction with you, so be on your best behavior. Likewise, you’ll be able to rate your driver after your trip. The rating system ensures only the best drivers and respectful passengers remain active on the platform.

Payment is automatically processed once you’ve been dropped off at your destination. However, you do have the option of tipping your driver. Tips are optional but are definitely appreciated by your hard-working rideshare driver.

On that note, let’s go over how much you can expect to pay to use Lyft.

How Much Does Lyft Cost?

The cost of your Lyft ride will depend on several variables. Ride fares vary depending on factors like distance traveled, time in the vehicle, and the time of day you request a ride.

Here’s an overview of the fees that make up your trip fare:

  • Base fare: Standard flat rate that is usually around $1 depending on your city
  • Cost per mile: Per-mile charge based on how many miles are driven
  • Cost per minute: Per-minute charge based on how long you’re in the vehicle
  • Service fee: Flat fee that goes directly to Lyft to support platform operations
  • Prime Time: Multiplies your fare during peak hours, high-demand, and low driver availability — similar to Uber’s surge pricing
  • Additional tolls and fees: Tolls and fees that are accumulated on the way are your responsibility
  • Driver tip: Tips are optional, but are surely appreciated by your driver

Overall, Lyft is a convenient and affordable way to reserve a ride. You’ll find comparable prices if you decide to use Uber. It’s up to you to decide which rideshare platform you prefer.

Frequently Asked Questions About Lyft

Do you still have some questions about using Lyft? Here are a few more areas we didn’t cover above.

1. Does Lyft operate in my city?

If you live in an urban area, there’s a good chance Lyft is available in your city. Lyft operates in 644 cities in the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Check Lyft’s availability page to see if you can sign up and start riding.

2. How can I save money using Lyft?

Lyft offers a few ways for riders to save on their ride. One way is to use a Lyft promo code on your next ride. Another way is to refer friends to use the Lyft service. Lastly, you can schedule rides ahead of time to receive a reduced fare.

3. How can I contact Lyft customer service?

Lyft makes itself readily available to help customers whenever a problem occurs. You can contact Lyft customer service through the app, phone, or email — among other ways. Check out our guide to Lyft customer service for more ways to resolve your issue.

4. Does it cost anything to sign up with Lyft?

No, signing up is completely free, whether you’re a passenger or a driver. As a Lyft passenger, you’ll only pay for each ride you take — there are no monthly subscription fees.

5. What payment methods does Lyft accept?

The service accepts all major credit and debit cards. You can also pay for rides with PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Lyft gift cards.

6. What is Lyft Prime Time?

Prime Time refers to when Lyft prices temporarily increase due to the demand for rides being higher than the number of available drivers. This is similar to Uber’s surge pricing. You can learn more about Prime Time here.

7. Is there any penalty for canceling a Lyft ride?

If you cancel a ride when your driver is less than two minutes away and set to arrive on time, you’ll be charged a cancellation fee. The fee varies based on your city, but it’s usually between $1 and $5. This fee policy exists to compensate drivers for the time they spend driving to pick you up.

8. How are Lyft and Uber different?

They’re not much different at all. Lyft and Uber practically offer the same exact service. You’ll find some differences when it comes to city availability, ride options, and driver availability. An easy ridesharing hack is to download Uber as well so you can compare fare pricing and drive times so you can choose the best ride available.

Convenience Is Key

Lyft is a convenient way to get from A to B. It’s available to use at any time of the day, whenever you need a ride. Everything is handled directly through the app, so you won’t need to worry about standing on the side of the road trying to flag down a taxi.

Before reserving your first ride, make sure to check out our guide to Lyft promo codes so you can save cash on your first trip.

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