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!

27 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

    • I don’t appreciate how you cannot get Express Pay once You have a rental car.

      They hold on to your money until the Hertz vehicle is paid for first.

      It’s like they care more about Hertz needs over their own independent Contractors necessities.

      They could of least release instant funds for fuel.

      Or give us a gas card.

      Very bad.


      • In a way thats exactly the case. Believe me they arent going to run afoul of a corporate partner like hertz because of the value HERTZ provides. That value IS insured vehicles that allow LYFT to extend opportunities folks who are awful drivers. So if lyft offends some drivers by tying up your money I guess thats no big deal. I just wish they would stop giving rentals out to folks who havent driven a car in years for the sake of saturating the market.


  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.

    Liked by 1 person

  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.


  5. I just signed up in Boston and it was quick and easy. Made a reservation on Friday and picked up my car on Tuesday. I’m driving as much as possible this week to make the rental fees worth it, but the process was quick and straightforward.


  6. I did the express drive rental program in LA for a month, the wait for the car was around two weeks which was not bad, when I got the car it sounded like a lawnmower when driving it, hertz was really helpful in getting me switched out to a better car. I understand that the vehicles are rental cars and they are not perfect so I was not upset with them for giving me a lemon since they switched me out next day, no issues there. Now driving for Lyft through the express drive program on the other hand came with a whole list of issues of its own.

    1. App technical issues: the app would sometimes shut down and cancel a ride as just a passenger would get into the car. This happened my first day driving and I missed out on two lyft line rides that were in my back seat. Also when they re requested it went to another driver was further away. The app and they dashboard are also not always synced up. One week the app said that I was two rides short of my goal while the dashboard said I had reached my goal and I knew that I had reached my goal. I even emailed lyft confirming that I would not be charged for the car and they charged me for it anyway. I had to wait 2 weeks for the money that they took.

    2. Randomly upping rides: The first week that I started driving the requirement was 90 rides then they went up to 95 on me the next week. I also didn’t know that the 90 rides were not the requirement for the free rental that 110 rides were the requirement and I had to pay $30 if I got 95 rides which wasn’t terrible but it would have been nice to know that up front.

    3. Double dipping on payments: Lyft takes a 33.6% fee from what the customer pays before the driver sees it and then they take another fee known as “Lyft Fees” at the end of the week. Something to think about.

    4. Crazy Far Lyft Lines: So you would think that lyft lines would be a plus in a program like this…nope! Imagine getting one line ride that is already going pretty far and having lyft tag on a ride that takes you even further and out of the way from where you were originally going. Yes, this happens…more then you think. I also got the feeling that they did this on purpose.

    5. A sudden drop in pay: About two weeks into driving with the express drive program I noticed a drop in rates and a slow rider request, I would drive across town with the app on and get 0 rides, at peak hours. When I went in to the hub to tell them about it they really did not seem to care and told me that I still needed to get my rides. When things started to pick up again I noticed that the pay rate did not go back up to what it was originally.

    6. Miscalculation of hours: They don’t count the hours that you are driving around looking for rides, they only count when you have a passenger in the car. The app would count 40 hours a week when in reality I was putting in 60 hours.

    7. The inability to cash out with express pay: While driving for the express drive program I learned that I was not allowed to cash out even when they messed up and charged me for the rental, I had to wait until next payday to receive that money.

    8. Making Less then minimum wage: At the end of the day When I did the math after taking out what I was paying for gas and 20% for taxes I made less than minimum wage.

    9. Long rides became stressful: The rides that I loved doing when driving my personal car because they were known as $$$ makers I began to dread, because the rates dropped making the money not even worth the drive and would take time away from making my 95 ride goal.

    All in all I just became a stressed out mess and riders don’t want to see that so I gave the car back after 4 long weeks. Just keep all of this in mind if you are thinking of doing the express drive program.


    • Remember also the deductible if you get in an accident is 2500 . A lot of money for this express drive program. Where all you bonuses are pretty much gone . So you aren’t going to make as much as a regular driver with their own car.


    • I returned the car in Phoenix after I noticed I would get mostly $2 rides and then they want you to be Mr Entertainer to the cheap non tipping drama queens and worry about your rating while you’re trying to get the bull crap requirements just to keep the damn car, it will all come crashing down eventually, they left me in debt in the end…


  7. Lyft took out $250 from my checking account…still waiting for a rental to begin…was considering going into hertz today to see if in person helps speed up process…fingers crossed–will keep you posted!


  8. Easy Journeys…today, for an 1hr i tried but no rentals available. Read comments of how long some have to wait, im patient i could wait hours but weeks or months…wow. Do you know if any changes made since ur this article?


  9. It’s too bad new Lyft drivers don’t qualify for the first time user promotions such as offered when you use code TREK- but I suppose it’s worth a try. I guess the need to not make Express Pay available is so they can use your earnings to help pay for the $2500 deductible- I have regular insurance and I pay $85/mo through Farmers and my deductible is only $1000. One crash that’s deemed your fault and you could have to pay “through the nose”. Oh well, if you need to make money then you need to make money and Express Drive might help bail you out of a tough situation. No maintenance is a really big benefit too so overall I’d say ED in this context, is overall a good thing. ED, lol.


  10. I just rented via lyft/hertz in Sacramento. I signed up online and paid the $250 down payment and got an appointment for the next day. It took a few hours total to get the whole process completed and I left in a 2016 Mazda 3. Car was dirty and needed a good cleaning before I could start driving. The car drives fine and I haven’t had any problems. Tomorrow I have to renew the monthly rental and was told to expect to be here for another few hours or more depending on how busy it is and if your car needs maintenance. I’ve been driving for about a year now a d it really seems like I’ve received a lot fewer rides than I was before the rental program. I was doing 100+ rides each week and now I’m struggling to get 80. I’m not sure if it benefits lyft to limit rides to renters so they have to pay full price for the rental instead of hitting the rental reward bonuses but that seems like what’s happening. Full price is $209 plus approximately $20 in taxes and the reward bonuses are $70, $105 and $180. For the same top tier bonus for the power driver bonus you would get $310 so you are losing money with the rental. I’m using the rental to save up a down payment for a new car so I can give this rental back. I would say this is a good program if you have no other choices but I would not do it long term.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Greetings All,

    I paid my deposit, checked the site frequently and finally got a reservation week 5. I had to go further out, but at least it was available. I received a vehicle, a 2018 Toyota Corolla. It did smell like a public bathroom, but out of fear of coming all the way out there and not leaving with a car was far greater then me speaking up at the time. The car was obviously insome sort of small collision as well ( maybe a hard curb check idk). Day one was great. Trying for day two and I was literally on the app for 2 hour and only got 2 short rides. I thought something was wrong with my phone. I am afraid at this rate I won’t be able to make my goals and will end up losing a lot of money this week.Something is extrememly fishy about all of this in my opinion.

    Good luck!

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s deigned to run you 7 days 12 hours just to barely make it to 25 peaks and mostly $2 rides, and maybe some weeks you can make $250 to $350 before gas, then you get to start all over again, you do all that and they keep 40 percent of the fair and then make you pay for the whole rental fee, it’s a straight scam through and through… I have not been able to find one person in Phoenix that it has worked out for…


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