Here’s how renting a car through Lyft stacks up against traditional car rentals

Sep 20, 2020

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In case you missed it, you can book your next rental car through Lyft.

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Lyft has been offering rental cars since 2019, although the program recently announced a partnership and expansion through rental car company Sixt. With expansions planned into 30 new cities over the coming weeks, Lyft Rentals are now available nationwide online or through your app.

It makes sense: We’ve learned to associate our ride-hailing apps with food delivery services, bike and scooter rentals, and even helicopter shuttles. Booking your next rental car through Lyft is an easy, logical extension of the convenience these brands provide us, whether you’re just going across town or visiting another city altogether.

But how good of a deal are these rental car prices? Does Lyft streamline the pickup and drop off process, offer lower rental rates or simply make the booking process easier?

I was curious to see if there were any particular areas where Lyft’s booking experience stands out. So in true TPG form, I crunched the data and let the numbers speak for themselves.

In This Post

Price comparison

I ran several dozen rental car searches across a number of destinations and dates for October 2020. I picked a range of major metros and smaller markets in different parts of the U.S. I chose New York, LAX and Chicago for size and travel volume; Austin because I live here, and Sedona because it’s a trending domestic destination without easily accessible transportation options.

These are the lowest rates I found for a one-week rental on Oct. 15 through Oct. 22, with pick-up and drop-off at noon local time:

Rental destination Lyft (via Web app) Sixt (independent of Lyft) Autoslash
(least expensive option, standard AAA/Costco discounts)
Priceline Silvercar
New York/Newark Airport (EWR) $367.58 for a sedan (select your own car) at Sixt Newark.

Includes $10 Lyft ride credit to get home after dropping off your car.

$322.64 for a mystery car (sedan or larger) with pay-online option at Sixt Newark.

($363.97 to pay later with flexible rebooking)

$331.38 for a Budget compact car via Priceline $324.34 for a Sixt standard car with pay-now pricing

($366.04 for free cancellations)

$722.31 for an Audi A4 from Newark Airport (EWR)

($588.11 with 20% first-time discount code FIRST20)

NYC Metro (TPG’s offices, 10010) $349 for a sedan (select your own car) at Sixt NYC Battery Park, 3.3 miles from TPG’s offices.

Includes $10 Lyft ride credit to get home after dropping off your car.

$329.80 for a VW Jetta with pay-online option at Sixt NYC Battery Park ($347.15 to pay later with flexible rebooking) $196.69 for a Hertz economy car at Broadway and 184th St., 9.7 miles from TPG’s offices $208.98 for a Hertz economy car at Broadway and 184th St. $809.90 for an Audi A4 from NYC — Columbus Circle, 3.2 miles from TPG’s offices

($647.92 with 20% first-time discount code FIRST20)

Los Angeles Airport (LAX) (rental via Lyft, not Sixt)

$494.94 for a Mazda 3, w/free ride to the rental car lot and gas at $3.25/gallon

$265.76 for a Kia Rio with pay-online option at Sixt LAX ($323.06 to pay later with flexible rebooking) $125.72 for a NextCar special car at LAX (shuttle to rental terminal) $125.72 for supplier’s choice of vehicle from NextCar $526.30 for an Audi A4

($424.37 with 20% first-time discount code FIRST20)

Austin Metro (Downtown/78701) N/A N/A $167.47 for a Hertz full-size car, 8 miles from downtown Austin $188.17 for supplier’s choice of vehicle from mystery rental car company (disclosed after booking), pick up at Austin airport (AUS) OR $189.45 for Hertz’s choice of rental car, 8 miles from downtown Austin $502.29 for an Audi A4

($412.84 with 20% first-time discount code FIRST20)

Chicago O’Hare Airport (ORD) $393.61 for a sedan (select your own car) at Sixt ORD.

Includes $10 Lyft ride credit to get home after dropping off your car.

$314.15 for a Kia Rio with pay-online option  ($384.16 to pay later with flexible rebooking) $219.79 for a standard SUV at Fox Rent-A-Car (ORD in-terminal counter) $236.74 for supplier’s choice of vehicle from mystery rental car company (disclosed after booking) $641.51 for an Audi A4

($527.02 with 20% first-time discount code FIRST20)

Sedona, AZ N/A N/A $229.74 for an Enterprise economy car through Priceline pay-later (no pay-now discount available), 2.4 miles from the Sedona Airport $221.35 for a mid-size car from mystery rental car company (disclosed after booking) OR $224.68 for economy car from mystery rental car company, both with pickup from Flagstaff Airport (FLG) N/A


These are the best rates I found for a weekend rental over Friday, Oct. 16 to Sunday, Oct. 18, with pick-up and drop-off at 5 p.m. local time:

Rental destination Lyft (via Web app) Sixt (independent of Lyft) Autoslash
(least expensive option, standard AAA/Costco discounts)
Priceline Silvercar
New York/Newark Airport (EWR) $177.27 for a sedan (select your own car) at Sixt Newark.

Includes $10 Lyft ride credit to get home after dropping off your car.

$151.55 for a VW Jetta with pay-online option at Sixt Newark.

($176.34 to pay later with flexible rebooking)

$161.82 for a Payless standard car at EWR via Priceline $151.76 for a standard pick-up truck from mystery car rental company (disclosed after booking) at EWR $283.03 for an Audi A4 from Newark Airport (EWR)

($229.36 with 20% first-time discount code FIRST20)

NYC Metro (TPG’s offices, 10010) $252.50 for a sedan (select your own car) at Sixt NYC Battery Park, 3.3 miles from TPG’s offices.

Includes $10 Lyft ride credit to get home after dropping off your car.

$205.83 for a VW Jetta with pay-online option at Sixt NYC Battery Park

($250.82 to pay later with flexible rebooking)

$250.82 for a standard car at Sixt NYC Battery Park $103.85 for a mid-size car from a mystery rental car company (disclosed after booking) with pickup at JFK Airport in Queens, NY $435.15 for an Audi A4 from NYC — Columbus Circle, 3.2 miles from TPG’s offices

($348.11 with 20% first-time discount code FIRST20)

Los Angeles Airport (LAX) (rental via Lyft, not Sixt)

$260.61 for a Mazda 3, w/free ride to the rental car lot and gas at $3.25/gallon

$133.03 for a Kia Rio with pay-online option at Sixt LAX

($157.19 to pay later with flexible rebooking)

$71.61 for an Ace compact car at LAX (shuttle to rental terminal) $65.94 for an economy car from mystery rental car company (disclosed after booking) $212.24 for an Audi A4

($171.46 with 20% first-time discount code FIRST20)

Austin Metro (Downtown/78701) N/A N/A $94.80 for an Enterprise economy car, 3.9 miles from downtown Austin $60.82 for supplier’s choice of vehicle from mystery rental car company (disclosed after booking) $181.82 for an Audi A4

($148.60 with 20% first-time discount code FIRST20)

Chicago O’Hare Airport (ORD) $198.03 for a sedan (select your own car) at Sixt ORD.

Includes $10 Lyft ride credit to get home after dropping off your car.

$161.95 for a Kia Rio with pay-online option at Sixt ORD.

($192.94 to pay later with flexible rebooking)

$135.09 pay-now pricing for a Hertz intermediate car $130.83 for a mid-size car from mystery rental car company (disclosed after booking) $256.15 for an Audi A4

($208.86 with 20% first-time discount code FIRST20)

Sedona, AZ N/A N/A $134.34 for an Enterprise economy car through Priceline pay-later (no pay-now discount available), 2.4 miles from the Sedona Airport $224.68 for an Alamo economy car with pickup from Flagstaff Airport (FLG) N/A

 

First things first: It’s clear that Lyft’s car rental program and availability isn’t just in beta. Lyft started in Los Angeles and San Francisco last year, expanded to Seattle, Miami and Las Vegas early in 2020 and plans to enter 30 additional cities in the coming weeks. But since Lyft partners with Sixt for its rentals, the rental car program will likely be available only to customers traveling near Sixt rental car locations or Lyft’s own leasing facilities. And since Sixt is only in 16 of the 50 states, that automatically eliminates a significant portion of car renters.

In case you’re curious, these are the states with Sixt locations:

  • Arizona
  • California
  • Colorado
  • Connecticut
  • Florida
  • Georgia
  • Hawaii
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Massachusetts
  • Minnesota
  • Nevada
  • New York
  • Pennsylvania
  • Texas
  • Washington

Back to the data: It’s interesting that, in both the weekend and one-week rental cases, LAX boasted some of the most steeply discounted rental car rates for both weekend and one-week rentals. But while Lyft has 10 total Los Angeles locations through its Sixt partnership, Lyft only leases its own cars out at the LAX airport instead of offering vehicles through Sixt — at a price point comparable to Silvercar’s Audi A4s, and a staggering 393% higher than either Autoslash or Priceline for a similar-quality car.

In Chicago, Lyft’s weekend quoted rate through Sixt was 47 percent more expensive than the cheapest rate through Priceline while Lyft’s one-week rental rate was nearly 80 percent pricier than Autoslash’s low quote of $220. But in New York, Lyft’s rental rates through Sixt were a little bit more competitive.

Booking experience

I’ll give it to Lyft: The rental car booking portal is extremely intuitive and easy to use. Dates and times were visually appealing and easy to drag and swipe, on both desktop as well as my Lyft app (accessed via the “key” icon to the right of the “search” icon at the bottom of the landing page).

Ease of use might not count for much over a simple series of searches. But I tested more than 80 total times, dates and locations for this article, and I got very tired of dropdown menus which required a lot of scrolling. If you’re pricing out a few destinations like I was — or if you value convenience over discounts — Lyft’s car rental product might be just right for you.

The sliders for pick-up times was particularly appreciated, and the streamlined options on both desktop and in-app mirrored the clean appearance we’re used to seeing when calling a car via Lyft.

Can I earn 10x Chase Ultimate Rewards points on my next Lyft car rental?

When I first found out that Lyft offers rental cars, I got really excited. You see, things got exciting for Chase cardholders at the beginning of 2020, when Chase announced a new partnership with Lyft with elevated bonuses on Lyft rides.

Chase Sapphire Reserve and J.P. Morgan Reserve cardholders each earn 10x points on Lyft rides through March 2022, as well as a complimentary one-year membership to Lyft Pink for additional discounts. Meanwhile, the Chase Sapphire Preferred Card as well as cards in the Chase Freedom and Chase Ink families each earn 5x returns on each Lyft dollar, according to the specific card benefits.

The information for the J.P. Morgan Reserve card has been collected independently by The Points Guy. The card details on this page have not been reviewed or provided by the card issuer.

Related: Here’s why I’m still keeping my Chase Sapphire Reserve

If these earning rates applied to Lyft car rentals, that $494.94 one-week car rental at LAX could net me a whopping 4,949 Chase Ultimate Rewards points if I paid with my Chase Sapphire Reserve credit card, worth $98.98 under TPG’s current valuations.

Unfortunately, it’s not to be. The fine print on Lyft.com/chase specifically excludes car rentals under the terms and conditions for each card’s elevated earnings. So instead of earning $98.98 in Ultimate Rewards for booking that one-week rental at LAX on my CSR, I would earn just 1,485 Ultimate Rewards points, worth $29.70, for my outlay of $494.94 at the standard rate of 3x per dollar spent on travel.

At that rate of earning potential, I’m better off sticking with the NextCar rental car quote for $369.22 less — especially since I’d earn the same 3x on the $125.72 rental rate through NextCar if I pay with my CSR. Whew!

Bottom line

There are a number of use cases under which it makes sense to book a rental car through Lyft. But be sure to do your own price comparisons beforehand — and definitely make sure you aren’t booking with Lyft because you think you’ll strike it big on Chase Ultimate Rewards points.

Photo courtesy of Shutterstock.

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