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Want to Avoid Uber Surge Pricing on Halloween? This Study Has Tips

by Keith Wagstaff /  / Updated 

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The scariest thing about Halloween just might be the cost of a ride with Uber.

During busy times, such as rush hour or holidays, the company enacts surge pricing — something that can be beat with a few simple strategies, according to a new study.

A team of researchers from Northeastern University used 43 smartphones to connect with Uber in San Francisco and Manhattan. After studying four weeks worth of data, they claimed to have found the key to beating surge pricing ... at least some of the time.

Wait it out

Overall, "the vast majority of surges are short-lived," according to the study. Forty percent of them lasted only 5 minutes, while 20 percent of them lasted only 10 minutes.

That means if you're willing to wait 10 minutes, you can probably score a cheaper rate.

Related: New Jersey Town First in U.S. to Use Uber to Curb Drunken Driving

Take a walk

According to the study, Uber divides up cities into discrete, manually created "surge areas," which look like puzzle pieces on a map. When surge pricing goes up in one area, it might stay down in an adjacent area.

That is why 20 percent of the time, Uber riders hailing a car in Times Square can save 50 percent or more by walking to the next neighborhood over.

Compared to San Francisco, Manhattan's density was an advantage for Uber riders, as its smaller surge areas meant shorter walking times to cheaper rates.

The study also claimed that surge pricing didn't always lead to more drivers coming to an area, instead driving some away because they knew less riders would accept the higher prices — something that Uber disputes.

A company spokesperson told NBC News that surge pricing works "because it encourages drivers to go to the neighborhoods with the highest demand — ensuring there’s always a ride available within minutes."

"Contrary to the findings in this report, which are based on extremely limited, public data, we’ve seen this work in practice day in day out, in cities all around the world."

One thing the researchers couldn't figure out was how to predict surge pricing, which means users are stuck checking their phones for rates, and then either waiting, walking or taking the hit to their wallets.

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