For a lot of prospective drivers, having a reliable, suitable vehicle for rideshare work can be a big barrier to entry. For others, maybe you’re just tired of all the miles you’re putting on your own car.
Whatever the reason, there is a plethora of rental options and today senior RSG contributor Gabe Ets-Hokin details his experience renting a car from Lyft through its Express Drive program and shares his experience with the program below.
What is Lyft Express Drive?
Express Drive is, quite simply, Lyft’s rental-car program. It’s managed through affiliated partners; the cars aren’t owned by Lyft.
Affiliates include rental-car companies Hertz, and Flexdrive.
The partnered companies maintain and administer the cars, but the cars designated for rideshare renting are available, and paid for, only through the Lyft app.
The secret sauce is that if you complete enough rides, your rental fee is discounted – or even waived.
How Does Lyft Express Drive Work?
First, you need to sign up for Lyft and be eligible to drive.
1. Search for the Vehicle You Want to Rent
Once you’re greenlighted to drive for Lyft, you’ll be able to sign up for Express Drive through the app – just go to the app’s sidebar, tap “vehicle,” and then tap the “Rent a car” tab.
2. Go Pick Your Car Up
After you select an appointment day at the location and time that suits you and you’ve signed your life away and paid a refundable deposit, you simply go pick up your car.
3. Start Driving
You can keep it as long as you like, though you’ll be charged for a full 7 days if you bring it back early. You also have to complete 20 rides a week to keep renting.
The more rides you complete, the less you pay.
It varies by city or region, but on my app, Lyft promises I will pay just $119 a week if I do 100 rides, $59 for 125, and zero if I can stay awake long enough Sunday night to make it to ride number 155.
Lyft Express Drive Vehicle Maintenance
If you’re keeping the car and hitting your ride numbers, it’s almost like a free car, or at least competitive with the costs of a personally owned vehicle, so how does maintenance work?
Simple! Just take it back to where you picked it up, and they pay for it, or in some cases, they’ll have you pay out of pocket and reimburse.
And if your car is getting too old, and creaky, just go get a different one! It’s one perk of renting.
My Experience with Lyft Express Drive
My Express Drive experience was pretty smooth.
1. Signed Up Through the Lyft App
I signed up through the app, made my appointment, and rode one of Lyft’s rental bikes to the Lyft Driver Hub in West Oakland, three miles from my house.
2. Watched a Lyft Video While Waiting for Rental
There, I watched a video about something, I presume about renting a car or driving for Lyft.
I mostly remember a lot of swirling pink shapes and happy-looking people in cars, while they prepped my car.
3. Got Assigned My Lyft Express Drive Rental Car
Out in the parking lot, I saw some decent-looking rides: Volkswagen Jettas and Passats, a Honda or two, but what I was stuck with was a Nissan Sentra.
No offense to my Sentra-driving brothers and sisters, but I hope I never have to drive one of those again. It’s cramped, noisy, slow, has crappy infotainment and worst of all is a gas guzzler.
I saw about 22 mpg the time I drove, which was blissfully less than a week. Sure, light cars with small engines get good economy on the open road at a steady 65 mph, but around town, especially on San Francisco’s 49 hills, you may as well get a Challenger. At least pedestrians will get out of your way.
The Sentra was ironic because Lyft itself published a list of vehicles not allowed for Lyft because they’re allegedly too small. Many of these banned cars were not really that much smaller than the Sentra, or, in the case of the Fiat 500X, larger!
Luckily, thanks to my own ace reporting on the Lyft banning subcompact cars debacle, Lyft has removed every car on the list that was larger than the Sentra.
4. Turned In My Lyft Express Drive Rental Car
Turn-in was even easier than pick-up. I “forgot” to wash it, hoping it would be clean enough to pass muster. It did… but barely.
You do need to wash and vacuum the car before turning in unless you want to get hit with a $50 cleaning fee.
5. Received Security Deposit Back (2 Weeks Later)
A couple of weeks later, my security deposit was returned to me via my regular Lyft pay.
My Overall Feelings About Express Drive with Lyft
At the end of the week, I felt a little sad, and poor.
The rental cost was reasonable, but because I couldn’t app-switch, and the Bay Area was in a particularly slow early-summer lull, I netted a mere $12.55 an hour after paying for gas.
Had I worked a little harder, and smarter, of course, I would have been able to waive the rental fee.
Figuring I average 3.2 rides per hour and net roughly $7 per Lyft ride, had I been able to drive enough that week to meet the rental reward target, I probably would have made about $22 an hour, not as much as I make on the regular, but better.
Pros and Cons
- No long-term commitment: Drivers can rent a car for as little as a day, making it a great option for drivers who only want to drive part-time.
- Insurance and maintenance included: The cost of the rental includes insurance and maintenance, which can save drivers money.
- Newer cars: Lyft Express Drive cars are all 2019 models or newer, which means drivers are driving newer cars with updated safety features.
- Cost: Renting a car through Lyft can be expensive, especially for drivers who want to rent long-term.
- No ownership: Drivers don’t own the car they’re driving, which means they can’t sell it or use it for personal use.
- Availability: Lyft Express Drive is not available in all cities, which can limit the availability of rental cars.
Frequently Asked Questions
How much does it cost to rent a car through Lyft Express Drive?
The cost of renting a car through Lyft Express Drive varies depending on the rental option and location. Typically, drivers can expect to pay anywhere from $30 to $250 per week.
Can I use a rental car for personal use?
No, Lyft Express Drive cars can only be used for driving with Lyft, not for personal use or other rideshare gigs such as Uber.
Can I rent a car through Lyft Express Drive if I’m a new driver?
Yes, new drivers are eligible to rent a car through Lyft Express Drive as long as they meet the program’s requirements.
What’s New with Express Drive?
When Harry rented his car in 2017 through Express Drive, he had to shell out some extra money for personal-use insurance, plus he wasn’t eligible for regular Lyft bonuses, and he couldn’t use Express Pay.
On top of that, in the early days of Express Drive, Lyft charged you $0.20 cents a mile if the Lyft Driver app wasn’t on and in active mode. Ouch!
Things have evolved somewhat.
There’s no charge for personal use, insurance is included in the rental charge (expect a $1,000 deductible for all coverage periods), and you now can cash out your Lyft earnings with Express Pay, but you’re still not eligible for any Ride Challenges.
However, there is still a Rental Rewards Program, which I’ll fill you in on below.
TIP: If you are on a driver challenge and you start your rental during the challenge period, you can still finish that challenge, so you can double-dip…at least for the first week.
Is Express Drive Worth It?
Express Drive is designed to get people on the road driving for Lyft, and only Lyft.
Yes: If You Only Want to Drive for Lyft
You still can’t use your car for Uber, DoorDash, or any other commercial use as far as I know, and it’s not a good idea to try it, as insurance companies are very good at slithering away through loopholes.
If that’s your goal – only drive for Lyft, without having to be tied down by the car-ownership experience, then yes, it’s not bad.
No: If You Want to Drive Full-Time with Multi-Apping
If you drive full-time or close to it, you will need to hit that 100 or 125 ride mark to make it worth it.
Do the math. If you drive your POV 125 rides, you’ll likely spend about $500-900 a month on maintenance, insurance, car payments, and depreciation.
And if you rent an EV through Flexdrive (yes, the Lyft website says they have them, though I’m not sure where), you can even charge for free.
Yes: If You Do Not Want to Buy a Car
You do get the flexibility of being able to walk away from the program anytime after the first week, and that may be a big benefit for the majority of new Lyft drivers, who started out and decided its just not for them.