For Lyft drivers in most cities, upfront fare information is here!
With the upfront fare update, drivers can now see the passenger’s destination and an estimated payout BEFORE accepting the trip request.
But the benefits of upfront fares come with some downsides: Longer trips are getting a pay cut, and rides are no longer calculated based on a rate card. What you see is what you get, and you won’t know exactly why.
And Lyft requires a minimum acceptance rate in some cities to keep upfront details—as high as 70% or 90%!
Uber was the first to launch upfront fares, and now Lyft is following closely behind with a system almost identical to Uber’s.
Read on to learn how upfront fares work for Lyft drivers, how the new system compares to Uber, and whether this is a pay cut or a raise.
Upfront fares on Lyft: How it works
In markets with upfront fares, the ride request screen now shows the passenger’s drop-off location, the estimated pay for the ride, and the overall ride time & distance.
The upfront request also includes any bonus information, so you’ll know when a Bonus Zone or other bonus is applied to the ride.
Another big change with upfront fares is that ride payouts are no longer calculated based on a set rate card.
Instead, Lyft uses a hidden pricing algorithm with unknown criteria. As a result, what you see in the upfront estimate is what you get, and you won’t be paid a set mileage & time rate.
Will upfront fares increase or decrease pay?
It’s hard to say if overall pay will go up or down because there is no longer an easy way to calculate mileage and time rates. Without a rate card, you can’t predict how much a ride will pay.
The exact payout calculation is now private, hidden away in a secret algorithm with unknown variables.
Lyft says that overall pay should stay about the same. Pay for short rides will increase, while pay for longer rides will decrease.
That’s good news if you prefer short rides but bad news if your strategy targets long rides.
Drivers say that upfront fares are turning out to be a pay cut. But it’s worth noting that drivers are likelier to share outrage than satisfaction.
So far, there isn’t enough driver data to determine if pay has decreased or increased due to upfront fares.
Is there an acceptance rate requirement to get upfront info?
In some markets, you must maintain a minimum acceptance rating to continue seeing upfront fares. Some cities require a 70% acceptance rate, and others require up to 90%.
Watch out for notices in the app to see if the acceptance rate qualification is in your area.
How ride requests worked before upfront fares
Since the beginning of Lyft, drivers did not see the passenger destination until they arrived to pick up the passenger.
The ride request screen simply showed the passenger’s pickup location and an estimated time to reach the pickup.
Drivers never saw a payout estimate, either. You only knew how much a ride would pay after it was over.
There were some exceptions—the long trip notification—and some upfront features that were available in California.
When a trip was estimated to be 45 minutes or longer, drivers got a long trip notification that said the ride was 45+ minutes, and in some locations, it gave a general direction for the ride—Northeast, Southwest, etc.
In California, drivers who reached the Gold rewards tier would see the estimated length of the ride and the direction.
So how did drivers manage with such little information? Most took their chances on each ride. You showed up to the pickup and hoped for the best. Sometimes, you would cancel if the passenger was going way too far out of your way.
Others came up with a hack: Swipe to arrive at the pickup before actually arriving, check the destination, then cancel if it was too far to drive or in the wrong direction.
Upfront pricing on Lyft vs Uber
Uber launched upfront fares before Lyft, and so far it looks like the Lyft system is nearly identical to the Uber system.
Upfront fares on both Uber and Lyft have eliminated the rate card. No more transparent ride calculations on either Uber or Lyft!
Both upfront systems show a payout estimate, the drop-off location, and the overall ride distance & time.
One difference is that Uber displays the cross streets for the pickup and drop-off, and Lyft doesn’t. On Lyft, you have to look at the map to see the locations, which isn’t always easy to do when you are driving down the road.
For both Uber and Lyft, upfront fares have increased pay for short rides and decreased pay for long rides.
Is this good or bad for drivers? The upsides and downsides
Lyft will rarely release an update that is 100% beneficial to drivers. There are always upsides and downsides to consider.
Upsides of upfront fares
No more surprises about your destination. Every passenger felt like a gamble before upfront fares. Sometimes the ride would be disappointingly short, or far too long. That uncertainty is gone.
Skip the lowest-paying rides. With upfront payout estimates, you can avoid those min fares that eat into your profitability.
Filter out rides that you don’t want. With upfront fares, you can closely control ride distance, ride payout, and ride destination. As a result, you can avoid the shortest trips and avoid getting taken too far out of your area.
Downsides of upfront fares
It may be a pay cut. Lyft has tweaked overall pay, and drivers suspect that upfront fares are a pay cut in disguise.
No more rate card. Ride payouts were transparent when they were calculated according to a rate card. Now the payment calculation is hidden in a private algorithm.
Acceptance rate requirement means you can quickly lose access to upfront info. For example, if your area has an acceptance rate requirement for upfront info, you might quickly lose access if you use the upfront info to carefully filter out rides.
In other words, you must stop being selective to keep the privilege of being selective.
Upfront fare hall of shame: The lowest-paying upfront fares
With upfront info, you can finally see the best—and the worst—fares before you accept the ride.
Here are several examples of some of the worst upfront fares that drivers shared online. They may look bad, but you have to admit: At least they had all this info upfront!
The driver below was offered only $12 for a 22 mile ride that would take over 35 minutes. Less than 50 cents a mile is bad!
Below, this driver got the opportunity to do a 50-mile, hourlong ride for only $33.95. And remember—that’s only one way! You have to factor in the return trip too.
Below, $13 to do 18 miles in Los Angeles is not a great rate. Not only is the pay per mile low, but there will be bad LA traffic both ways.
Below is another long ride that would have paid a lot more on the old rate card. It’s $99 for a 180-mile, 3-hour ride! That’s a 6 hour round trip for only $99. Yikes.
The ride below shows how a long pickup can ruin a ride. Without factoring in the pickup, this ride pays a decent $1 per mile. But with a 20 minute pickup, overall pay takes a huge dive.
It’s great that Lyft drivers get more upfront info. But as some of these examples show, the upfront info came with a pay cut in many instances.
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