[HOWTO] Save Money on Ride-Sharing

Category: Reference

My geeky readers are undoubtedly familiar with the perpetual struggle between microprocessor leaders Intel and AMD. Intel is the dominant force, while scrappy but much smaller AMD keeps the big guy on his toes. A similar dynamic exists between Uber and Lyft, which between them control practically all of the ride-sharing market. The lopsided competition between the two giants is beneficial for consumers. Here's how it can work in your favor...

Get the Best Price on Uber or Lyft

It’s hard to compare the prices of Uber and Lyft in general, and that’s by design. Both firms have published rate schedules, but those are not binding and static like they are in the regulated taxi industry. In practice, you can only compare Uber’s price to Lyft’s at one specific moment for one specific route.

I recommend that you always check prices of both services, not just to see which is lower but also to keep both firms’ prices low. I am convinced that the apps of Uber and Lyft are somehow aware of each other, that they know when you compare prices, and know when you book a ride with the competition. Such knowledge affects the prices they offer you, and the deals offered. So keep both firms on their toes.

Time after time, Uber has given me a week in which to enjoy ten half-price rides (up to $6 per ride) the day after I rode with Lyft. Lyft’s discounted fares sometimes beat Uber’s, but Lyft is not nearly as jealous as its larger colleague. I’ve never seen a half-off offer from Lyft.

Save money on Uber or Lyft rides

Just for research, I checked pricing for a ride from my home to JFK airport; Uber's price for the 70-mile trip was $131, and Lyft was $110. But Uber won out for the 4-mile trip to my local grocery store, charging $8 versus Lyft's $10 fee. I know that if I was to check those same routes on different days or another time of day, the results could be quite different.

Uber has a “ride pass” proposition that it throws at me around the middle of each month. In exchange for a small fee it offers a fixed, fairly low price on my most-traveled route, plus 15% off on all other rides. Ride passes are by invitation only at this time. If one comes your way, give it a try.

Uber Pool Express is Uber’s lowest fare, often by 35-40% of Uber Pool. It’s a shared ride, like Pool, but you will have to walk up two 2 blocks to a designated pick-up spot. I have not found that onerous yet, and the savings are substantial.

Surge Pricing, Round-Trip Fares and Referrals

Surge pricing, the practice of increasing fares in times of high demand, is another issue. This can be avoided by booking rides outside of peak demand periods: rush hours, before and after schools let out, barroom closing times, etc. You can sometimes walk out of a Lyft surge-priced zone because those zones are much smaller than Uber’s.

It seldom saves money to book a round trip instead of two rides. That’s because shared rides cannot include round trips, and the price difference between a shared ride and an exclusive-occupancy ride is substantial. Book two shared rides for the best round-trip fare.

Referring new riders and/or drivers earns free rides on both Uber and Lyft. From my talks with drivers, it seems to be a pretty good gig for full or part-time work. It’s especially attractive to students, retirees, and others who need flexible work hours, or for anyone who enjoys driving and people.

When I visited Denver recently, the Uber driver who took me from the airport to my hotel was a young man from Kenya. It was 11pm, and he told me he drives for several hours after finishing his night classes for advanced IT certifications. Can't help but admire someone like that with his "drive" to succeed!

Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...

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Most recent comments on "[HOWTO] Save Money on Ride-Sharing"

Posted by:

Robert M.
22 Aug 2018

I am an American currently living in Mexico so a bit out of touch with the US rates. To me, they are shockingly expensive. Here, for a 3 mile ride , I pay approx. 30 pesos or roughly 1.50 . Uber only has one major competitor here and that is Cabify, a Spanish company. A new Russian company , InDriver has also entered the market. I usually find the rates at Cabify usually best and no surge pricing. Also better cars since Uber tends to be the cheapest car available.
I really do not see how any of the driver here can make a living and pay expenses. Gas is higher here than the US.

Posted by:

Tom Plain
22 Aug 2018

To me, this is just another "race to the bottom" service. Ultimately the drivers get screwed, just like the merchants who sell for Amazon. I'll take a cab.

Posted by:

Kenneth Heikkila
22 Aug 2018

I almost agree with Tom, but I have had so many rude taxi drivers who refused to go the way I wanted to go in a city I knew as well as they did (yes the freeway in Portland may save a whole minute, but at the addition of several miles that cost far more) as well as failures to show up at a prearranged time and place not to mention (of course I am mentioning it [I never really understood that expression]) that taking Uber or Lyft is a self defense. Oh yeah, prices can be significantly different and never in my favor in a taxi.

Posted by:

Sean M
23 Aug 2018

Bob, I have the exact opposite of you. I live in So Cal and I get Lyft offers all the time and I usually ride with uber

Posted by:

23 Aug 2018

I still use Taxi Cabs. I have used Uber/Lyft, and sometimes still do.

Leaving an airport, Cabs are lined up, I take my pick. The cabs are usually bigger, I know ahead what the costs will be. Drivers are licensed with the city, drivers are vetted by the cab company, cabs are maintained & cleaned by the company. I can complain about a problem to the cab company & to the city.

Cabs can cruise busy streets, that can be flagged down. I have done that often. If I get a driver that worries me, I ask him/her to pull over immediatly, pay, and get out.

Some of Uber/Lyfts are small Toyota Corollas or similar, cramped, some smelly, I feel afraid in them. No card on dash showing the driver's name nor license. When were the brakes checked last? When is maintenance performed. Yes, I could order the larger type, but they cost more and are not always available.

The Uber/Lyft car is owned by the driver, but he is using it as a cab, usually because he needs the money & is poor, can he afford the maintenance & up keep? In most cases I doubt that. Most work part-time with a full time (low wage) job, working many hours per day & week. Is that safe? Is a friend using his car because the driver is drunk in bed, high on drugs? How many hours has the driver worked without sleep?

Yes, there are problems with the cabs, I admit that, but there are also the same problems and more with Uber/Lyft. There is always a risk using both methods.

But I will not ride in a small cramped crap box, owned by a person that cannot support the maintenance, working 20-hrs per day.

Posted by:

Jillian S
24 Aug 2018

I have been working at an office not on a bus line. I usually ride with a friend but when she is not driving, I use Lyft. The ride costs almost one hour's pay, but a taxi costs half again as much. The drivers have mostly been really nice and competent. I take Lyft via GoGoGrandparent, which allows me to use it without a smart phone. It costs a little more, but I don't need a smart phone for anything else. Is it true that you have to rate your driver if you use a smart phone, and that they expect a 5 out of 5 stars? So silly!

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