Personal Finance

Should I Tip My Uber or Lyft Driver?

Should I Tip My Uber or Lyft Driver?

With ride-share companies like Uber and Lyft, tipping affects both drivers and riders. Here's how to figure out if you should tip your driver.
Uber car
Uber car Source: Getty Images

Ride-sharing services, such as Uber and Lyft, have been a boon — especially for those of us who have tried to hail a cab in the pouring rain during a shift change. The tipping culture is still strong, so the question persists among consumers: Should you tip your driver?

Tipping policies at Uber and Lyft

Some people assume a tip is automatically included when you order an Uber, but that isn't the case. And for many, the cashless transaction is part of the appeal.

Who even carries cash anymore? Not many of us. You don't earn credit card rewards when you spend cash, and it's harder to track on whatever budgeting app you use.

It's also awkward to fumble around for cash in the back of a car when you're worried about making your flight on time.

While tipping your driver is not required, it's not against Uber policy for the driver to accept cash tips. You can also tip your driver through the app. The same goes for Lyft: You can include a tip with your payment at the time of the ride and up to 72 hours after.

Both types of tips are cashless, paid via your credit card — but 100% of the tip goes to the driver.

Uber and Lyft are the most well-known of the car-sharing services, but they aren't the only players in the game. Via — a ride-share provider available in Chicago, New York City and Washington, DC — says tips are not required or expected. Instead, they ask you to provide positive feedback for a driver you were pleased with.

Why no tip?

Ride-share companies don't require a tip because drivers are paid more than traditional taxi drivers, according to a 2015 TechCrunch study.

But ride-sharing drivers are also using their own vehicles, and the average cab drivers are not. This means ride-sharing drivers are solely responsible for costs like gas, insurance and maintenance on that vehicle. Tips would come in handy to help pay for those expenses.

Tipping used to be reserved for restaurant servers as a way to make up for their below-average wages. While we may not agree that it's the diner's place to subsidize the restaurant owner's payroll, we understand it.

But now we tip many service professionals: hairdressers, movers, baristas, nail techs and the mail carrier. The list goes on. But none of those people are making minimum wage. In some cases, they are making well over minimum wage.

The dollars and cents of tipping

Aside from certain promotions, the minimum charge for an Uber ride in New York City is $8. If you use Uber twice a week at just the minimum, that's $832 per year — and a 10% tip will set you back $83 total. Many of us feel badly if we tip less than what has become the "standard" tip of 20%, so now you're looking at an extra $166 per year. Probably not going to break the bank, but a dollar is a dollar.

Does the tip affect your user rating?

Uber drivers rate riders just as riders can rate drivers. And they will know if you tip or not and how much before giving you a rating. Lyft drivers rate you before they see if you've tipped.

Tipping might also concentrate drivers in wealthier neighborhoods because they expect better tips. This could leave poorer neighborhoods with fewer drivers willing to service them.

Should you tip your driver?

There's no easy answer. Generally, if a driver goes out of their way to help you, then it might be a good idea to leave a tip. But if it was a typical ride, you are not obligated to tip your driver — not yet, anyway.