Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you will have heard of personal transportation giant Uber, and it’s smaller, but mighty cousin Lyft – both of which have revolutionized getting your drunk-self home from the club with a kebab in hand.
Whereas before, the only way to call a taxi was to literally call (ew.), Uber and Lyft have made the process much easier (and involve less human interaction) than ever, by offering a mobile app which hails a car to your precise location and lets you know how much it is going to cost, before you even jump inside. These apps also let you pay for your ride online via Paypal, because, let’s face it, who carries around change with them all the time?!
So, what are the differences between Lyft and Uber, and which should you use?
Well, the concept is the same, but the details are quite different.
Uber is undoubtedly the OG, with cars available in a huge 250 cities over 53 countries, but Lyft is growing steadily, and although they only serve the US at the moment, they have cars in 65 cities over 30 states. This is a bit of a catch 22 situation as people will likely use whichever is available in their city and the more company is used, the more cars will be offered in that area, and so on and so forth. When you think about it like that, however, it really is impressive how big Lyft has grown since being launched in 2012.
The general culture of both companies is quite different too. Both are 24/7 and use a similar app, but Lyft is a lot more relaxed, whereas Uber is geared more towards business and special events. One way that this is evident, is the way in which being in an Uber has a taxi-feel to it, as if you are being chauffeured around, whereas riders in Lyfts are actively encouraged to sit in the front passenger seat of the car and interact with the driver.
The drivers themselves, although they all have to undergo rigorous background checks, are quite different. Lyft drivers can start from age 21 and are more likely to be people looking for extra money than professional drivers, and Uber requires their drivers to be at least 23 and offers you the chance to book a professional driver as part of their more prestigious packages.
Uber offers several different levels of car hire, from the basic, UberX, UberXL which can seat up to 6 passengers, and the much fancier UberLUX and UberBLACK and beyond. Lyft, on the other hand, has a more minimalistic choice: Lyft for up to four passengers, Lyft Plus for up to six and in San Francisco, New York City and Los Angeles, Lyft Line which is a ride sharing service.
Another reason that Lyft are seen as more casual and less business-focussed is the giant pink, fluffy mustache that is on the front of every Lyft car. Not quite what you want to be seen rocking up to a business meeting in, but a fun extra and a talking point for a casual lift (or Lyft).
Uber try to cater to business clients by offering special billing such as charging fares directly to employers. This saves time by eliminating the need to travel expense forms and makes it easier for the employee as they do not have to wait to be reimbursed.
Speaking of money, both Lyft and Uber change their pricing depending on various factors, including the day of the week and time of the day, to keep up with supply and demand. Lyft’s base charge is around $1.50, and they charge about the same per mile, whereas Uber’s base charge completely depends on the city and can range from $0.75 – $2.00. During peak timing, Uber works on Surge Pricing which can be up to seven or eight times the price of a standard fare; however, Lyft uses Prime Time which works on the same concept but is capped at three times the regular rate.
If you receive excellent service, both apps allow you to award a star rating to the driver so that future users can choose the best drivers. However, Uber does not permit you to leave a tip for your driver, although Lyft’s app actively encourages it. This, coupled with the driver-passenger relationship culture, gives both companies a very different feel – something that potential users may wish to consider when choosing which one to use.
It is important to remember that as much as both companies are very different, so is each driver. With the drivers being (perhaps a little controversially) self-employed, you cannot be sure you will get the same level of service and the same ride each time. With Uber, for example, you may end up with a professional driver, by fluke, on one journey, and someone entirely different for the next.
The bottom line is that they are both a really useful way of catching a cab without having to call someone and explain where you are. Both have their pros and cons, and there really isn’t a clear cut answer. Perhaps in the next few years, the gap will widen, or Lyft will become the more solid player, but until then, grab an app and book a ride home.