Lyft rides are an essential part of traveling and commuting for users throughout North America, but the service definitely doesn’t come free. Getting to know how Lyft rates work can help you plan your budget and keep your expenses as low as possible.
The Lyft app is the second most popular rideshare platform in the United States, right after Uber, but many Lyft riders are still unclear about exactly what they’re paying for. While you may recognize what a normal ride cost looks like, the simplicity of the platform can make it difficult to understand how your price was calculated and whether or not it was actually fair.
If you want to make well-informed rideshare purchases and stop requesting blindly, keep reading to learn everything you need to know about how much Lyft costs.
Understanding Lyft Rates
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.
We’ll guide you through each of the factors that impact the cost of a ride when using Lyft.
Lyft Pricing Structure
The cost of every Lyft ride is calculated based on these six primary factors:
- Base fare: Lyft charges a set cost per ride based on your ride type and location.
- 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.
- Service fee: This set charge goes to support Lyft’s operations. The more expensive your ride type, the lower the service fee usually is, unlike other fees.
- Real-time demand: When demand is high, allowing “Prime Time” to kick in, your Lyft fares will be multiplied accordingly. While Uber’s surge pricing is displayed as a multiple, Lyft’s Prime Time pricing is shown as a percentage on your app screen. For example, if Uber surge is 1.25x, the Lyft Prime Time equivalent would be +25%.
- Minimum fare: Every ride type in every market has a minimum cost, so even if your ride should be cheaper based on local Lyft rates, you will be charged the minimum fare amount.
At select locations — usually event venues or airports — you may be charged an extra fee. This is because some locations charge Lyft a fee per ride to operate, and Lyft (like Uber) passes those fees on to riders. The extra charge is usually no more than a few dollars.
Lyft Ride Types
The factors above 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.
Additional Lyft Fees
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.
1. Cancellation Fee
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.
2. Toll Fee
If your Lyft driver pays for a non-optional toll to get you from your pick-up location to your destination, the exact toll cost will be added to your final Lyft price. You’ll also need to pay your driver’s return toll if crossing one of these locations.
3. 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.
4. Lost-and-Found Fee
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.
5. Damage Fee
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.
How Much Does Lyft Cost?
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.
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.
For a simpler process, you can use our Lyft estimate fare calculator to get accurate breakdowns for rides in your location.
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:
1. How do Lyft rates compare to Uber rates?
When comparing equivalent ride types (like the standard Lyft and UberX), Lyft rates are pretty much on par with Uber rates in every market the companies share. Lyft and Uber costs are also calculated based on similar factors.
2. 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.
3. Do I have to tip my Lyft driver on top of paying for my ride?
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.
Know What You’re Paying For
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.
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.