The annual price of casually using Uber or Lyft -- how ride-hailing apps could cost you big time

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The annual price of casually using Uber or Lyft -- how ride-hailing apps could cost you big time


Uber recently announced that the company had completed its two billionth trip in June 2016 -- and that this rate of trips is increasing.

Today, 15 percent of American adults have used ride-hailing apps such as Uber and Lyft, according to a May 2016 Pew Research Center report. These apps are most popular among urban dwellers, college graduates and those with an annual household income of more than $75,000.

If you use the services frequently, it might be hard to imagine life now without Uber and Lyft. They offer convenience at the touch of a button and can seem affordable.

Or are they?

My experience

I use Uber and Lyft without thinking a lot about how much I spend on them.

A few weeks ago, I was out of town and relied on ride-hailing services to get around. I knew that I'd spent a few dollars on one ride, a few more on another and so on, but I didn't pay attention to how these figures were adding up.

I talked to other friends and found that I wasn't the only one doing this. They also assumed they weren't spending very much on Uber and Lyft rides.

So, I decided to crunch some numbers and figure out how much people might actually be spending. I calculated how much it could cost -- over a whole year -- if you casually used Uber or Lyft on a regular basis for social purposes. For my methodology, social purposes include going to meet family or friends, going for a movie, show or other event or grabbing a meal.

My calculations yielded some surprising results: Even as a casual Uber or Lyft user, your spending can run alarmingly high.

Key assumptions and items to note

My calculations make the following assumptions:

  • Uber and Lyft pricing for San Francisco is a reasonable representation of pricing for all users. Uber and Lyft prices vary from city to city, but I used San Francisco pricing in my calculations.
  • You only use the low-cost options for Uber and Lyft -- UberX and basic Lyft
  • Every Uber or Lyft ride taken is for the same length of time and distance. Although in reality, some of your rides would be longer and others shorter, we'll assume they average out
  • You avoid Uber's surge pricing or Lyft's Prime Time, an increase in fares to meet heavy passenger demand, as this is unpredictable and complex.

Key stats

According to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Transportation's National Household Travel Survey and American Automobile Association's American Driving Survey, and calculating from there:

  • A person makes an average of 0.52 one-way trips for social purposes per day, which equals 3.64 one-way trips per week or 189.8 one-way trips per year. You could think of these numbers as if you took fewer than two roundtrip rides per week for social outings.
  • The average vehicle trip length for social purposes is 11.2 miles.
  • The average duration of a car trip is 23 minutes.

Annual cost of using Uber

As of August 2016, Uber charges the following rates for rides in San Francisco for its UberX service:

  • Base fare: $2.00
  • Cost per minute (we'll call it a "time fee"): $0.22
  • Cost per mile ("distance fee"): $1.15
  • Service fee: $1.55

Applying the above numbers, the average Uber trip for social purposes would cost you:

  • Base fare: $2.00
  • Time fee: $5.06
  • Distance fee: $12.88
  • Service fee: $1.55

Total per trip: $21.49

Across a year, using Uber for social purposes would cost you $4,078.80, or $339.90 per month.

Annual cost of using Lyft

As of August 2016, Lyft charges the following rates for rides in San Francisco for its basic Lyft service:

  • Base charge: $2.00
  • Cost per minute ("time fee"): $0.23
  • Cost per mile ("distance fee"): $1.16
  • Trust and service fee: $1.65

The average Lyft trip for social purposes would cost you:

  • Base charge: $2.00
  • Time fee: $5.29
  • Distance fee: $12.99
  • Trust and service fee: $1.65

Total per trip: $21.93

So, across a year using Lyft for social purposes would cost you $4,162.31, or $346.86 per month.

Yes, you may actually be spending thousands a year on ride-hailing services.

The costs of using ride-hailing services can certainly add up. If you're a casual Uber or Lyft user and aren't keeping track of how much you're spending on these services, you might be surprised to learn that these costs can snowball.

Using ride-hailing services for fewer than two round-trip rides per week could cost you over $4,000 in a year.

That's the equivalent of treating yourself and a friend to a luxurious 15-day cruise -- with an oceanview room -- from San Francisco to Hawaii (from Princess Cruises as of September 2016).

Though Uber appears slightly less expensive than Lyft from these calculations (you'd save less than $100 with Uber over a year), the costs of both services are comparable.

Where from here? Track your spending

Though the Uber and Lyft apps won't add up your spending for you, you can use a free service such as Trim, a chatbot that will tell you how much you've spent on either of these services over the past 30 days.

Another option:, which collects your Uber or Lyft email receipts and adds up your spending on these services for free (requires a Gmail account).

You can also always view your ride history within the Uber and Lyft apps and manually track your spending on a spreadsheet.

Beyond just tracking your Uber and Lyft spending, Credit Karma's My Spending tool can help you track your spending across a variety of categories, including travel.

Mint is another free online service that can categorize your spending (transportation and otherwise) and help you create budgets based on your spending patterns.

Bottom line

Do you know how much you're spending on Uber or Lyft? It could be a lot more than you realize. If you're not keeping track, now's a good time to start.

About the author: Mika Bhatia is a Staff Writer for Credit Karma. She's worked in financial services and tech, and has now found the perfect union of the two at Credit Karma. When she's not busy coming up with credit-related analogies, she's most likely supporting the Warriors, enjoying a fine cup of British tea or doing yoga (goal: completing a headstand without toppling over). Follow her at @MikaBhatia!

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All Comments

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3 Contributions
335 People Helped

Very interesting. For all intents it appears as if using Uber or Lyft just a few times a week is more expensive than owning your own vehicle even when you factor in gas and insurance. We spend less than $5,000 a year to own and operate 2 premium vehicles. Each vehicle is driven at least 5 times a week. 

3 Contributions
62 People Helped

arent most people using these services for when they are going out and are going to be drinking? how about you factor in the cost of a DUI if you choose to drive yourself around when drinking. Most people I know are using Uber and Lyft when they are having a night out on the town and are drinking. I would rather be spending 4k per year on ride-hailing services than drinking and driving, and ruining my life with a DUI. the potential cost of a DUI can add up to almost 30k when you factor in all this...



Towing and Impound


Higher Insurance Premiums


Defense Attorney


Court Fines


Alcohol Treatment/Education


Licensing Fees


Jail Fee


Jail Time




Chemical Testing Fee


Probation Supervision


Ignition Interlock Device


License Reinstatement


Community Service Supervision Fee


Alternate Transportation

Overall, the price of a Lyft is well worth the risk of not using it.

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