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How to avoid getting stuck with a massive Uber bill on NYE

If your New Year’s resolution is to save money, you may just wind up blowing the bank on an Uber if you’re not careful.

Michelle Matton remembers ordering an Uber on New Year’s Eve at around 2 a.m. to take her three friends from her Ottawa home in Centretown to the Elmvale area, near South Ottawa. Matton told the Ottawa Citizen the trip generally cost about $20, but was shocked to get a whopping bill for $184.43.

“I feel taken advantage of,” said Matton. “A 900 per cent price increase is unacceptable. I could have rented a private driver for the night at that price.”

Xavier Van Chau, a spokesperson for Uber, explained to the Ottawa Citizen that Matton’s trip was a result of “dynamic pricing.” He said she would have been notified about the surge pricing on her wireless device, but given that there was a lot going on when she ordered the Uber (it was NYE after all), Matton said she didn’t notice a warning.

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Surge pricing explained

Don’t fall into the same trap this NYE as Matton. You can expect “surge pricing” during times like NYE when demand outstrips the available drivers. “During times of peak demand, or when there are not enough drivers on the system, fares increase,” Van Chau told Global News last year. “As you see hot spots emerge in a city where demand is quickly outpacing supply, that’s when the dynamic pricing model kicks in.”

While it’s tough to pin down exact numbers on what surge pricing will be in any given Canadian city, Canadians shouldn’t be surprised to see fares knocked up by sevenfold or even more during high traffic hours.

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How to avoid ridiculously high Uber fares

Uber recently published a New Year’s Eve Guide, to help you know what to expect when you’re out partying. Follow these tips to avoid a nasty surprise that’ll deplete your checking account at the end of the night:

  • Don’t order an Uber before checking the fare estimate: “Surge pricing shouldn’t be a surprise,” writes Uber. “Let’s toast to you running a Fare Estimate in the app before you ride.”
  • Plan your night strategically: “To avoid the highest fares, head to the festivities early or catch a ride right after midnight,” writes Uber.
  • Don’t get stuck picking up the tab: “Use fare split if you’re rolling with the whole party or take uberPOOL if it’s just you and one friend and it’s available in your city,” the company suggests.

And if worse comes to worse, you can always take a cab or roll with a DD. Because you deserve to save your money for more fun things, like that extra nice bottle of bubbly.

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