Lyft Cost 2021: Lyft Rates, Fare Pricing, Fees & More
As the old saying goes, “Nothing in life is free.”
This is true whether we’re talking about your lunch or your Lyft ride.
Of course, anyone who’s used Lyft knows that.
Each rider pays their fare, in addition to a tip and any other additional charges.
The driver, on their end, gets to keep a certain percentage of that fare plus 100 percent of the tips they earn.
It’s that simple, right?
In reality, however, things aren’t that straightforward.
The price of a Lyft ride depends on a variety of factors.
In this post, we’ll take a look at each element that goes into Lyft cost so that you can understand exactly where your money is going.
Lyft Cost Overview
Before we dive too deep into how Lyft fares are calculated and what your ride will cost, we need to first understand a few core concepts of Lyft pricing.
1. Lyft Prices Are Estimated Before Ride
First, it is important to understand that Lyft prices are estimated before each ride is requested.
This allows users to figure out whether or not they want to use the service and helps them avoid getting huge bills when they don’t want them.
2. Type of Ride Determines Lyft Cost
In the simplest terms possible, the Lyft cost to a user is pretty simple.
Lyft requires a base fee and then calculates a cost depending on the type of vehicle you request and how far you need to go.
The factors below make up the formula for calculating your Lyft ride price, but your selected ride type (along with your city) is what determines your exact Lyft rates.
Here are some of Lyft’s most popular rideshare services, ranked from most affordable to most expensive:
- Lyft Shared Saver: The highly affordable Lyft Shared Saver option allows you to get the lowest price possible, just by sharing a ride and walking a few minutes so you’re directly on your driver’s route. Up to two passengers can join a Shared Saver ride per request. This allows room for other passengers from other groups.
- Lyft Shared: You can cut costs while reducing your walking time by requesting to be a small detour on a shared ride. Like with Shared Saver, up to two passengers can join a Shared ride per request.
- Lyft: The standard Lyft ride is an affordable sedan that can fit up to four passengers.
- Lyft XL: This ride type gets you a standard SUV that can fit up to six passengers.
- Lyft Lux: If you want a luxury ride that fits up to four, you can get matched with high-end cars, like the BMW X3 and GMC Yukon Denali.
- Lyft Black: This is an ultra luxurious black car service that fits up to four. Expect cars from the BMW 5-series, Cadillacs, and similar luxury models.
- Lyft Black XL: If you need more room in your black car service, this ultra high-end option can fit up to six.
Not all ride types are available in every market, but this is a good representation of what’s available in many major cities.
In short though, the larger and nicer a vehicle you require, the higher your cost will be.
The farther that vehicle travels, the more your Lyft service will cost.
3. Lyft Charges Per Trip
Two questions that often come up when discussing the price of Lyft rides are:
- Does Lyft charge per person?
- Does Lyft charge per mile?
Luckily, no, Lyft does not charge per person, nor do they charge per mile.
Lyft charges per trip.
No matter how many people are with you, your fare will remain the same.
However, regular-sized Lyft vehicles fit 4 passengers so you will require a larger vehicle to fit more people than that.
4. Why is Lyft so Expensive Recently?
If you’re a frequent user of rideshare apps, you’ll notice that the cost of Lyft has skyrocketed recently.
This is due to a few different reasons.
First, the pandemic has ravaged ridesharing companies.
As a result of the COVID-19 lockdowns, drivers stopped driving, and riders stopped riding.
As the lockdowns lifted, users started using the service again, however, drivers did not start driving in equal supply.
The more people who request a Lyft service, the more vehicles the company requires, resulting in a more expensive service.
Fewer people are willing to risk driving strangers, especially without getting a fair cut of the price increase.
Second, under normal conditions as the companies have reached an equilibrium of supply and demand, they have increased rates for users in the sake of profitability for shareholders.
As a result, Lyft costs for customers have risen.
Lyft Pricing Structure
Now that we have the basics out of the way, let’s dive into the various elements of what goes into a Lyft ride fare.
One of the reasons for the lack of clarity behind Lyft pricing is the fact that exact rates vary from city to city.
Riders in busy markets like New York City and San Francisco can usually expect to pay more than riders in smaller cities where supply is higher than demand.
But despite the disparity in final costs, Lyft’s pricing structure remains consistent across the country.
Components of a Lyft Ride Fare
Next, it is important to understand what goes into the price of each Lyft ride.
As a passenger, the amount you pay for a Lyft ride depends on six primary factors:
1. Base Fare
To start with, you’ll be charged a base fare.
The base fare is fixed for your city, and it’s part of what helps to pay the driver.
The base cost depends on the type of ride request and your location.
To see the base fare for your city, find your region on the Lyft Cities page.
2. Time and Distance of Ride
Next, you’ll pay a variable amount based on both the distance and time taken to reach your destination.
- Cost per mile: Lyft riders are charged based on the estimated distance their driver will travel on a suggested route.
- Cost per minute: You’ll get an additional fee based on the estimated time your driver will spend on your trip.
The farther you travel, the more your Lyft ride will cost.
The time of the ride you request also contributes to the cost factor.
The reason Lyft uses both distance and time is that the time required to give a ride can vary based on traffic conditions.
By charging for time as well as distance, Lyft ensures that drivers are compensated for the extra time it takes them to give a ride at a time of day when traffic is heavier.
Prime Time Fees
If you request a ride during times of really high demand, you’ll pay an inflated rate.
Times of high demand and low driver supply are called Prime Time.
Prime Time fees are extra fees that Lyft charges during busy times.
Specifically, the fees exist to help regulate the problem of ride requests outnumbering the amount of available drivers.
By charging extra during busy times, Lyft helps avoid passengers having to wait for excessive periods and ensures there are enough drivers to meet demand.
The Prime Time fee is calculated as a percentage of the ride subtotal (the cost before the service fee, taxes, and any airport fees).
For example, if the subtotal cost of a ride is $5 and the Prime Time is 150 percent, the ride will cost $12.50 ($5 + $7.50) before taxes or additional fees.
3. Lyft Service Fee
The amount varies depending on your city and the type of ride you select.
However, the more expensive your ride type, the lower the service fee usually is, unlike other fees.
4. Additional Lyft Fees
The above are all the regular fees you’ll pay whenever you use Lyft, but you may also pay certain additional fees in special circumstances.
While the ridesharing company does offer upfront pricing that takes into account all the factors mentioned above, Lyft rates can be skewed if an unexpected fee needs to be added on.
Here are five types of fees that can be added on after your initial ride request.
Destination Change Cost
Your fares will be adjusted appropriately if you change your drop-off location at any point throughout your ride.
The same will occur if you add additional stops during a trip.
When calculating these fare adjustments, the rideshare company will use your local Lyft rates, so there should be no surprises.
If you choose to cancel your ride more than two minutes after requesting and your driver is on track to arrive within five minutes of the estimated time of arrival, you can be charged a cancellation fee (usually $5).
For Shared ride requests, any cancellation following a driver match can result in a charge, since this can take all of your driver’s passengers off track.
A $5 fee also applies for no-shows who don’t arrive within five minutes — or one minute, for Shared rides — of the driver’s arrival and fail to answer their driver’s calls or reach out.
The penalty for missing a scheduled Lyft ride, which is a ride requested in advance instead of on-demand, is $10.
Members of the Lyft Pink subscription program can get three cancellation fees waived each month, as long as they rebook within 15 minutes.
No-show fees apply when your driver has arrived at the specified location, waited five minutes or more, and attempted to contact you.
The fee varies from city to city.
Note that for shared rides such as Lyft Line, Lyft may charge a no-show fee if you aren’t at the pickup location within one minute of your driver’s arrival.
Tolls are just what they sound like: amounts charged to use certain bridges, roads, or other infrastructure.
Your driver will pay the tolls out of their pocket during the ride, but as a passenger you’ll be charged for the toll so that Lyft can reimburse the driver.
You’ll also need to pay your driver’s return toll if crossing one of these locations.
Airport fees are a flat amount that you must pay in certain cities in order for Lyft to pick you up at the airport.
The fee varies depending on your city. Visit the Lyft Airport page for more information.
Finally, you may pay certain additional state and local service fees as required.
Depending on your area, you could pay local fees that have been put in place by certain cities, states, or municipalities.
For example, when we calculated this fare estimate between two locations in Charleston, South Carolina, we saw that there was something called the “SC Local Assessment Fee,” which was equal to 1 percent of the trip cost.
If you accidentally leave an item behind after your ride and request your Lyft driver’s help to get the item back, you will be charged a $15 return fee.
The full $15 goes straight to your driver to compensate them for their time.
Lyft Pink members get return fees fully waived for lost-and-found items.
If you leave a mess in your driver’s vehicle or cause any damage to their car, you may be subject to a damage fee that ranges from $25 to $250.
At the low end are charges for smaller messes, like trash and food spills.
At the high end are significant messes, like those involving vomit, urine, or blood.
Basically, the harder it is to clean up, the more you’ll be billed.
This fee can be disputed if you truly weren’t the rider who made the mess, but it’s hard to get around if you were at fault.
This is because your Lyft driver must submit details and photo evidence for you to be charged in the first place.
6. Suggested Fee: Tip
Though not required, tipping your Lyft driver is customary for the rideshare service.
We recommend budgeting a few dollars per request to leave as a tip.
You can tip your driver in cash or by choosing a tip amount on your app after every drop-off.
How Lyft Fares are Calculated (using the items above)
That might seem like a lot of fees, but not all the fees apply for every ride.
Here is how you can expect Lyft to calculate your fare:
- Type of Ride: All costs are different based on whether you choose standard Lyft Service, a shared ride, or one of their deluxe options. Not all options are available in every city.
- Base Fare: The basic base fare starts at around $1, depending on your city.
- Cost Per Mile: The per-mile charge multiplies by the number of miles in your trip.
- Cost Per Minute: The per minute charge multiplies based on how long you are in the vehicle.
- Lyft Service Fees: Lyft charges a flat-rate service fee to cover their operating costs.
- Prime Time Pricing (if applicable): Primetime pricing multiples your fare if you’re using Lyft during peak hours, when there’s high demand, or when fewer drivers are available.
- Airport Fees (if applicable): Lyft adds an airport fee for airport drop-off or pickup.
- Toll Fees (if applicable): Lyft adds applicable tolls accrued during the ride.
- Suggested Fee: A tip is not necessary, but Lyft drivers appreciate it.
Lyft will make adjustments after your ride.
you can always see every fee you were charged for a Lyft ride by looking at the receipt you receive after your ride has ended.
You can also view a full list of receipts for previous rides by going to “Ride History” from within the main menu in Lyft and tapping on the ride for the receipt you want to see.
You’ll also receive an email receipt for each ride you take.
While you can’t be 100 percent certain of the fees you’ll pay before you take your ride, you can use a tool such as our Lyft Fare Estimator to get a price estimate before you go.
Lyft Cost: Average Rates
The average Lyft rate is determined by a variety of factors such as location, type of vehicle, length of trip, and the time of your request.
Variable fare is applied, all rates are different depending on the distance of your ride.
What is the Average Lyft Cost per Trip?
According to a study done by Money.com, the average cost of a Lyft trip totals $12.58.
Pre-pandemic, the average Lyft fare costs $25-$26.
However, with a 40% increase in fares during the pandemic, you can expect to pay $35-$36 for the same trip in 2021.
Average Lyft Cost in Large Cities
Lyft costs have soared in large cities like New York City and Los Angeles, where the pandemic slashed the number of available taxis and created a shortage of Uber and Lyft drivers.
Prices have now increased threefold.
In June of 2021, one rider told the New York Times that rides between Brooklyn and Queens that once cost $20 now cost $38.
That same route in August of 2021 costs $60. A ride to or from the airport in New York City may cost as much as $250.
According to a study conducted by Ridester, Lyft drivers make roughly $18 per hour in large cities.
This means that Lyft drivers pay about that price for the average ride.
Average Lyft Cost in Suburbs
A Lyft ride is less expensive in the suburbs compared to a large city.
Lyft costs in the suburbs are just as expensive as in the city, with an average cost of $35-$36.
However, if there are no available drivers in the suburbs, the cost can be more.
This is oftentimes due to far less demand than in dense urban environments, which usually leads to less Prime Time pricing.
Is Lyft Cheaper Than Uber?
Generally, Lyft tends to be cheaper than Uber in many states, depending on the city you are traveling in.
If you choose a luxury option, that will cost extra for both ride services.
Al Case, a driver for both Uber and Lyft in Los Angeles says:
When Are Lyft Prices Highest?
Lyft prices are highest during peak hours and other times when Lyft is in high demand.
Lyft may also use surge pricing before and after events.
Peak hours vary from city to city.
However, they most often fall between morning rush hours and between evening rush hours.
Peak hours also happen when people are out on the town on weekend nights and don’t want to drive home from bars.
When Are Lyft Prices Lowest?
Lyft prices are lowest during non-peak hours when plenty of drivers are available and waiting for you to book a ride.
Sample Lyft Ride Fare
Here are a few examples of what you might expect from Lyft ride fares in Chicago, Dallas, and Phoenix in the US.
We based all the following sample fares on the cost of a Lyft ride between a city’s museum and another location five miles away within the same city.
The basic Lyft cost for a 5-mile ride ran between $9 and $18.
Sample Lyft Fare for Chicago
Using the Lyft rate calculator, From the Chicago Midway International Airport to the Illinois Institute of Technology located on 35th St you can expect to pay the following rates:
- Standard Lyft personal rate: between $24-$28
- Supersized XL Lyft rate: between $36-$40
- High-end XL Lyft rate: between $40-$45
- Luxury rides in Lux Black Lyft rates: between $60-$65
- Spacious luxury ride in Lux Black XL: $77-$84
This ride will take approximately 18 minutes.
Sample Lyft Fare for Dallas
Using the Lyft rate calculator, from the Dallas Love Field Airport on Herb Kelleher Way to the Museum of Illusions on Ross Avenue, Dallas Texas, you can expect to pay the following ratea:
- Standard Lyft personal rate: between $20-$25
- Supersized XL Lyft rate: between $25-$30
- High-end XL Lyft rate: between $42-$49
- Luxury ride in Lux Black Lyft rate: between $60-$70
- Spacious luxury ride in Lux Black XL Lyft rate: between $86-$89
This ride will take approximately 18 minutes.
Sample Lyft Fare for Phoenix
Using the Lyft rate calculator, from the airport in Phoenix, Arizona on East Washington Street to the Arizona Grand Resort and Spa, you can expect to pay the following rates:
- Standard Lyft personal rate: between $24-$28
- Supersized XL Lyft rate: between $36-$40
- High-end XL Lyft rate: between $40-$45
- Luxury ride in Lux Black Lyft rate: between $60-$65
- Spacious luxury ride in Lux Black XL Lyft rate: between $77-$84
This ride will take approximately 14 minutes.
Getting a Lyft Estimate
As we mentioned earlier, the differences in Lyft rates in every city make it difficult to answer the question, “How much is Lyft?”
Luckily, there are plenty of fare estimator tools that you can use to get a standard price for rides in your exact area.
Using the Lyft App
Following these steps will automatically reveal estimated ride costs:
- Open the Lyft app
- Type in your destination
- Confirm your starting point
Using the Lyft Estimate Calculator
There are various Lyft estimate calculators available online for real-time Lyft ride estimates.
However, the most accurate will be the one on Lyft’s website.
If you want to use Lyft’s website to get your price estimate, you’ll need to follow these steps:
- Head to lyft.com/rider/cities and select your city.
- Scroll down to the “Fare Estimate” section and enter your pick-up and drop-off locations. Then, tap “Get Estimate.”
- Ride estimates for all ride types in your market will appear. Tap “More” to get details about exact Lyft rates (for example, the exact per-mile rate) within your city.
Using Ridester’s Lyft Estimate Tool
For a simpler process, you can use our Lyft estimate fare calculator to get accurate breakdowns for rides in your location.
Ride.guru helps you compare fares of various transportation options in your area, such as Lyft and Uber.
To get estimates, follow these steps:
- Go to the Ride.guru website
- Input your start location
- Input your end location
How Lyft Payments Work
Riders pay for their Lyft ride directly through the app.
The driver calculation begins when the passengers are in the car, and they have clicked on pick up in the app.
Payment Types Accepted by Lyft
Lyft accepts all major credit cards, debit cards, and prepaid cards (like Visa, Mastercard, American Express, and Discover).
You can also link your checking account or use apps such as Lyft gift cards, PayPal, Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Venmo in some cities.
However, you also must have a valid debit or credit card on file.
The app will let you know if the card you have on file will expire soon in case it’s been a while since your last ride request.
Prepaid cards are accepted as a form of payment, as long as they are added to your Lyft account.
- Lyft gift cards are not an option to cover your driver’s tip or charges due to cancellation or damage.
- Lyft does not take cash as a form of payment.
The Payment Process After a Ride
Your Lyft ride will begin with a temporary authorization to ensure your payment method works and can fund your ride.
You may see pending transactions related to your payment method when you do any of the following:
- Create a Lyft account for the first time
- Put in a request for a ride
- Payment method changes
- Final destination changes
- Add extra stops on your route
- Rent a bike or scooter from Lyft
5-7 days after you complete a ride (or cancel it) and Lyft formally charges you, Lyft pre-authorization charges will disappear from your bank account and change to final charges.
Can I Get a Lyft and Pay Later?
You cannot pay later for a Lyft ride.
When you request a Lyft ride, the system will attempt to use your default payment method.
If Lyft declines the default payment method, it will ask you to select a different payment method.
You cannot ride without a valid payment method.
However, riders can opt-in to buy now and pay later for Lyft services using third party companies.
If interested, riders can use Quadpay to pay for your next Lyft with interest-free payments with 25% of all costs upfront.
Can You Split a Lyft Ride With Somebody Else?
There once was an option in the Lyft app to split the cost of the ride with another rider.
However, Lyft removed their ride-splitting feature in 2018 and haven’t added it back.
Most people don’t carry much cash with them these days to help split the cost of a ride.
However, you can use Venmo or PayPal to divide payments with other people in your riding party.
How to Save on Lyft Cost
Because Lyft wants more riders (and more drivers), they have created several promotional opportunities that you can use to save on rides or collect ride credits to use toward future rides.
Use a Promo Code
One of the best ways to get money off rides with Lyft is to use a Lyft promo code.
All of these codes were active as of June 2021:
- LYFTPROMO25: $2.50 off your first 10 rides ($25 total)
- SAVE20: $20 off your first ride (which can make your first ride free)
- LYFTPROMO18: $3 off your first six rides ($18 total)
- LYFTPROMO16: $4 off your first four rides ($16 total)
- LYFTPROMO15: $5 off your first three rides ($15 total)
- LYFTPROMO10: $5 off your first two rides ($10 total)
- RIDESTERLYFT: $5 off your first two rides ($10 total)
To use a Lyft promo code, follow these steps:
- Open up the Lyft app
- Open the menu in the upper left (three lines on top of each other)
- Open the “Promos” option under your profile picture
- Type in your promo code in the “Enter promo code” section
- Click “Apply”
If the promo code is valid, it will automatically appear on your Promos page.
If the promo code is not valid, you will get an error message and should try another code.
Share Your Referral Code With Others
Lyft offers you the opportunity to earn ride credits when others use your referral code.
You can earn referral bonuses both from recruiting new riders and new drivers.
Share Your Referral Code With New Riders
You can earn $5 in ride credits each time someone new uses your referral code to complete a ride.
It’s easy to find your referral code if you follow these steps:
- Open up the Lyft app.
- Open up the menu in the top left corner (looks like three stacked lines).
- Click “Get $5 free.”
- Click “Share” to send out invites from your phone’s contact list, or note your referral code to give to a friend.
After a friend uses your referral code, you will find your ride credit in the “Rewards” tab of the menu.
You will want to use your referral rewards quickly, though, because the credits expire in 14 days.
Share Your Referral Code With New Drivers
Not only can you use your referral code to refer new riders, but you can also use your referral code to refer new drivers.
However, you cannot refer a new driver from the app.
Instead, you’ll need to follow these steps online:
- Login to the Lyft website with the web browser on your computer or phone
- Click “Invite Friends” on the left menu.
- Click “Driver Referrals” on the left menu.
- Enter email addresses of potential drivers.
1-2 weeks after the new driver meets all requirements, your friend will receive a reward via direct deposit, and you will find bonus credits in your Lyft account.
Get Lyft ride Pass
If you’re a frequent Lyft rider, you might find a Ride Pass invitation in your inbox occasionally.
So, don’t neglect emails from Lyft!
If you find a Ride Pass invitation in your email, follow all the prompts and click on “Get the Pass” to make your purchase.
A Ride Pass is a way to buy discounted rides in bulk.
For example, the offer may allow you to get $5 off 15 rides.
Frequently Asked Questions
Understanding how Lyft costs work is the best way to know how much you should plan on spending and where your money is actually going.
To learn more about Lyft rates, read these frequently asked questions:
Will Lyft let you overdraft your account?
If you use Lyft Direct and there isn’t enough money in the account, the transaction will decline.
However, if other charges hit your account after being pre-authorized or the final charge is larger than the pre-authorization amount, a charge from Lyft can overdraft your account.
Can Lyft send you to collections?
Lyft can’t send you to collections because they require prepayment for transactions.
While it is possible to overdraft your bank account, those charges would come from your bank rather than from Lyft.
Does my payment go directly to Lyft drivers?
No. Lyft takes 25% commission from fares, so on most trips, the only part of your payment that goes directly to drivers is your tip.
Now that you have a complete understanding of what goes into your Lyft prices, you can make smart decisions for your transportation needs.
Getting to know Lyft rates can also help you avoid extra expenses like cancellation fees and even Prime Time fees as often as possible.
You can also stick to the ride types that actually fit your budget — or splurge when you need to impress.
If you’re stuck choosing between Lyft and Uber, you can check out our Uber rates guide to learn how the original rideshare company’s pricing works.