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Signing up for Lyft – Part 2: Vehicle and Driver Requirements

Lyft vehicle requirements

The vibrant driver community of Lyft insists on ordinary people with cars. However, ‘ordinary’ doesn’t mean ‘unsafe’ or ‘unreliable’. With several metropolitan transit systems, rental car services and cab services pitched against them, Lyft has some strict guidelines for Vehicle and Driver requirements to enroll as a driver.

Lyft Driver Requirements

The safety regulations to become a Lyft Driver are as follows:

  1. Age Verification – You need to be at least 21 at the time of application, with a valid driver’s license for a period of minimum 12 months prior to application. It means you must have had a valid license in use for one year before applying. Both are non-negotiable. Don’t try to fudge your age or think that few weeks short of 21 is It isn’t, and you’re likely to be rejected.

*If you’ve moved states recently, or renewed your license, it may take a while before the information online is synced up, potentially causing a delay in your approval.

**In New York City, the background check isn’t conducted by Lyft, but by Taxi and Limousine Commission (TLC) per their local licensing standards.

  1. Insurance and License plates must also belong to the state where you plan to drive. While you must have a valid license for minimum 12 months prior, it isn’t mandatory that the entire 12 months is in the same state. A scanned copy of all valid driving licenses for the past year suffices. Commercial license plates are allowed.
  2. Criminal Background Check – Safety is a priority for Lyft. Any criminal background pertaining to theft, felony, violent crimes, drug abuse, sexual offense or property damage is enough ground to reject your application. While New York City conducts these additional checks via their DMV records, Lyft ties up with several county and local government record units to meet the driving requirements specific to that are.

Failing to meet the requirements in one area – while it doesn’t automatically disqualify you nationwide – is likely to be treated with extra caution even if you re-apply where rules are less stringent. You may also verify on Sterling BackCheck for the peace of your mind.

Lyft has a zero-tolerance policy against people registered in National Sex Offender Registry and DOJ 50-State Sex Offender Registry regardless of the timeline. No-brainer, really!

  1. Driving Record Check – Once you attend the Mentor session, third party services are used by Lyft to verify your DMV records. To qualify as a Lyft driver, you must be free of the following:
    • Major moving violations in past three years (e.g. reckless driving, driving under influence amounting to accidental manslaughter, driving with suspended license)
    • Three moving violations in past twelve months (e.g. traffic light violations)
    • DUI or Drug related driving in past seven years.
    • Any other driving related convictions (e.g. driving a stolen vehicle, abetting a crime, hit-and-run etc.)

Again, the standards set by local regulations in several driving districts might have additional conditions and failing one or more may automatically disqualify the applicant.

That being said, the general requirement is to be ‘clean’ and not a ‘scrubbed clean’. It’s great if you’ve been a rock-star driver all along, but a speeding ticket or a parking violation is normal. Most times, it doesn’t amount to a rejection.

The bottom-line is, Lyft needs to ascertain that you’re a regular, law-abiding citizen with driving skills which would not be a threat to its passengers. Fair enough for a business which is all about driving.

Lyft Vehicle Requirements

Vehicles for Lyft are put through a detailed, 19-point inspection. While it sounds intimidating, you’ll be happy to hear that regular upkeep often keeps any vehicle good enough to pass through.

The major requirements are:

  1. Vehicles must not be older than 12 years. 2003 models are the oldest you can use for Lyft. Like any self-respecting adult profession, no ‘teenagers’ allowed among vehicles too!

*In Minneapolis-St. Paul, Portland, Seattle and Washington, D.C. regions, cars must not be older than 10 years. 2005. In Las Vegas and Pittsburgh it must be 8 years. In New York City, vehicle age requirements are governed by the TLC.

  1. All vehicles must be minimum four-doors with accessible handles on either side. If vehicles have more doors than that and seven or more seatbelts, they can qualify for Lyft Plus.
  2. A/C, heater and windows must be in full working condition. Windows must roll up and down fully. No cracks or damages allowed on mirrors, windows, windshield or rear-view. Minor damages may be overlooked as long as they don’t obstruct driver’s field of vision.
  3. Tires must comply with Lyft’s official tread depth guideline. The website actually insists on a penny-test for it.
  4. All lights must be functional, including but not limited to: high beams, hazards, turn signals, fog lamps, brakes, reverse lights etc.
  5. Working wipers, horn and seatbelts.
  6. Exhaust system – mufflers, and tailpipes must be fully functional and free of excessive wear.
  7. Body damage – this is a tricky one and often elicits several questions. Like any regular car, you could have minor dents or paint scratch. However major crumples, hail damages or wear signs are not likely to pass. Judge yourself like a rider – would you feel comfortable boarding a car which looks like it could fall apart?

Lyft insists that there must be no visible opportunity to be identified as an alternative business option on the vehicle. If you own or drive a cab, ensure that all signs, colors and numbers on the body which scream “taxi-cab” are taken down while driving for Lyft. If you share your vehicle for other rideshare services, you need to stash away the Uber’s “U” logo or such when you’re actively taking Lyft calls. Just carrying the Lyft mustache on the windshield won’t do!

Town-cars may keep the numbers per legal requirements, but they may not negotiate prices or accept cash as fare (or even tips!) from Lyft passengers.

Got more questions or concerns regarding Lyft driver or Lyft vehicle requirements? Simply email us and we will respond ASAP.

Next Steps:

Getting Started With Lyft I: Lyft Sign up Bonus

Getting Started With Lyft II: Lyft Vehicle and Driver Requirements

Getting Started With Lyft III: Passing Your Mentor Session and Lyft Welcome Ride

Getting Started With Lyft IV: Lyft Background Check and Preparing for Your First Ride

Getting Started With Lyft V: Your First Week of Lyft Driving


Brett HellingProfile Photo Brett Helling
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