After a great night out, the last thing you want to do is fork over 10 times the regular Uber fee to get home safely.
“Surge pricing” frustrates many users because it’s hard to tell how much you’ll end up spending when rides are in high demand.
But you don’t always have to pay surge fares.
Savvy riders know how to get around price fluctuations and avoid peak times to spend less on their way around town.
Below are a few of their favorite tips for avoiding Uber surge pricing.
1. Time Your Uber Right
Kevin Adkins from Kenmore Law Group in Los Angeles uses Uber not only for his own travel, but also for clients.
“A way to avoid surge pricing is by planning your travels at times when surge pricing is not in effect,” Adkins explains. “Uber will not disclose its algorithm regarding when or how surge pricing comes into effect, but there is definitely a ‘demand’ factor to it.”
So when should you request a ride?
“In my experience, 9 a.m. and 12 p.m. are the worst in terms of pricing because there is high demand for Uber. If you can wait just 10 minutes, regular pricing may come into effect again.”
Another common peak time is when bars close for the night.
By waiting just a few minutes (or heading home a few minutes before the rush), many Uber users are able to duck the worst of the surge pricing.
2. Use SurgeProtector
Adkins also relies on an app called SurgeProtector.
It helps users locate areas where surge pricing is not in effect.
“Some people may think this is inconvenient, but it’s really not,” says Adkins. “The difference could be one or two blocks. So instead of meeting right by my office, I can walk down the street and catch an Uber and avoid surge pricing.”
3. Use Another Type of Uber
Harry Campbell is The Ride Share Guy.
He runs a blog and podcast for rideshare drivers and passengers, and he’s both an Uber driver and passenger.
He points out that different types of Uber services have different surges. Shopping around the offerings can often save you some cash.
“Each level of service surges independently,” says Campbell. “So, if you normally take UberX and there’s a 3x surge, you would actually save money by taking UberSelect (normally around 2.5x the price of UberX) and you’d get to ride in a nicer car!”
4. Hop in an UberPool
UberPool is another way Campbell saves.
It lets you share your Uber with other users looking for a ride in the same direction, and split the fare.
“Take UberPool or Lyft Line when it’s surging,” he says. “Many cities still have fixed pricing for these rides so when it’s surging you can still get a $5 or $7 UberPool ride and the driver will still receive the full surge fare from Uber.”
An added bonus of UberPool? You never know who you might meet.
Recently, Andre 3000 took the UberPool option (though he didn’t mean to select that particular service). He shared the car with a woman and ended up inviting her to join him at a recording studio where she met Kanye West and other music celebs.
Actress Kristen Bell also once took an UberPool (again, by accident). She hilariously live-tweeted the ride — including her carmates’ singing skills.
5. Sign Up For Notifications
If you’re not in a rush, sign up for notifications to find out when fares drop.
“Uber has a function that allows you to get a notification when surge goes down,” Campbell says.
“Unless it’s a huge event like New Year’s Eve, surge most often dissipates after a while since as demand goes down and drivers flock to surge area, the surge pricing goes down.”
6. Use Another Rideshare Service
Shopping different rideshare services can also help you save some money.
Campbell says using Lyft or other services can be a great way to save money during peak surge times.
“Lyft actually caps their Prime Time pricing at 200%, which is equivalent to a 3x surge on Uber,” he says. “Uber has no such cap, which is why you oftentimes see high surge rates of 5-8x like on last New Year’s Eve.”
7. Go Old School and Take a Cab
Of course, skipping Uber altogether can be a great way to save some cash.
Taking an old-fashioned yellow taxi may help you save money if fares are surging.
And, with a meter in the cab and clear policies, you won’t be surprised by an exorbitant fare.
Your Turn: Do you know of any other strategies to beat Uber’s surge pricing? We’d love to hear them!
Kristen Pope is a freelance writer and editor in Jackson Hole, Wyoming.