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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. Drivers and passengers both pay a variety of fees, some of which are more obvious than others. In this post, we’ll take a look at each so that you can understand exactly where your money is going (or coming from if you’re a driver).
Lyft Passenger Fees
As a passenger, the amount you pay for a Lyft ride depends on a variety of factors.
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. Each ride type (such as Lyft Plus, Lyft Line, and Lyft Lux) will have a different base fare. To see the base fare for your city, find your region on the Lyft Cities page.
Next, you’ll pay a variable amount based on both the distance and time taken to reach your destination. 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.
In addition to the above, you’ll also pay a service fee. The service fee is a fixed amount that helps Lyft pay for operating costs, insurance, and background checks. The amount varies depending on your city and the type of ride you select.
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.
There are five main types of fees in this category: applicable tolls, cancellation fees, no-show fees, airport fees, and Prime Time fees.
1. Applicable Tolls
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.
2. Cancellation Fees
Cancellation fees are fees you pay when you cancel a ride. Lyft will charge you a cancellation fee when two minutes or more have passed since a driver has accepted your ride request and your driver is on time to arrive within five minutes of the original estimated arrival time. The cancellation fee is generally $10, though it can differ depending on your city.
3. No-Show Fees
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.
4. Airport Fees
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.
5. Prime Time Fees
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.
Finally, you may pay certain additional state and local service fees as required. 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.
Fortunately, 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 Driver Fees
Compared to the fees that passengers pay, the Lyft driver fees are fewer and simpler. The main fee for Lyft drivers is the Lyft Platform Fee. This fee goes towards “growing the Lyft business and increasing demand for your rides,” according to the official statement in Lyft’s explanation of how they calculate driver pay. In practice, this is the fee you pay to Lyft in exchange for the use of their platform. It’s one of the costs of doing business, and it is tax deductible.
An example of the Lyft Platform Fee from Lyft’s website.
So how much is the Lyft Platform Fee, and how does the company calculate it? Lyft gives no clear answer to this question, only stating that “Lyft Platform Fees are variable, meaning they can change.” They also note that you’ll only be charged the Platform Fee on the fare of your ride, not on your tips. You keep 100 percent of tips you earn through the Lyft platform.
In some cases, the percentage of the fare that Lyft takes can be quite high. In a post on Quora from 2017, for example, one driver reported that Lyft was taking as much as a 50 percent commission for rides (note that as a driver you only see a breakdown of what Lyft pays you, not of what the passenger paid).
To see what the Lyft Platform Fee charged for your ride, consult your “Driving History” tab in the Lyft Driver Dashboard.
Besides the Platform Fee, there aren’t really any other fees you need to worry about as a driver. You will have to pay for tolls upfront, as well as any tolls that get mailed to you after the fact (such as automated tolls for using certain bridges or toll roads). However, Lyft will charge the passenger for these tolls and reimburse you. Note that Lyft will not reimburse you for late fees on tolls — only the original toll amount is eligible.
We hope this article has given you a better understanding of the various fees that Lyft charges to both passengers and drivers. As always, if you have any questions about why you were charged a particular fee, you can contact Lyft customer support. For information on the fees that Uber charges to drivers and passengers, check out our Uber fees guide.
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.