Uber or Lyft: Which is Best?
Like it or not, ride-hailing services powered by smartphone apps are here to stay. It’s mainly taxi drivers who don’t like Uber, Lyft, and the many also-rans in competition with traditional taxi services. Passengers, by and large, are thrilled to get rides in minutes for far less than taxis charge. Let's compare the Big Two in the ride sharing revolution...
Which Car Service is Best?
The term "disruptive innovation" is defined by Wikipedia as "an innovation that creates a new market and value network… displacing established market leading firms, products, and alliances." Wikipedia itself is one such example, displacing the traditional encyclopedia market.
Streaming video services such as Netflix have practically obsoleted the DVD rental business. In the next decade, autonomous cars may replace human-operated ones. But for now, we still have plenty of cars, and plenty of drivers disrupting the traditional transportation markets via Uber and Lyft.
The only controversy left is, “Which service is better?” The answer is pretty clear; Lyft offers the better deal, all else being equal. However, “all else” is often not equal. Let’s take a look at both services’ apps, standard price rates, and policies.
Both apps try to detect your current location for pickup using your smartphone’s location services, so you should have that option enabled. You can change the pickup location either by moving a pin on a map or by typing in a street address. Both apps then show you the cars near you, with estimated arrival time for each.
This is an improvement over taxi services that require a specific address. For example, I once called for a cab and gave the address of a shop I had just left. Unfortunately, its street address is that of the shopping mall in which it is located, so the driver looked for me more than a block away.
Location, Location, Location
Destinations can be specified by street address, landmark name, or even personal locations stored on your Google Maps, e. g., “Grandma’s.” Uber wants a destination first; Lyft starts with your pickup location. In fact, you only need to specify a destination for Lyft if you want a cost estimate before booking a ride.
Lyft lets you add a “waypoint,” a place to stop between your pickup and destination. This is useful if you want to grab a Starbucks or drop off a companion on your way home. It’s possible to negotiate such waypoints with an Uber driver, but Lyft takes the hassle out of it.
Once you book a ride, both services display a map that shows your driver’s progress towards you and estimated arrival time. You’ll get a beep on your phone when the driver is one minute away, so you don’t have to stand outside waiting or even pay attention to the progress map. No taxi service will do that.
Once your ride arrives, Uber gives you two minutes to board before starting to bill you for waiting time. Lyft doesn’t start billing until you are in the vehicle. Drivers for both services may cancel a trip if you fail to board within five minutes of their arrival. (Cancellations get rather tricky, requiring links to Uber’s and Lyft’s policies.)
Fees and Payment
Both services accept credit or debit cards; Lyft also accepts Paypal. Card numbers are stored on the services’ servers. Either way, when you get to your destination you can just jump out and go, without fumbling for a card or with a payment terminal. After your ride, you can rate your driver and the driver can rate you. You can also add a tip if you wish, all of which goes to the driver.
Here is a comparison of standard rates charged by Lyft and Uber, followed by a discussion of why they may vary widely.
The costs shown above are for the lowest-priced, single-passenger service offered by each company. Uber and Lyft offer slightly cheaper “ride-pooling” options if you’re willing to share a back seat with one or two strangers, and wait while the driver looks for more passengers. In my experience, both in suburban and downtown areas, drivers spend little time cruising for more passengers and I have yet to actually share a ride.
Service, Swank, and Surge
Both companies offer different levels of service and swank, from the economical but somewhat awkward ride-sharing option to deluxe limo and SUV rides. Their prices vary accordingly and are shown during the booking process Neither company has a handicapped-accessible vehicle class.
The biggest price difference occurs in “surge pricing” situations, when a spike in demand drives prices up dramatically. Surge pricing helps to keep wait times reasonable by a) persuading more drivers to get out on the road, and b) dissuading potential passengers. Uber’s zones in which surge pricing is temporarily applied tend to be large. Lyft’s zones are much smaller, so it’s possible to escape a surge-priced zone by walking a block or two.
The quality of vehicles and drivers is about the same whether you ride Uber or Lyft. In fact, your driver may work with both companies, switching from one to the other depending on passenger demand in his/her area. The ride experiences I have had are the same as taxi rides I have taken; perhaps a little better, overall.
I wouldn’t price shop Uber vs. Lyft on trips of less than 15 miles or so. Taxis will always lose to either Uber or Lyft, and not by trivial amounts There are apps that will take your starting and end points, and give you side-by-side estimates of Uber, Lyft, and even taxi companies in your area. But their estimates are based upon published prices, so they are generally off quite a bit. Also, they do not account for surge pricing.
Have you used Uber or Lyft to hail a ride? Tell me about your experience. Your thoughts on this topic are welcome. Post your comment or question below...
This article was posted by Bob Rankin on 5 Oct 2017
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Article information: AskBobRankin -- Uber or Lyft: Which is Best? (Posted: 5 Oct 2017)
Copyright © 2005 - Bob Rankin - All Rights Reserved