Lyft will help users sell their cars and give them free trips

Lyft has launched the ‘Ditch Your Car’ programme, offering free rides for users who sell their cars. But is ride-hailing really cheaper than driving?
Uber and Lyft logos
Is Ditch Your Car an attempt to compete with rival Uber? Image:

Lyft vs Uber?

The ride-hailing app is very similar to Uber in terms of service, accessibility and predominant use via app. Lyft launched in 2012 from its origins as Zimride, a peer-to-peer carpool service.

Their market share is reported to be at around 40%, having risen from 35% in 2018. The service operates in over 600 cities, and has tripled coverage since 2017.

Uber remains the market leader, operating in around 70 countries. However, Lyft are quietly expanding, having gone into partnership with US fast food chain Taco Bell testing a new delivery service back in 2017. Whilst first trials didn’t seem to be a great success and this isn’t quite yet at the scale of Uber Eats, it could still be a future threat.

Passengers laughing in a car with the Lyft light in neon
Lyft have 40% of US market share. Image: Lyft

What is the Ditch Your Car campaign?

Ditch Your Car has launched to invited users in LA, San Francisco and Chicago. Lyft have partnered with online car sales platform Carvana.

Carvana works as a platform to facilitate sales of used cars in the US. Sellers upload images and information, and Carvana verifies these and helps with the logistics of the sale.

Ditch Your Car isn’t the first innovative scheme they have been involved in. Buyers within 100 miles of Carvana hubs receive free delivery. Buyers can also claim up to $200 expenses on the costs of air travel should they be collecting from the ‘Car Vending Machines’ in Atlanta and Nashville.

Invited Lyft users who sell their car via Carvana receive $250 ride credit, and a 3-month Lyft Pink subscription. This offers a 15% discount and 90-minutes of credit for bike or scooter rides and is worth $20 per month.

Women walking from a car with Lyft and Carvana logos
Lyft say selling you car in favour of ride-hailing will save you money. Image: Lyft

What does Lyft hope to achieve?

Lyft say that, ‘last year, almost half of our riders said they use their cars less because of Lyft and 22% reported that owning a car has become less important.

According to Lyft, the Ditch Your Car programme in 2018 resulted in 150,000 riders using ride-hailing rather than driving.

There is no question that reducing cars on the road is a positive move for the environment. The US Environmental Protection Agency estimates that almost 30% of greenhouse gasses produced in the US come from transportation.

At the last count, there were 263.6 million vehicles on the road in America, most of them passenger vehicles. Given that this has increased every year since 1960 and this data was collated in 2015, it is highly likely that this number has continued to balloon.

Encouraging riders to sell their cars is one thing, but since these are being sold rather than ‘ditched’ is this really likely to reduce the volume of cars?

Lyft say that their schemes are ‘helping to reduce traffic congestion and greenhouse gas emissions‘. But older cars tend to produce higher emissions than newer models, and so this theory might just be perpetuating the problem.

Carvana car vending machine
Carvana has car vending machines in selected locations. Image: Carvana

Could it really save you money?

The theory is that using ride-hailing apps rather than driving will save you money. Is that really true?

CNBC published a study last year which tells a different story. They found that AAA data shows that in urban areas it costs $10,049 a year to run a car including parking. In comparison, to cover the same journeys using ride-hailing could cost around $20,118.

That isn’t a cost saving, it is a 100% increase!

The AAA publishes an annual study called Your Driving Costs. This also shows that for an average travel of 10,841 miles per year the car ownership cost is around $7,321 compared to over $20,000 using ride-hailing services.

John Nielsen, MD of Automotive Engineering & Repair, says that, ‘for those who travel a very limited number of miles annually or have mobility issues that prevent them from driving a personal vehicle, ride-hailing can be a viable and important option. But, for everyone else: The car is still king.’

Saving time and stress negotiating busy city traffic? Definitely.

Saving money? Not so much.

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