ASK FINNEY: How to save money on a ride, submit a complaint to Uber and Lyft and more

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Whether you're a rider or a driver, stay savvy with some ridesharing tips that will save you money, get you the customer service you deserve, and even help you do your taxes correctly as a driver.

BUILDING A BETTER BAY AREA: Rideshare realities

How can you save money while using a rideshare app?

If you don't mind your ride taking a little longer, you can use the carpool option. Uber offers UberPOOL, and Lyft offers a "shared ride." On those rides, drivers will stop and pick up other riders who are mostly going your way. Your travel time will be longer because of those pickups and drop-offs, but it's reflected in the cheaper price. Uber also offers Express POOL, where you can walk to a pickup spot more convenient for the carpool driver and save even more money on your fare.

If you're already with a group of people and don't want to share with strangers, you can split the fare amongst yourselves. Uber offers the option to "split the fare" for a small fee. Lyft used to offer the feature, but removed it in late 2018, promising to replace it with something better.

Finally, there's the infamous "surge pricing." When demand for cars is high, like after an event, when it's raining, or during commute times, the rate for your ride goes up. If you want to save money, try to plan around those surge times, or just wait until you see the fares go back down. In San Francisco, the busiest times for drivers - therefore, the times most likely to experience surge pricing -- are:

Monday - Friday: 7 a.m. - 10 a.m., 4 p.m. - 7 p.m.
Friday - Saturday: 7 p.m. - 2 a.m.
Sunday: 10 a.m. - 2 p.m.

Where you get picked up also matters. If you walk to a less busy area, your costs could be lower. There are phone apps like Surge Protector that show you a map and the rates for those locations so you can see where rates are cheaper.

It seems counter-intuitive, but you can try ordering a fancier vehicle. When the cheaper rides are in high demand, that doesn't mean it's the same for the nicer cars. After all, not everyone is willing to shell out for an Uber Select or Uber Black, so their prices have the chance of being lower. You can compare the estimate prices for all car options on both Uber and Lyft, so it doesn't hurt to just look.

Speaking of comparisons, don't be afraid to use both apps! Check out the estimated prices on both Uber AND Lyft when you're ready to call a car. Lyft has a cap on surge pricing and can only go up to three times the normal rate, while Uber does not have a cap.

How can I submit a complaint to Uber or Lyft?
Both rideshare apps offer in-app complaint forms, and the majority of rider issues can be reported there. Go to their help centers in the app and follow the instructions. You can select what kind of issue you're having and contact support.

In the event of an emergency, you should of course contact 911. But if you're not in imminent danger, you can request to speak to Lyft or Uber's safety teams. This is for situations like accidents or other critical incidents. For Uber, you can call 800-353-8237. For Lyft, you cannot call them directly, but you can request that they call you by submitting your phone number to the safety team under the "Help" menu of the app.

Social media is also an option to get your voice heard. On Twitter, you can contact @uber_support or @asklyft for customer support.

Finally, if you feel that you're not getting anywhere with your complaint, you can turn to the California Public Utilities Commission, with regulates rideshare services. You can visit their website and fill out a form to file a complaint. They also offer resources like suggested next best steps to resolve your issue.

COMMUTE CHALLENGE: Taxi vs rideshare

Do rideshare drivers have to pay taxes?
The answer is YES. But remember, rideshare drivers are not classified as employees of the rideshare companies. Drivers are considered contractors, and they are on 1099s. Companies are required to report to the IRS if a driver has earned more than $600 working for them.

Drivers might receive more than one 1099 if they meet certain requirements. In addition to a regular 1099, there are two more forms a driver can receive:

- A 1099-K if you generated more than 200 transactions and more than $20,000 in gross ride receipts from passengers in the last year.
- A 1099-MISC if you received more than $600 in non-driving income (e.g. new city bonuses, mentoring, referral fees)

In order to avoid a huge tax bill and possible penalties, drivers need to pay quarterly estimated taxes. By paying taxes to the IRS several times a year based on what they've been earning and what they estimate they'll earn, those tax payments can be a lot less painful.

Drivers can also write off mileage they put on their cars in service to the rideshare company. Every mile you drive for work in 2019 can be worth 58 cents. For example, if a driver drove 10,000 miles for Lyft, that could be a $5,800 mileage deduction. Lyft's Annual Summary sheet and Driver Dashboard both show all miles driven while drivers waited for a ride, were en-route to a passenger, and while they were actually driving a passenger to their destination.

Drivers can also write off anything that's considered ordinary, necessary, and directly related to their "business" of driving for a rideshare company. If a driver hands out bottles of water or gum to their passengers - hang onto those receipts, because those are potential write-offs.

Take a look at more stories and videos by Michael Finney and 7 On Your Side.

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