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:
- Lyft doesn’t reimburse you for the weekly $25 in taxes and fees, even if you do hit the 75-ride mark.
- 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.
- 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:
- Drivers who don’t own a car have an opportunity to earn.
- Rentals come with insurance and maintenance.
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!