5 Strategies That’ll Help You Beat Uber’s Surge Pricing on New Year’s Eve

Woman using her phone
Chris Zuppa/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 Eve is notorious for auto accidents, and about 36% of fatalities during the holiday period in 2017 involved drunken drivers, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.

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 focused on celebrating. And that’s cool.

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

You probably know that if you take Uber after the clock strikes midnight, you’ll likely have to deal with Uber New Year’s Eve surge pricing, the increase in standard ride fees that occurs during high-demand periods.

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

Use these tips to plan what could be the most inexpensive part of your night out — because, let’s be real, you paid way too much to go to that fancy New Year’s Eve party.

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

1. Play the System

Everyone has a friend who installs every ride-hailing and ride-sharing 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 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 open bottles of champagne.

Ride-hailing and ride-sharing companies may black out some referral codes or promo offers on their busiest nights 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 early on 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 a bar until closing time.

4. Walk a Few Blocks

If you’re with a 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 near you 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 Eve and early on New Year’s Day, though.

5. Take a Cab

Standing on the curb trying to flag a cab after midnight on 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 be able to stay warm while you’re waiting — and you won’t have to shout over the crowd to call dispatch.

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