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Lyft offers free rental cars for new drivers, but only if they make enough trips

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Well now here’s an interesting offer for wannabe Lyft drivers who don’t have a suitable car for the job. The Uber rival said Monday it’ll soon start offering some of its new recruits a free vehicle for their rides. Yes, you read that right: free.

It won’t surprise you to know that there is a catch (or two) with its new “Express Drive” program. For starters, Lyft says you can only skip rental fees if you make a certain number of pickups a week. The second issue is that there clearly won’t be enough cars to go around, but more on that later.

Work more, pay less

Reach 65 rides a week and all fees will be waived. Complete 40 trips and you can skip the 20-cents-a-mile charge. Less than 40 trips means you’ll have to cough up $99 plus mileage.

As Lyft says, “The more you drive, the less you pay,” but hopefully that won’t mean drowsy drivers battling to stay awake as they clock up the rides.

GM, which announced a strategic partnership with Lyft two months ago, will supply the cars, starting off this month with 125 Chevrolet Equinox vehicles in Chicago. Considering Lyft’s Chicago operation has up to now rejected 60,000 applicants because they didn’t have a car that qualified (only two doors, too old, etc.), GM would win a lot more friends if it could somehow offer a few additional vehicles for the scheme there.

Following the Windy City, Express Drive will also launch “soon” in Boston, Washington DC, and Baltimore before rolling out to “many other metro areas” by the end of the year.

As part of its ongoing quest to get more drivers on its books, Lyft last year hooked up with Hertz to offer cheaper car rentals, while rival service Uber also announced a similar deal with Enterprise Rent-A-Car in December.

Down the road, Lyft and GM – just like Uber – hope to develop a self-driving car for shuttling riders about town. But in the meantime, Lyft needs to hold its position in the ride-hailing space so that it’s still operating when the possibility of a driverless service becomes a reality. And that’s where schemes like Express Drive come in.

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