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.

    Click here for info and options for renting a car for Uber and Lyft. If you haven’t started driving for Lyft or Uber yet, click here to sign up.

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    Lyft Express Drive Review

    You want the benefits of a flexible schedule and independent workplace that rideshare work gives you, but you don’t want to buy a car or use your own. This is not an unreasonable position (actually, it may be even a pretty smart one).

    Uber famously got out of the car-rental and leasing game after it lost money on its XChange leasing arm, but more than enough independent start-ups have filled in the gap. For whatever reason, Lyft decided to pink things up with its own program, Express Drive, and it’s been humming along since 2016. In fact, RSG tried out Lyft Express Drive in 2017, but we came away unimpressed, reporting a net wage of $12 an hour with the program. How has Lyft Express Drive changed in 2019? My experience below.

    What is Express Drive?

    Express Drive is, quite simply, Lyft’s rental-car program. Unlike Uber XChange Leasing, it’s managed through affiliated partners; the cars aren’t owned by Lyft. Affiliates include rental-car companies Hertz, Avis and Subscription-rental startup 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.

    You can learn about other rideshare rental or lease options for drivers on our Vehicle Marketplace page.

    What’s New with Express Drive in 2019?

    The more you drive, the more you earn…

    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 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: see my guide to insurance deductibles if you have questions about what that means), 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.

    One tiny loophole: 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.

    How Does it Work?

    First, you need to sign up for Lyft and be eligible to drive. Once you’re greenlighted, 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.

    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 and go pick up your car. 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.

    Sign-up is easy: just go to “Vehicle” in your Driver App.

    The gravy on this sandwich is that 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. Hey, it’s not $500 for 120 rides like the good ol’ days of 2016, but $218 is $218.

    Don’t forget – to drive for Lyft Express Drive, you’ll need to sign up for Lyft first!

    Related Articles:

    Maintenance is Easy with Lyft Express Drive

    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, creaky and rattle-y? Just go get a different one! It’s one perk of renting.


    Service Van

    Author spotted this van at the Lyft Driver Hub in Oakland: is Lyft experimenting with mobile service for its partners?
    Photo: Gabe Ets-Hokin

    My Experience with Lyft Express Drive

    My Express Drive experience was pretty smooth. 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. There, I watched a video about something (I presume 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.

    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.

    ED Cars

    A line of Flexdrive cars await drivers in Oakland, June 2019. Photo: Gabe Ets-Hokin

    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.

    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 turn in, unless you want to get hit with a $50 cleaning fee. A couple weeks later, my security deposit was returned to me via my regular Lyft pay.

    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 (my strategy when Sergio’s destination filter strategy doesn’t work) 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 I 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 than Harry’s performance in ED’s early days.

    ED Sentra

    Ooo! A Sentra! I sure hope it’s mine! Photo: Gabe Ets-Hokin

    Is Express Drive Worth It?

    Express Drive is designed to get people on the road driving for Lyft, and only Lyft: you still can’t use your car for Uber, Postmates, 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.

    Want to drive for Uber and Lyft? Check out all of our rideshare vehicle rental options at the Vehicle Marketplace.

    If that’s your goal – only drive for Lyft, without having to be tied down by the car-ownership experience, than yes, it’s not bad… if you drive full time or close to it. You 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.

    Author’s actual earnings from a partial week of renting.

    One wild card in the calculations is fuel costs. Completing 125 rides will probably cost you about $100 in gas for a 25-mpg econobox like the Sentra (sorry, Sent-rinos!): driving a decent hybrid will cut that roughly in half. I’m sure there are a few hybrids in the Express Drive fleet, but odds are you’ll get something Sentra-like, sucking away any cost savings. Oh, and if Lyft’s shrinking bonuses and rates are any indicator, expect those Rental Rewards payments to get smaller, not larger, over time.

    As I finished this article, I realized there may be two more downsides. As RSG contributor Paula Gibbons noted a few months ago, Lyft sets special (and significantly lower) rates for Express Drive users, which is shady AF (as the kids say), and may sway your decision to rent from ED. Check your local rate card! And finally, if you’re renting, you can say sayonara to the fat and generous IRS mileage deduction of 58 cents per mile. You can write off gas, rental fees and some other expenses related to rideshare use, but it won’t be as lucrative as the mileage deduction, which can take $23,000 off your reported income if you drive 40,000 miles a year.

    Still, 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 Lyft drivers, who are both part-timers and short-timers, driving Lyft between jobs, or to make some extra dough for a short period of time. It’s impressive how well it works and how much time, money and effort they’re pouring into it.

    You can learn more about the Lyft Express Drive program by going to ‘Vehicle’ on your driver profile tab – make sure you’ve signed up to drive for Lyft and are approved first!

    Read next:

    Readers, have you used Lyft Express Drive? What was your experience with it?

    -Gabe @ RSG






    Gabe Ets-Hokin

    Gabe Ets-Hokin

    Gabe Ets-Hokin is a veteran transportation professional with over 50,000 trips between taxicabs, Uber, Lyft and Sidecar. He's been writing professionally about motorcycles since 2004 and got into writing about Rideshare in 2015. He lives in Oakland, CA with his wife, son and two bitter, unfulfilled cats.