How to Tip Your Taxi Driver

Traveling locally or abroad, people ask the same question every day, how much do I tip the cab driver? The first piece to this answer is simple: figure out the total cost before tip by using TaxiFareFinder.  After you know your fare you can figure out the tip amount based on the proper tip percentage.

In the United States, tipping a cab driver is common just about everywhere. The standard rate in big cities like Boston, New York to Los Angeles is between 10-15%. For example, a trip from the O’Hare International Airport to the University of Chicago with an initial fare at $3.25, would total around $33.84 before tip. Following the standard rate, the final (estimated) total comes to about $39 after including the 15% tip.

There is a great article from Wall Street Journal called Tips for the Terrifying by Anne Kadet.  In this article Kadet speaks of the rising trend in tipping.  “Here in New York, tips average 18% to 19% on credit-card payments, which ranks us among the most generous tippers in the nation.”

Side story: To everyone’s surprise, the default tipping options on NY credit card machines are currently set at 20, 25, and 30%.  These defaults can be overridden by the passengers, but it is debated by many as to why it was set the way it was. Kadet in her article writes candidly, “Yes, offering a 20%, 25% or 30% option is like asking whether the service was awesome, super-awesome, or super-fantastic-platinum-with-kittens-awesome.”

Though it’s safe to say this is standard practice in the States- there are no rules. You can increase or decrease the amount based on the experience. Before deciding the amount, we suggest you consider these specific signs of exceptional service:

  • Local Knowledge: A great cab driver will know exactly where he’s going without your help with directions. Should you be in search of something to do, he should easily be able to provide you with a few top attractions in the area.
  • Speed of Service: Traffic is one thing, but does your cab driver know alternate routes?  Was your time in the cab reduced thanks to the driver’s record time, or efficient route selection? Reward them for this!
  • Demeanor: One way to know if you’re riding with a tip-worthy driver is in the way they interact with you. Every now and then you’ll run into those who stay on their cell phone, don’t seem very friendly or interested in chatting- you aren’t obligated to pay extra for that.  Most of the time you’ll encounter smiling faces willing to hand you over advice and all the attention needed to make your ride pleasant.
  • Attention to details: Are you struggling with luggage and the cab driver is doing little or nothing to help? If they aren’t willing to assist you with basic effort, don’t feel obligated to pay extra. You want to reward those who go out of their way to make your trip as comfortable as possible, with insider-info about the city you’re in and thoughtful gestures to feel more at ease.

For a lot of people, tipping cab drivers in the US is considered a controversial issue. Many don’t believe it’s necessary to ‘pay someone extra to do something they could do themselves’… But those of us at TaxiFareFinder, however, all agree there’s nothing wrong adding a little more to the total after you’ve been transported safely!

Here’s a piece of information that may give you a new perspective.   According to Kadet, a large portion of the taxi driver’s income comes from tips from passengers.  NYC cabbies, after considering for expenses, “make about 25% of their income (about $30 a day) from tips.”  Does this change your view on how much to tip?

When you start traveling overseas, customs transform and in some cases a simple gesture of gratitude could actually be insulting. For example, the Japanese are uncomfortable accepting tips and are more likely to be confused or offended. Australia, South Korea, Argentina, and Brazil are other countries that do not consider tipping a common practice. Turkish cab drivers do not expect to be tipped, but the cab fare will usually be rounded up. In India, tipping is traditionally not an obligation but it is becoming a more widespread practice now more than ever.  Economic factors in New Zealand, such as the high income tax, highly discourage society from offering gratuity for such services.

In Europe, tipping in general is less common than in the United States.  One reason may be due to the service industry workers being paid a salary and depend less on tips. People often tip 1~2 Euros (rather than a percentage of total) more as a compliment for good service than a necessity that is expected.

There’s nothing wrong with privately critiquing your experiences in a taxi and basing the amount you tip off of that. You trust the driver with your life and your money- so it’s not unreasonable to have fair expectations. If you’re leaving the country, do your research before you consider tipping the driver- you wouldn’t want to create an awkward situation! And finally if you are interested in comparing all our your rideshare and taxi options and estimated prices before you ride check out our RideGuru Comparison Calculator.


Kendall Ditommaso is an intern at TaxiFareFinder