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How Does Lyft Work? Your Lyft Rider Guide

Last updated: March 23, 2020
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In less than 10 years, companies like Uber have flipped the transportation industry on its head, giving passengers an alternative means of transportation. Ridesharing services are here to stay. Although Uber seems to be known as the pioneer of the rideshare movement, Lyft is hot on its heels, eating away market share as each day passes.

For those of you unfamiliar with Lyft, have no fear. We’re going to walk you through everything you need to know about this rideshare company: how Lyft works, why you should use it, and how you can hail your first ride.

What Is Lyft?

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Lyft is an on-demand rideshare service that provides transportation for riders all around the United States and Canada. Passengers can hail a ride, get picked up and dropped off by a Lyft driver, and then process payment through the Lyft app.

Lyft hit the scene in 2012 as an additional service for a long-distance carpooling company Zimride which helped college students find co-passengers to get from one city to the next. The founders, Logan Green and John Zimmer, quickly saw the value in short-distance travel within busy and congested cities. They then sold Zimride in 2013 to focus primarily on the growth of Lyft.

Through the Lyft mobile app, passengers can connect with drivers to receive rides from point A to point B. Not only does Lyft provide riders like you with a convenient way to get around their city, it also employs thousands of independent contractors who make money every time they give a ride.

Before showing you exactly how Lyft works, let’s discuss some of the benefits of using Lyft.

Benefits of Lyft

Lyft allows passengers to conveniently hail rides at the drop of the hat anywhere in your city. With 24/7 service, you can hop on the app and catch a ride across town at any point throughout the day.

When you use Lyft, you never have to worry about finding parking on busy streets or worry about who’s going to drive home after a night out on the town. Since there’s always a driver right around the corner, you can have a Lyft driver at your location in no time.

Lyft also gives you several vehicle types to choose from. If you want to pinch pennies, there’s a Lyft vehicle option for that. If you want to ride in style in a luxurious SUV, there’s a Lyft ride for that too.

Lastly, Lyft is a safe and reliable service. All Lyft drivers go through routine background checks and are carefully vetted before hopping behind the wheel. To make you feel more comfortable, you can even opt to share your current driving route with your friends.

Now let’s get you set up and on your way to your first ride with Lyft.

How Does Lyft Work?How Does Lyft Work? Your Lyft Rider Guide

So how does Lyft work, exactly? The Lyft app enables you to type in your destination, choose your ride type, and hail a rideshare driver. After you’ve been picked up and dropped off at your destination, you’ll be charged right through the app.

To start using Lyft, you must first download the smartphone app at the App Store for iOS or Google Play for Android. Once you’ve downloaded the app, you’ll need to provide the following information.

  • Name
  • Address
  • User name
  • Password
  • Payment method
  • Optional photo

You’re then all set to take your first ride. To set up your first ride, open the app and type in your destination. You’re able to reserve a ride immediately or set one up for a later time.

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You’ll be given a few different ride options to choose from, each with its own price. The nicer the ride, the more money it will cost. You’ll also see the estimated time of arrival, duration of the ride, and your estimated drop-off time.

Here are the different Lyft ride options you can choose from.

  • Shared Lyft (1-4 passengers): Carpool with others on the way to your destination to save money
  • Lyft (1-4 passengers): The original rideshare solution with everything you need to get where you have to go
  • Lyft XL (1-6 passengers): Similar to the regular Lyft option except it accommodates more people in a larger vehicle
  • Lyft Lux (1-4 passengers): High-end car service that lets you ride in style
  • Lux Black (1-4 passengers): Similar to Lyft Lux but these rides only come in black
  • Lux Black XL (1-6 passengers): Top-of-the-line luxurious SUVs fit for kings and queens
  • Lyft Bikes: Bikeshare solutions that are popping up in select U.S. cities
  • Lyft Scooters: Electric shared scooters zipping around cities

Once you’re satisfied with your selection you can tap “Confirm pickup.” A nearby driver will then make his or her way to your location. You driver’s location will show up on the map within the app with an estimated time of arrival.

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You’ll receive a notification when your driver arrives. Head to the pick-up location and double-check that you’re getting into the correct vehicle. One way to confirm that it’s your ride is to look for a Lyft sign in the windshield of the car. You can also look at the app to see the vehicle type, color, license plate, your driver’s name, and their photo.

The only thing left to do is hop in the front seat or back seat and enjoy the ride to your destination. At the end of the ride, you’ll be automatically charged to the credit card or debit card that’s on file.

Feel free to give your driver a tip within the app if you enjoyed your ride and thought they were friendly and professional. You can also leave a review and give feedback after every ride.

So how much will a Lyft ride cost you?

How Much Does Lyft Cost?

Lyft rides are based on a dynamic pricing system and are constantly changing at every moment of the day. The cost of your Lyft ride will depend on various factors like the time of day you ride, the type of vehicle you choose, how far you have to go, and how long it takes you to get there.

Before you take your ride, you’ll always have access to upfront pricing that lets you know how much you’ll have to pay. This price is an estimate, but you’ll typically pay right around the amount the Lyft app estimates.

Lyft fares will vary from city to city but are all comprised of the following factors:

  • Base fare: Flat fee for taking your ride (around $1)
  • Cost per mile: Per-mile rate charged for the distance traveled
  • Cost per minute: Per-minute rate charged for the time you’re in the vehicle
  • Service fee: Flat fee that goes to Lyft to support its platform
  • Prime Time: Fare multiplier, similar to Uber’s surge pricing, that charges you extra for catching a ride during peak hours and high demand
  • Additional tolls and fees: The extra fees you may be required to pay like tolls, airport charges, venue charges, or city fees
  • Driver tip: Tips are optional but are appreciated by drivers since they get to keep 100% of them

If you’d like to see an estimate of what your ride will cost, you can open the app and type in you pick-up and drop-off location. You can also head to our guide to Lyft fare estimators.

How Does Lyft Work FAQs

Take a look below if you still have questions related to using Lyft.

1. Where does Lyft operate?

Lyft offers rides in over 640 major cities in the United States — including New York City, San Francisco, and Chicago — and nine cities in Canada. They are constantly expanding their reach, so expect this number to continue to grow. If you want to see if Lyft is available in your area, head to this list of Lyft cities.

2. Are there Lyft promo codes for new Lyft passengers?

Yes! You can head to the official Lyft promo code page to see all of the current offers you can take advantage of.

3. Can you refer friends to use Lyft?

Yes, you can refer friends to receive free rides. Every time you refer a new passenger to Lyft, you both receive a ride on the house. To refer a friend, head to the menu section and tap “Free rides.” You can then share a referral code with your friend.

4. How can you contact Lyft customer service?

If you’d like to contact Lyft customer service for any reason, check out our guide to Lyft customer service which highlights every way you can reach out to Lyft.

Grab Your First Lyft

The next time you’re thinking about hailing a cab, hopping in the car to search for parking downtown, or taking public transit, remember that Lyft has your back. You can use this convenient rideshare service to navigate your city with ease and at an affordable price.

See what all the buzz is about. Download the app and reserve your first ride today!

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