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

Three women get out a vehicle one NYE.
Getty Images

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.

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? We’ve got a few tips.

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

1. Play the System

Everyone has a friend who installs every 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; keep an eye on all ride-sharing services.

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-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 call upon ride-sharing services early on New Year’s Day are right after the ball drops at 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. It’s a night where more drivers are needed, but there never seem to be enough.

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.

A Reminder to Drink Responsibly

Over 11,000 people were killed in alcohol-impaired-driving crashes in the U.S. in 2020, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, with New Year’s Eve being notorious for wrecks.

Everyone’s focused on celebrating. And that’s cool. But since we know many people are going to drink, it’s important to plan your New Year’s Eve travel before the big night.

Use the provided tips to plan your ride, and be sure to stay safe on the road.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

What Is Uber’s Surge Pricing?

When Uber is experiencing high demand, the company will temporarily increase the price of rides. This is known as surge pricing. New Year’s Eve is one example of a time of peak demand, so surge pricing generally occurs then.

How Do I Avoid Surge Pricing?

There is no way to get rid of surge pricing at your current location. If the service has decided to increase its costs, users must wait until the demand decreases. However, walking to a less busy area is potentially one way to hail an Uber without surge pricing.

Why Are Uber’s Surge Prices So High?

Surge pricing is based on service demand, with a higher price equating to a more intense demand in your area. The cost of Uber rides should return to normal once demand has decreased to a normal level.

Michael Archambault is a senior writer for The Penny Hoarder specializing in technology.

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