Have you noticed Uber and Lyft getting more strict with their cleaning fee reimbursements? If so, you’re not alone. Senior RSG contributor Jay Cradeur investigates a new tactic by Uber and Lyft to potentially deny cleaning fee reimbursements to some drivers below.

    We have been hearing more complaints about how Uber and Lyft are not reimbursing drivers for the cleanup expense when a passenger makes a mess in your car.  I have been fortunate in that I have never had a passenger puke in my car. However, it happens to many drivers, particularly those who drive those lucrative “party hours”.



    cleaning reimbursement

    How Uber and Lyft’s Cleaning Policy is Supposed to Work

    Unfortunately, puke is not the only thing that can cause damage to your car.  I have had two other types of car damage.  The first occurred on Halloween in 2016.  Some drunk dude had a costume on that had fake blood on this shirt, front and back. When he sat down in my back seat, with white fabric coverings, the paint got all over the back seat.

    About a year later, a guy insisted on keeping his carry on luggage with him in the back seat.  When he got out, he dragged the carry on across the same white fabric-covered seats and left tire treads all across the back.

    cleaning reimbursement

    In both cases, I took several pictures, got a cleaning estimate of $129 to clean and shampoo and dry the front and the back seats, and emailed both to Uber. Within 24 hours, Uber had reimbursed me no questions asked.  When I heard that both Uber and Lyft were either completely ignoring or delaying paying out on cleaning fees, I was surprised.

    The situation I experienced is how it should be – taking pictures, get a cleaning estimate, and get reimbursed. But apparently, that policy is changing.

    Lyft’s Cleaning Reimbursement Policy

    Let’s take a look at Lyft’s current cleaning fee requirements.

    Here are Lyft’s photo tips:

    So what we can learn from this information is to get at least two photos.  Be sure the photos are as clear as possible.  Also, report the incident within 6 hours. Unlike Uber, Lyft gives you less time to turn in your photos, and Lyft does not provide any payment guidelines.

    Uber’s Cleaning Reimbursement Policy

    Uber also has very clear instructions on how to request a cleaning fee:

    From this, we can see Uber now allows 3 days.  That is in stark contrast to Lyft’s 6-hour deadline. Let’s go deeper down the rabbit hole:

    cleaning reimbursement

    Now we see that Uber will pay up to $250.  This is valuable information, and what I feel to be a generous amount of money.  Someone would have to really mess up your car to warrant a full $250 for clean up and repairs.  Uber also provides more clarity when it comes to your photographs:

    Lyft Isn’t Paying

    Here is one example of a driver’s frustration that Lyft not only won’t pay for a cleanup, but they also don’t give any reason for the declination.  This is from the Rideshare Guy Twitter feed:

    We can see there is no explanation.  Lyft’s customer service person, Jossie, simply states, “We will not be moving forward with your most recent damage claim.”  That has got to sting!

    Uber Isn’t Paying

    Here we have a situation in which Uber is not paying.  Again, we don’t really know why.  This driver submitted pictures of a poop stain that one very drunk passenger left in the back seat.  Which is worse, puke or poop?  That is a question for another day. Obviously, both are disgusting and should allow a driver to get reimbursed for the cleanup.

    If you’re so inclined, here is a photo of the damage. Scroll quickly if you don’t want to see it!

    That is not pleasant.  This driver also submitted a cleaning fee receipt for a measly $50 and Uber still refused to pay.

    cleaning reimbursement

    The driver does not understand why Uber declined to pay for this. After all, Uber’s passenger, Uber should pay, right? Well, not for some drivers.

    A Driver’s Hidden Expenses

    The thing nobody is saying here is drivers are losing far more than the cleaning fee. What does one day of not driving cost? $200 – $400?

    Even if you can take care of the damage in one day, you have still lost part of one day during which the incident occurred, and then another day while you leave your car to get cleaned. You may have to take two Uber or Lyft rides to the cleaning establishment as well. It adds up.

    When you take all things considered, it is really discouraging and undermining when Uber and Lyft don’t, at a minimum, support the drivers by paying for the clean up expenses, which come directly out of the driver’s pocket.

    Possible Explanations

    There are a few reasons these drivers and many other drivers did not get reimbursed.  First, the pictures may not have been clear and definitive.  Second, the submission might have been after the deadline.  As noted, 6 hours is not much time to get your request into Lyft.

    Third, the passenger may not have corroborated the story. The passengers may say the damage was not their responsibility.  Passengers may lie, especially when $250 is at risk.

    Finally, if a driver has a low rating, a history of passenger complaints, or has submitted an unusual number of cleaning fee requests, it is possible Uber and Lyft feel they are being scammed.

    However, for most of us, these explanations do not apply. Instead, I suggest Uber and Lyft are taking a hard stance on paying out reimbursements in order to improve their bottom lines.

    Key Takeaways

    First, know the Uber and Lyft policies. Take note of the 6-hour Lyft requirement.  You will need to move quickly. Take good clear pictures, provide a detailed story, and submit a cleaning estimate or receipt.

    Second, assume Uber and Lyft will try to make it difficult.  However, if you follow their rules, you should, in most cases, get your car cleaned at your passenger’s expense.

    Third, take precautions.  I carry barf bags and always have one ready for a questionable passenger.  I also have two big beach towels in my trunk, which I can lay down on the seats if necessary.  For example, when there is too much luggage for my trunk and I need to put a piece of luggage on my front seat, I put the towel down first.  And finally, don’t do what I did and get a car with white seats.  That was a bonehead move.  Black pleather works much better.  Drive safe out there.

    Drivers, what have been your experiences with cleaning fees and getting reimbursed by Uber and Lyft? Has it been a straightforward process for you? Have you noticed the clean up process change recently?

    -Jay @ RSG

    Jay Cradeur

    Jay Cradeur

    Jay Cradeur, a graduate of the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley, is a full-time driver with over 26,000 rides. Jay has a driver-focused podcast: Rideshare Dojo with Jay Cradeur. When Jay isn’t writing articles or making videos, he is traveling the world. You can see what Jay is up to at