The ridesharing revolution began harmlessly enough. Uber used the burgeoning app market to launch an on-demand vehicle service that soon grew into a multibillion-dollar game changer, and it is now a publicly traded company. Lyft wasn’t far behind, launching its own flavor of ridesharing in its home market of San Francisco soon afterward. Today, the question of choosing Uber vs. Lyft is a debate many of us face each time we need a ride.
While there are other ridesharing apps such as Curb and Juno, Uber and Lyft command the greatest chunk of the market. Ridesharing is so popular that several major automakers are either partnering with Uber and Lyft or preparing their own competing services, perhaps an acknowledgment that car ownership isn’t as important as it used to be. Instead of a corporate car, companies compensate employees for using ridesharing. People are commuting, shopping, and hitting the gym in an Uber or Lyft. Personal vehicles are reserved for weekend expeditions.
There are still some holdouts. Those without smartphones — a percentage of the population that shrinks each year — call for cabs. Those who prefer the privacy of their own car won’t commute with a stranger. Those with access to good public transportation won’t sit in traffic. These are the exceptions, however, not the rule.
So which one is better? Although Uber is still the biggest name in the industry, Lyft is hot on its heels. A rash of bad publicity for Uber has people considering their alternative. So which one should you use? In this article, we’ll compare the two so you can ride smarter.
At a glance
|Booking a ride||Tie|
|The passenger experience||Uber|
|Services and rates||Lyft|
|How drivers are treated||Lyft|
|Where can you find a ride?||Uber|
|Which app is less controversial?||Lyft|
Booking a ride
Both Uber and Lyft rely heavily on location-based data, which means you’ll need a good internet connection, either through Wi-Fi or your cellular service. Once the app loads, it will drop a pin on your current location. If the pin is off the mark, you can adjust its position to get an accurate starting point. If you want to be picked up from a different spot, simply enter that address in the text box.
The next step is to enter your destination. Like Google Maps, both Uber and Lyft can work with street addresses or points of interest. Once you’ve input your destination, the apps estimate your ride cost based on the service you choose, the time of day, and how far you’re going. Both Uber and Lyft will also give you an estimate of how long it will take for your driver to arrive at the designated pickup spot.
Both allow you the capability to set several stops along your route, useful if you need to drop someone off, pick someone up, or to grab something at home before continuing to your destination. You can even do a round trip if you need to. Both provide you with an estimated time of arrival at your final destination, as well as the ability to schedule a pickup for a later time.
After you request a pickup, both Uber and Lyft show a real-time visual of your driver’s progress to your location.
The passenger experience
Once your ride arrives, it’s time to hop in and go. If you’re nowhere to be found, Uber and Lyft drivers must wait five minutes before they’re allowed to cancel the ride. Uber will begin billing the passenger (per minute) after just two minutes of wait time. With Lyft, the ride automatically starts one minute after the driver arrives.
If you’ve never used a ridesharing service, you might not be sure where to sit. While Lyft encourages passengers to ride shotgun, common practice is to sit in the rear passenger seat. Most drivers will not mind if you sit in the front seat as long as you ask. In either case, you’ll likely be greeted by your driver. While it’s important for you to check that you’re getting into the right car, be sure to also provide your name to the driver and confirm that the person driving you is the one in the picture.
There’s not much difference whether you should talk to your driver or he or she talks to you between the two services. However, if you’re not the gabbing type, Uber recently added a feature to allow you to alert the driver ahead of time that you don’t want to talk.
Both Uber and Lyft require credit card information to be stored in the app, so passengers needn’t worry about fumbling for a card at the conclusion of the ride. Once you reach the destination, you’re free to leave. However, you still have some homework. The next time you access the Lyft app, you’ll be asked to rate your driver on a scale of 1 to 5 and offer feedback — you’ll also have a chance to tip him or her (please do if they do a good job!). Uber’s process is similar. Uber and Lyft drivers also have an opportunity to rate their passengers. This tells other drivers who is a tough customer. Both driver and rider ratings are visible from the moment a ride is requested.
Your ratings are just as important as the driver’s: if you perennially are rated low by drivers — especially on Uber — you may be banned from the platform. Just be respectful and communicative, and the trip will go great.
Winner: Uber (for better control of your ride experience)
Services and rates
Now we’ll get into the varied services offered by Uber and Lyft, and the standard pricing structure for each app.
Uber has a broader range of services (vehicle types). Here’s how they work:
|UberPool||Up to two share an Uber with others heading in the same direction. (cheapest option).|
|UberX||Book an everyday car with seating for four.|
|UberXL||Book an everyday vehicle with seating for six.|
|UberSelect||Book a more premium vehicle with seating for four (cheaper than UberBlack).|
|UberBlack||Uber’s original service composed of black livery vehicles that seat four.|
|UberBlack SUV||Book a premium SUV with seating for six.|
|Uber Lux||Uber’s luxury car service with professional livery drivers.|
Lyft has a comparatively streamlined service:
|Lyft Shared||Up to two share a Lyft with others heading in the same direction. (cheapest option).|
|Lyft||Book an everyday car with seating for four.|
|Lyft XL||Book an everyday vehicle with seating for six.|
|Lyft Lux||Book a more premium vehicle with seating for four.|
|Lyft Black||The most luxurious ride choice pairs black cars and SUVs with highly rated drivers.|
Using Los Angeles as a sample market, here’s how the fee structure for a basic ride with UberX and Lyft compares as of June 2019:
|Cost per minute||$0.28|
|Cost per mile||$0.80|
|Cost per minute||$0.17|
|Cost per mile||$1.06|
As you can see, pricing is slightly different between the two apps. While Lyft has the lower cost per minute, it has the higher cost per mile. Sitting in traffic — a rite of passage in LA — is going to cost you more in an Uber. However, over a longer trip in lighter traffic, you’ll actually pay less in the Uber than you would a Lyft.
Across many other cities, there is a similar dynamic. So be sure to take these factors into account when requesting a ride. The apps do not factor in traffic well — only using average traffic conditions to determine the rate you see. But you also need to be aware of surge pricing — which Uber calls “Surge” and Lyft “Prime Time” — which can make your ride much more expensive.
When an area gets busy, surge pricing kicks in. While Uber’s heat map is usually a large area, Lyft’s heat map tends to be much smaller. For Uber riders, this typically means you have to bite the bullet and pay the higher fare if you’re in a busy area at a busy time. Lyft riders, however, may have the opportunity to walk outside the heat map and return to normal rates. Also, Lyft price increases are usually less than Uber’s.
So which is cheaper? That varies, especially in times of high demand. However, more often than not Lyft will end up being the cheaper of the two options.
Winner: Lyft (for its smaller surge pricing areas and lower minimum charge)