Maintenance is one headache, on top of gas costs, for drivers. Waiting in line at a drive-through oil-change provider is inconvenient enough, but more labor-intensive service issues, like brake jobs or coolant changes, can cost a driver hundreds of dollars in missed work. Interestingly, Lyft itself has taken notice, launching a service program offering convenient repair and maintenance services at Lyft hubs or through a mobile service van! How well does it work? RSG contributor Gabe Ets-Hokin found out.
If you stick with rideshare driving more than a few months, your car is going to need servicing more frequently than you’re used to. The problem is that when your car is at the shop – and even something as routine as a tire rotation can take your car out of service for a day – you’re not making money.
Lyft wants you out there earning money for them – oops, I meant you – as much as possible. That’s the idea behind the Lyft Driver Services initiative. It’s a universe of driver benefits, including a debit card, expanded driver centers, expanded Express Drive rental programs, local Driver Advisory Councils (DACs) and a partnership with GEICO insurance to reduce insurance costs. I tried the Mobile Service to see if it could benefit our readers.
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What is Lyft Mobile Service?
Lyft Mobile Service is a network of mobile service vans, staffed by qualified mechanics and dispatched by Lyft through the Lyft app or website. Owned 100% by Lyft, the drivers and managers are all Lyft employees, according to the two Mobile Service representatives I talked to.
Services offered from the vans include oil changes, brake service, battery swaps, cabin and engine air filter replacement, fault-code diagnostics, tune-ups and more. All they need is a safe, level spot (equal to one-and-a-half parking spaces) to work next to your ride.
Where is Lyft Mobile Service Offered?
Right now, Lyft offers mobile service in Austin, Chicago, Denver, Phoenix and the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s unclear if Lyft will expand the program.
How Do I Use Lyft Mobile Service?
If your car is eligible for Lyft Mobile service, you’ll see an option to schedule it in the app. Just tap your smiling face in the Lyft Driver app, tap the “Service” icon, and you should be offered a menu of services and available appointment times. For some reason, I had to do it through the Lyft Service website and then select “Other: Can’t find what you are looking for,” select “Tire Rotation” and then pick a time.
My Experience with Lyft Mobile Service
Here’s one problem with owning an EV that isn’t really a problem: EVs don’t need much maintenance. So how would I test Lyft’s Mobile Service? Luckily, my Chevy Bolt EV does need a tire rotation every 7,500 miles, like every car – it can double the life of your tires – and Lyft Mobile Service offers this for just $25-ish.
Scheduling it is easy. Open the Lyft Driver app, tap your photo, then tap “service.” If you have a qualifying car you’ll see an option to schedule either Mobile or Driver Center service, with prices that are roughly around market rate: new brake fluid runs you $65, oil and filter (with synthetic oil) is $75, new brake pads are $160, parts and labor included. If you’re servicing an Express Drive car, it’s free.
Once you’ve scheduled your service, the service writer communicates with you via text message. I found my guy, Kenneth, to be very responsive when I needed to reschedule. At the appointment time, I was concerned the van wouldn’t fit down my narrow, circa 1925 driveway, but I needn’t have worried: the technician, Isaam, showed up right on time in a Ford Transit Connect, which is about the size of a Ford Focus. Despite its diminutive size, it was fully stocked with all the tools, jacks, stands and other implements Isaam needed.
Unfortunately, both Isaam and I immediately noticed my left-front tire had a bulge in the sidewall, a war wound from combat with Oakland’s fearsome man-eating potholes. A pro to the core, he told me he couldn’t do a tire rotation with an unsafe tire. I sadly sent him on his way and headed to one of Oakland’s many used-tire emporiums for a temporary fix.
Once I had a serviceable tire, I was able to reschedule just a few days later (after assuring Kenneth the dreaded bulge was gone). Once again, Isaam showed up on time, and after doing some paperwork, he got to work on the tire rotation. He did it quickly – he’s an experienced tech – and soon was vacuuming my interior, which is included with most services. He also did a free 20-point safety inspection, something I don’t get with my usual $10 tire rotation.
A side note: when Isaam returned, a supervisor came with him, a friendly guy named Payal who only interfered when Isaam had questions. Did Lyft Google me and send an extra pair of eyes to make sure a famed rideshare journalist got five-star service? Or did they just want to make sure there were no other potential liabilities besides the bulging tire? When asked about it, Payal told me his presence was routine.
At the end, I paid $26.54 for a tire rotation, vehicle inspection and interior vacuum. That’s about what I would have paid if I had taken it to a big name-brand tire store and God knows what my local Chevy dealer would charge. But I didn’t have to arrange transportation, or wait a week for an appointment, and most importantly, my vehicle’s downtime was measured in minutes, not days.
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How Good is Lyft Mobile Service?
For the simple servicing needs my car has, Lyft Mobile Service was objectively excellent. The work was performed quickly and on time by a competent technician who cared about his job. And if that’s not enough, he came to me, eliminating the hassle of arranging transportation or renting an alternative vehicle for work.
Of course, it does have its limitations. It seems mostly designed for the kind of routine service late-model cars require. I’m guessing more extensive work, like muffler repair, timing-belt replacement, brake-rotor resurfacing, air-conditioner service, etc, would be beyond the resources contained within Isaam’s tiny workshop-on-wheels or even the Lyft Driver Centers.
Lyft’s Partnership with OpenBay
That’s where Openbay comes in. Openbay is a car-repair app that locates independent mechanics, and Lyft has partnered with that company to provide services if a driver needs something not offered through a Lyft Driver Center or Lyft Mobile Service, or if they’re in a geographic area not served by those providers.
Openbay is pretty easy to use: go to the Openbay/Lyft website, sign in as a Lyft driver, enter your vehicle specifics and you’ll see a list of discounts available for common services. However, I don’t think the Lyft discount is significantly greater (if at all) than the discounts you’ll see if you do a little shopping around online.
Should You Try Lyft Mobile Service?
If Lyft expands and continues its Mobile Service program, I’d say take advantage of it. It’s easy to use, convenient and a real time saver. I’d also recommend looking into service options through the Driver Centers and Openbay.
No matter where you get your car serviced, preventive maintenance is a must-do if you want to prevent repairs that will be costly to perform and even more costly when you consider how much time you’ll have to spend drinking stale waiting-room coffee, time you should be spending driving passengers and making money. Stay safe and don’t drive yourself crazy!
Readers, would you try Lyft’s Mobile Service program if it came to your city?
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-Gabe @ RSG