Posted By RichC on March 17, 2016
After using both Lyft and UBER quite a few times over the past year, it has been difficult to say one is much better than the other … they are pretty similar. From the consumers perspective, it is far better to have the competition as it spurs innovation, competitive pricing and better service. We riders win.
Lyft and it’s bigger brother UBER are both new economy companies and have leveraged technology to improve the taxi and shuttle business. In cities where they are popular, they provide a way for entrepreneurially minded people who have a vehicle, clean driving record and free time, to make a few dollars. For people with a smartphone needing transportation, it is a very efficient way to find a ride from point A to point B without a lot of preplanning. In about every instance, these services are extremely cost effective when compared to other options … but who is best?
Let me preface … at this point in 2016 I’ll side with UBER for a couple reasons. First, their technology on the smartphone app seems a tiny bit more mature in giving consumers the information they need to arrange a ride … but both are very good. They also have a larger footprint, more drivers (downside is probably more riders) and after the initial promos and perks are over, UBER seems to have consistent pricing.
For my unscientific example, I’ll use a recent and repeated ride. The ride is a back and forth airport trip that I’ve taken several times with both companies. Each time the price is different with both … and estimates, although reasonably actuate, leave something to be desired since all but once have been on the high side. Each time over the past year I’ve noticed the prices creeping up as the ride has been a little more expense even as gas prices have eased (this has been true with both companies).
Where I fault Lyft in particular is in their marketing pitch … sending emails suggesting rates have gone down 5% in particular markets (I didn’t notice any savings). Then there was the necessity for me to contact customer service twice in response to an overly high bill. They credited but gave no answer to why there were surcharges added 3 times (could have just been a driver having the ability to add extra?) Nevertheless, it required my attention and focus on getting credits issued which to their credit they did without argument … but in the end, this particular repeated Lyft ride still cost me more than any other. This could become an issue for the company over the long haul as it left a bad taste in my mouth. A few days later I repeated with a return of that same trip and used UBER and it was less expensive that the previous Lyft ride even with the two customer service credit adjustments. Hm?
Speaking of surcharges, if you need a ride during peak or busy times, be prepared to pay significantly more than slower times when there are more drivers and fewer people needing rides. UBER shines as if you don’t want to be charged the premium and are not time pressed, they will text you "when rates return to normal." Very nice.
In conclusion, I initially found Lyft a benefit when using discount credits, but when services were eventually compared apples to apples, without any promos, UBER was consistent service, readily available and fairly price. Your market may vary so your experience may vary. That said, I’m glad each company has to compete with each other … AND with traditional services as well as new upstarts.
PS. In talking with people who drive for both, they seem to prefer working with Lyft over UBER … I sensed they felt better supported and that it was easier for them to get along with management?
Competitors on the west coast could eventually show up around the country. Here’s an older (2 years ago) list according to TIME:
Lyft: The San-Francisco based ridesharing company is the friendly neighbor to Uber’s cool chauffeur. Drivers use their personal cars, grilles adorned with signature pink mustaches, and invite users to sit in the front seat, often offering a fist bump as a greeting. The company has rolled out three additional services, Lyft Plus (fancy SUV version), Lyft Line (carpooling version) and Lyft for Work (commuting version). Lyft operates in about 60 U.S. cities, compared to Uber’s 220 worldwide. In some cities, like New York, Lyft functions very similarly to Uber.
Sidecar: This ridesharing company, also based in the Bay Area, promises the “lowest prices on the road.” Available in 10 major U.S. cities, Sidecar aims to match riders with “everyday people” driving their personal cars. But unlike other services that rack up a fare as you go, Sidecar asks riders to enter their destination and offers a selection of pre-set prices, along with ETAs, which the rider can choose from. The company also offers a cheaper “Shared Rides” carpooling option like Lyft Line and Uber Pool.
Flywheel: Taxi companies are using apps like Flywheel to re-disrupt the disruptors. Currently in San Francisco, L.A. and Seattle, Flywheel allows users to order a taxi on-demand and have payments made automatically through the app. The ride likely won’t be as fancy as an Uber black car or as cheap as an UberX, but there’s no surge pricing and the company is brokering deals to allow scheduled rides to airports, places where ridesharing companies are typically non grata.
Curb: In August, Taxi Magic launched as the rebranded Curb, broadening their focus beyond providing licensed taxis on-demand to include fancier cars-for-hire (like Uber black cars) in some of the 60 markets where Taxi Magic was already working with fleets. Unlike most of the other app-based services, customers have the option of paying with cash rather than through the app. The refreshed company is also working on launching pre-scheduled rides, to the airport and beyond.
Hailo: Another e-hail company that works with licensed cabs, Hailo is focused on the European market, having launched in London in 2011. (betrayed by their slogan, “the black cab app.”) In October, the company announced it would be closing operations in U.S. cities like New York, Chicago and Boston, shifting their eye to growth in Asia and, perhaps, re-entering the U.S. market in a few years. In September, the company launched an innovative feature that allows users to pay for the bill in a street-hailed taxi through the app.
Summon: The rebranded and overhauled InstaCab, Summon is an on-demand service that has a hybrid approach, offering both taxi e-hails and cheaper peer-to-peer “personal rides” with a no-surge-price promise. Summon is currently available only in the Bay Area, but the company said earlier this year they plan to expand to L.A., Boston and New York. The startup offers pre-scheduled rides through their Summon Ahead program, including fixed-rate rides to surrounding airports, with a journey to San Francisco’s SFO costing a mere $35.
RubyRide: Based in Phoenix, Ariz., and founded in 2013, RubyRide is a fledgling subscription-based startup that bills itself less as a taxi replacement and more as a replacement for owning a car. A basic plan that allows unlimited pre-scheduled pickups and drop-offs within certain “zones” like Downtown Phoenix costs $299 per month. The company offers limited on-demand service but plans to expand their options—including replacing rides to and from the dry cleaners, say, with delivering members’ dry cleaning—as they grow.
Shuddle: Dubbed “Uber for kids,” this San Francisco startup positions itself as an app for lightening Mom’s load. Parents can pre-book rides to take kids (who aren’t old enough to drive themselves) to sports practice or school. With safety the obvious concern, the company institutes layers of checks beyond thoroughly screening employees: drivers are given passwords they have to use before picking up kids; parents are given photos of the drivers and cars and can monitor the trip through their app. Drivers must have their own kids or have worked with kids. The company’s first 100 drivers, which they call “caregivers,” are all female.