So it turns out that free car rental thing from Lyft is currently a fail in SF

I was super excited a to post about Lyft’s Express Drive program a few months ago, which is supposed to allow drivers who complete a certain number of rides to get a free car rental.

They even had brand new electric cars available at some point.

But I recently attempted to try the program, and learned that it’s sort of scamming some drivers by making them wait multiple unpaid hours for a Hertz rental deal that may also result in lost earnings.

Lyft has two options for drivers to get a free rental in SF:

1. Through Lyft’s partnership with GM. Lyft currently has a $50 hold on one of my credit cards, but no cars have been available since I started checking a few weeks ago.


Other drivers reported not being able to get that money back from Lyft, so I submitted a dispute to get my $50 back. Citi rocks at these things:


2. The other option is to rent through Hertz:


Lyft sends you to Hertz’s site to make a reservation:


This all sounds great:


But there are three problems with renting from Hertz:

  1. Lyft doesn’t reimburse you for the weekly $25 in taxes and fees, even if you do hit the 75-ride mark.
  2. If you rent through Express Drive you waive your access to Lyft’s Power Driver Bonus, which after a similar amount of rides could give you a 10-20% bonus on your whole week’s earnings. This would almost always result in a bonus of more than the $180 you’re making from Express Drive.
  3. Cars are hard to come by at my Hertz location. If you do get one, there’s a good chance you’ll need to wait hours to pick it up. Last time I called about whether I could come pick up my reservation, they told me there would be 15 drivers ahead of me in line for a car.

The overwhelming demand for “free” rental cars does not surprise me.

What does surprise me is that Lyft is not transparent with drivers about what it takes to get a car, and what they’re giving up by participating in Express Drive.

Lyft got a lot of press after donating money to the ACLU, but many of the drivers working unpaid hours on Express Drive are the very immigrants Lyft claims to defend.

I’m still a fan of the Express Drive idea, but Lyft’s execution is forcing some drivers to spend several unpaid hours per week trying to get cars.

Two positives if Express Drive actually worked as advertised:

  1. Drivers who don’t own a car have an opportunity to earn.
  2. Rentals come with insurance and maintenance.

Here and here are rants about the program on driver forum

Drivers, is the program struggling in your city as much as it is in mine?

*Update 5.22: This post has been getting a lot of traffic recently, so if you’re a driver, please share your experience in a comment or email so we can update. Thanks!

7 thoughts on “So it turns out that free car rental thing from Lyft is currently a fail in SF

  1. Pingback: Recap: Anthony Bourdain, Hawaiian Miles, Lyft Free Rental & More - Doctor Of Credit

  2. Pingback: Here’s why that video of a driver confronting Uber’s CEO is blown way out of proportion | easyjourneys

  3. 6 weeks my 2016 Hyundai Sonata Hybrid engine blew up and I was forced to get a rental from Hertz. My first experience was not a good one. I got to Hertz around 9:30AM even thought my appointment was at 10:30AM when I got there I was told there were 10 people ahead of me. Long story short after spending 7 hours there I was able to drove off with a Chevy Cruze Sport Edition. Not a roomie car and with those leather seat it makes it really hard to feel comfortable. Also, only does around 22 miles per gallon on highway and around 16 city miles. Four weeks later I came back to renew my lease and after spending again 7 hours there waiting this time I was forced to take a 2015 Nissan Sentra but the worse part it’s the car has a horrible cigarette smell, the seats are clothed and has stains everywhere, the carpet is also stained and dirt and mud. The Car Stereo doesn’t work, the car needs brake and transmission service and it has a huge dent on the left rear side by the bumper. I told Hertz’s employees about these problems and they just told me to take it like that because they don’t have anymore cars available and won’t have anymore anytime soon.
    I sent two E-Mails to Lyft to let them know what was happening with my Rental Car and it’s already 9PM and I haven’t receive a reply from them. At least to tell me they will try to work something out with Hertz.
    Just stay away from Hertz in Concord.


  4. I just signed up with Lyft. I recently just moved cross country from Cincinnati Oh to Phoenix Az so I was looking to start driving with Lyft asap, but it seems that might not be possible. I have yet to purchase a car out here so I was opting to rent a car and I thought that was a brilliant idea, however every day I’ve been getting online I see there are no vehicles available at this time and it’s super disappointing. I also am a passenger with Lyft so I love the company wayyyy better than their competitors, but the delay in getting started is becoming frustrating and I’m thinking about switching to uber. Hopefully it doesn’t take weeks to get a car.


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