Uber Roulette


Uber Surge PricingAs a customer, I’m a big fan of Uber.  It’s easy, convenient, and inexpensive.  Intellectually, I even like their Surge Pricing model.  By charging more during peak demand times, they ensure that more cars become available to meet  that demand.  It makes sense.

That said, I don’t like to pay more.

Option 1: Leave the surge.

In some cases, an app like SurgeProtector can help.  It will show you the nearest spot to you in which surge pricing is not in effect.  I haven’t yet tried it, but it makes sense.  The idea is that you can sometimes walk a few blocks (or take other transportation) to get out of the surge zone in order to get cheaper pricing.

Option 2: Surge Drop Alert.

Uber offers an option to click a button that says “Notify me if surge ends.”  I always press that button, but I’ve found that you can often do better:

Option 3: Try again.

Wait a couple of minutes and try again. Surge pricing seems to change from minute to minute.  I once encountered 2X surge pricing, clicked the button to alert me, but then couldn’t wait so I tried again.  Bingo!  Surge pricing was gone.

I should note that this option is a gamble.  Last week I opened the Uber app and was told that 1.5X surge pricing was in effect.  A few minutes later I tried again.  Now the surge pricing had risen to 2.1X!  Luckily, a few minutes later, it was down to 1.4X.  I took it.

Uber Surge Pricing

Other ideas?

Do you have any other approaches for avoiding Surge Pricing?  Please comment below.

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I’ve opted for Uberpool if not in a hurry. Also, when you get a fare estimate, the app doesn’t necessarily display the shortest route. I’ve had to try it several times before the shortest route appears and I accept the fare.

[…] Uber Roulette – Strategies for avoiding Uber’s sometimes very expensive surge pricing. […]

[…] UBER uses “surge pricing” during periods of high demand. This can increase your ride price, sometimes substantially. Some ideas of how to avoid spending money on “surge pricing,” can be found in this informative article Uber Roulette. […]


As an Uber & Lyft driver in the San Francisco Bay Area, surging and prime time(Lyft’s name for surging) is the only way I can justify driving. The lowered fee’s in our market ($1.10/mile, $0.20/min) has made it impossible to recoup any of the costs for driving, such as gas, rideshare insurance, maintenance, cleaning fees (for drunks who puke). In exchange for door to door service, many drivers are met with hostile (or drunk out of their mind), entitled riders that slam doors, are not ready when we arrive, want several stops between pick up and drop off, and leave garbage. Many riders are not like this, but it is not balanced. So, while surging may be seen as expense to you, look at what you get in return. Or, please do your driver a favor and just take the bus.


How does the pricing work ?
Above it says $10 min, $0.60min, $3 mile.

Is that both or whichever is highest or what ?

No uber near me.


I always switch to Lyft in chicago and dc. I Never use Lyft otherwise because their app is buggy/crashes and occasionally longer wait for a ride because there are fewer cars but when uber is surging you typically have to wait longer for a car anyway so the time is about the same and you save a lot of money.


In DC at least, there is an Uber Taxi option. I often use this when Uber X is in surge pricing. Uber Taxi never has surge pricing, but it is a little more expensive than Uber X, but you still normally come out ahead using it if surge pricing on Uber X is 1.5x or greater. Not an option for everyone I know, but for those who have it it’s a good alternative.


Vote with your wallets. I never have and never would pay surge pricing on Uber and would rather take a competing service that doesn’t have it or even a taxi. It has to make economic sense otherwise why bother. Hopefully eventually competitive pressure will make them stop this practice, which I fin annoying and opportunistic.And the roulette and random aspect of it makes it even more unacceptable to me.


@Larry the trade off would be much longer wait times for a car in areas that would normally be surge pricing. The whole point of surge pricing is to encourage drivers from other areas, or drivers that aren’t currently “online”, to go to the surge area so you can still get a car quickly. Uber doesn’t dictate when and where drivers operate. What other incentive could Uber use to encourage drivers to go to that area or come online?


If there are more riders than cars, you have two options. You can assign the cars randomly according to the luck of the draw (and leave a bunch of people who might REALLY need a car stranded). Or you can surge price and guarantee a car to those who want it most (but they have to pay a premium).

Neither economic strategy is morally good or bad, they’re just different models. No reason to get all indignant and huffy about it.


I concur with Lyft, especially when they’re actively trying to compete against Uber (Washington DC). New York also has a plethora of other companies too.
If you’re going far, then hopping onto a bus or metro makes sense, or waiting out the surge– if not, might as well hail a taxi.

Comment guy

I’ve accepted surge pricing only to have the driver cancel the fare enroute. When I went to request another uber the surge pricing had increased again (which I begrudgingly accepted). I imagine the driver may have found better surge pricing with a competing app and canceled my fare to take advantage of it.


You could also be dishonest and drop your pin somewhere outside the surge zone, then call the driver and tell them where you actually are. I’ve never done this before but it works if he driver agrees.


yea take lyft


I always check Lyft if Uber has surge pricing. 8 out of 10 times Lyft will not have surge pricing when Uber does.