5 Ways to Avoid Uber Surge Pricing on New Year’s Eve

Uber surge pricing
Camille Sulangi of St. Petersburg, Fla., takes an Uber ride with Edwin Patrick Young on Friday Nov. 18, 2016 in St. Petersburg, Fla. Sharon Steinmann / The Penny Hoarder

After the ball drops and the bubbly pops to ring in the new year, the last thing you want to think about is how you’re getting home.

But New Year’s is notorious for auto accidents, and about 41% of fatalities on the holiday involve drunken drivers.

I’m not going to tell you not to go out and have a great time with your friends. But New Year’s Eve is one of those events I call an “amateur night”: There’s a lot of alcohol and not a lot of thinking about your own tolerance levels. Everyone’s just focused on celebrating. And that’s cool.

But since we know many people are going to get pretty sloppy, it’s important to plan your New Year’s travel before the big night.

You probably know that if you take Uber after the clock strikes midnight, you’ll likely face surge pricing, the increase in standard rider fees that occurs during high-demand periods (like New Year’s).

But is paying surge pricing the only way to get a safe ride home?

Use these tips to plan what might be the most frugal part of your night out – because let’s be real, you paid way too much to go to that fancy party.

1. Play the System

Everyone has a friend who installs every rideshare app imaginable on their phone and flips through them until they find a price they like.

Be that friend on New Year’s Eve.

Download Uber, Lyft, Via, Gett or whichever app floats your boat. Fill ’em up with your billing info so you’re ready to go on the big night, then start scanning the competition. By having multiple options, you increase your chances of avoiding surge pricing.

2. Stock Up on Promo Codes

Have a promo code for a discounted or free ride? Make sure it’s applied to your account before you start cracking bottles of Champagne.

Ridesharing companies may black out some referral codes or promo offers on what is likely their busiest night of the year, but it’s always good to be prepared.

3. Plan Your Trips to Anticipate Costs

Historically, the cheapest times to take Uber on early New Year’s Day are right after the ball drops around midnight and again after 3 a.m.

Want to stay out late, but not that late? Wind down the night at a friend’s place so you don’t spend money at the bar until closing time.

4. Walk a Few Blocks

If you’re with group or in a busy, well-lit area, it may be worth walking a few extra blocks to get a ride in a surge-free zone. Use an app like SurgeProtector to see the surge territory in your area and whether it’s worth hoofing it a bit.

Be prepared for every zone to be a surge zone at some point on New Year’s, though.

5. Take a Cab

Standing on the curb trying to flag a cab after midnight Jan. 1 will be frustrating at best.

Before the festivities begin, find out if your local taxicab commission has an app of its own. You may not save money by hailing a regular ’ol cab from your phone, but you’ll stay warm while you’re waiting — and you won’t have to try to shout over the crowd to call dispatch for one.

Your Turn: How do you get a safe ride home without spending all your money?

Lisa Rowan is a writer and producer at The Penny Hoarder.

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