Editor’s Note: This story originally appeared on The Penny Hoarder.
Now that everything seems to be available with a few taps on a screen, the practice of hailing taxis is going the way of telephone booths and DVD rental stores.
Ride-share services like Uber make getting home from a night out easy to plan — no more worrying about parking, not to mention beverage consumption. But when you’re hit with surge pricing, the deal might not look so great anymore.
And on top of that, Uber implemented a gas surcharge in the spring of 2022 to offset rising gas prices. Riders are now required to pay another $0.45 to $0.55 for each trip (it’s $0.35 to $0.45 if you order from Uber Eats).
UberPool, the option that helps you save money by pairing you with other customers, isn’t available due to ongoing COVID-19 precautions. But you can still find ways to keep the cost down on your next trip.
Ride-sharing has become a big part of our lives but it’s also left us open to the monetary realities of the market. Grabbing an Uber is not as cheap as it once was. Here are some ways to beat Uber surge pricing.
1. Time Your Uber Right
Uber’s algorithm increases prices during times of high demand. Surge pricing takes effect during:
- Rush hour
- High demand
- Bad weather
- The end of big events (concerts, sports games)
Because Uber updates its pricing in real-time as demand changes, surge pricing can go back down within minutes. Waiting to order your Uber after you’ve gone through that long restroom line could save you some money.
2. Download the Uber Driver App
Here is one of the best ways to avoid surge pricing: Download the Uber Driver app to your phone and create an account. You’ll need to do this before you head out to your concert or basketball game, as it takes a few minutes to create an Uber driver profile.
Don’t worry — you don’t need to ever be an Uber driver to download the Uber Driver app.
Once you have installed the Uber Driver app, you can open it when the bars close or the concert ends and check the map of your area. Neighborhoods and streets will change colors when surge pricing is in effect.
The map will display colored circles, or zones, ranging from light orange to dark red. Light orange indicates a small increase in price while dark red can mean double or triple the average price. This is so drivers know where to head to make the most money.
Once you see where the prices are highest, simply walk away from that zone until you’re no longer in the surge area. Then switch over to your Uber rider profile and request a ride for a fraction of the cost.
3. Buy an Uber One Pass
In late 2021, Uber rolled out a new subscription service called Uber One that gives riders discounts on fares and priority pickup options.
You may be able to get a small discount when prices are surging if you sign up for Uber One ahead of time. It typically provides 5% off rides.
The subscription costs $9.99 per month or $100 a year. You can also sign up for a free 30-day trial.
Uber One works best if you’re a regular Uber rider or order a lot of meals using Uber Eats (discounts apply for both).
4. Try Another Ride-Sharing App
Lyft, another popular ride-share service, also has a version of surge pricing called “Prime Time Fare.” It’s worth checking both apps to see the price difference.
For instance, when we compared prices for a Tuesday afternoon trip from the Orlando International Airport to downtown Orlando, Uber was charging $50 and Lyft $30 for the same route. Comparing a ride from Union Station to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Chicago on a Wednesday afternoon, Uber was charging $14.99-$19.16 while Lyft was charging $22.60-$25.90. (Lyft also offered a cheaper fare if willing to wait a bit.)
If neither Uber nor Lyft prices are to your liking, there are other options to explore.
If you’d rather carpool with someone you know, try Scoop. The app connects you with neighbors and co-workers in a door-to-door carpool. You can choose to be the driver or a rider and set your trip times to fit your schedule.
Need a ride from the airport? Try Wingz. Though they’re branching out, the app primarily caters to airport rides. When you plan your trip, you can schedule with Wingz up to two months in advance, and they don’t use surge pricing.
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