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How Does Lyft’s Car Service Stack Up Against Uber?

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Personally, I’m against mustaches on cars. I’m not a particularly flashy person, but if you’re going to be hopping a ride with Lyft, you better get used to it.

If you haven’t heard of Lyft now, think of it as Uber’s slightly hippier cousin. Whereas Uber is very much billed as black car service type of deal, Lyft is in theory a community-oriented ride-sharing program. There are a lot of things that are remarkably similar, though, despite the facades they project to the general public.

At the end of the day, look, I just need to get where I’m going. I’ve taken all modes of transport from jeepney to Rolls Royce (just once! I was on assignment for Jetsetter), and how I get to my destination doesn’t really matter to me. So for once, for the sake of travel and science, I ignored the pink mustache.

Just like its competitor Uber, Lyft primarily uses a mobile app to detect your location and assigns your request to a nearby car. You also can’t request a car in advance. Though it’s not as fully featured as Uber’s app which now includes fare splitting, it gets the job done. The app is available for iOS or Android.


At one point in time, you can select how much each driver receives, but that’s pretty much gone by the wayside; Lyft’s donation system seems to be on the way out in favor of mandatory pricing. Payments are pretty much tied to a credit card associated with your account in favor of a cashless system. The e-mail receipts are more basic than Uber’s, but still retain the fundamentals such as time and distance.

Because the whole entire service is supposedly designed to be more inclusive, the cars don’t seem to be as new or well-kept as Uber cars, but on the flip side, the service seems to be slightly cheaper (keep reading) so you get what you pay for. Lyft drivers, in general, though, seem to be more interesting characters: one driver to the Oakland airport dared me to a cookie contest during the ride.

Lyft’s policy is more flexible, all things considered. If a rider cancels a Lyft request more than five minutes from when it’s made, you’re “charged” $5. This is substantially different from Uber’s policy, which provides no leeway and charges a cancellation fee once a request is made. Depending on the city, Uber can charge more than $5 for the cancelled request.

One of the key benefits of using Lyft in the past was the lack of surge pricing, which is this horrible thing Uber does to jack up the price a bajillion-fold when demand is rampant. Unfortunately, in the last week of 2013, Lyft introduced its new surge pricing feature, known as “Prime Time Tips.” I haven’t ran into any instances where this was in effect yet, but the company has made very clear that the extra tips go directly to the driver.

As for the argument as for who’s cheaper, well, there’s always going to be the price war between UberX, the low-cost version of Uber, and Lyft. Uber recently slashed the prices of UberX last week, declaring that it was cheaper than its competitors and most taxis now. Then, of course, Lyft has always claimed the service is about 30 percent cheaper than a similar cab ride. I say we let the numbers speak for themselves.

A brief snapshot of the e-mail receipt.

A brief snapshot of the e-mail receipt.

To test the prices of each program, I recently used both services between the same two sets of addresses in San Francisco, between Nob Hill and the Lower Haight. The UberX ride ended up costing $13 while the Lyft ride clocked in at $12. After the price slash, UberX estimates the same fare will now cost $9 and $11, which is awesome if you don’t have to pay Uber’s surge pricing.

If the pricing stays—which is doubtful—I would prefer Uber over Lyft’s program for several reasons. Not only is it cheaper, you can also now split the fare between multiple passengers. However, there are others I know that prefer Lyft for the general friendliness of the drivers. It also now has a stronger referral program, but that’s only really helpful if you know tons of people who need a ride.

In one really stark difference, Lyft’s rates are nowhere as transparent as Uber’s rates, which is a definite downside. It makes it difficult to gauge which service is more budget-friendly although Lyft has similar pricing as its competitors. If you sign up through this link, you can get $20 off your first ride (I also get $20 but everyone benefits, no?). To be fair, Uber is also offering a discount on your first ride with them.

Update: From now until February 22, 2015, Lyft is offering $70 off their first 11 rides ($5 off the first 10 rides, $20 off the eleventh ride). Not a shabby value if you’re planning on using Lyft Line.

To get a better idea to figure out which car service is in your best interest, you would have to know UberX’s pricing for your specific city since they vary in every single market. With the new rates and without surge pricing, I would lean toward UberX. However, without any of those in effect, I would pick Lyft for the benefit of my wallet.

Lyft is mostly available in Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Indianapolis, Los Angeles, Nashville, Phoenix, Sacramento, San Diego, San Francisco, Seattle, St. Paul, and Washington D.C., though the company has indicated plans to expand.

  • sadly disalutioned

    I would like to know what the legalities of these types of services are. Some are mandated to work under a state authority where others aren’t. Some are held to higher insurance liability and others aren’t and using their personal insurance. Some will lease cars they don’t own and insure them without notifying the insurance companies or the lien holders that these vehicles are being used commercially.

    Some of the drivers for UberX, Lyft and Sidecar services don’t have to maintain or obtain a public passengers endorsement where UbeC does. Yet they all preform the same service. What are the double standards all about and why is Uber is getting 20 to 28 present of the fares depending on whether it is black car or SUV? We are being told that is a tip is included but we never see it or know how much it is. Is Uber getting a percent of the tip as well? Lots of questions but no answer.

    What is going to happen when there is an accident and these people do not have the proper ins. to cover and Uber washes their hands of responsibility? Because they say they are just a technology co. and not a car co. nor do they manage any actual cars. They are basically selling the technology to the associates and it is up to the individual to take it from there. They claim they provide additional insurance to cover when you have customers in the car but do not cover you when you don’t – but you are still on duty en route or waiting and on duty. Does your personal insurance cover you then? Because you are in the process of engaging in commercial use and haven’t notified the insurance company that your car is being used for that purpose.

    And as an independent driver shouldn’t you have to be under some kind of state authority to transport people for hire? Don’t you have to own a company or have a state ID tax number or identification that u are certified to do so like any other commercial driver? Who is really your driver and are they qualified? Or legal to transport you? All very good questions that someone should answer, not to mention drug testing and medical certification is required for any other commercial driver doing work in the same capacity…

    • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

      These are all *great* questions, but sadly I’m not a lawyer! or have been ever involved with these companies as a user so I wouldn’t be able to give you the answers you’re looking for. Are you a driver for one of these companies?

      • Rick Castle

        I read your post and I can assure you that both services are as cheap as a livery service can be. I dont think the passenger loses anything by choosing one to the other. The prices hit the bottom line and the difference between the cabs and these guys are around 30% plus TIPS these days.

        Yes, uberx keeps telling the tips are included, however it is not. It is a huge lie. If you calculate the distance plus the time, you will see that the cost equals to just that on average, so WHERE in the world is the tip and how is it included??? It is not.

        In my opinion, these services wont last for long. They became too greedy and in hopes of getting a bigger market share they started dropping the prices way lower than it should be.

        For instance lyft started a new thing called “happy hour” which is basically a counter attack against uber’s sur charge pricing. Lyft will drop the prices ANOTHER 10-50% during happy hour where there is not enough demand to encourage riders to use them instead of cabs.

        Maybe you dont know but a professional good driver makes a certain amount per hour and if they dont, then they will abandon the ship and go somewhere else. So very soon , you will be stuck to fist bump with a 21 year old college guy whose only driving experience is from college dorm to Harris Theeter…

        Uberx and lyft dont care because although they keep lowering the prices they still make the same money by hiring more and more drivers. So the lies of tips included and statistically drivers making more after the discounts is outright bs. What they dont say is they make more by having to drive more and working more hours so at the end of the day the amount is the same if not less.

        For now uber is quiet against this new lyft attack. If they lower the price again, then probably the majority of the good drivers with nice cars will just drop uberx like a dead fly. When you consider the risks you are taking, the miles you drive every day and the depreciation of your car, it’s just not worth it.

  • Tom Robertson

    New York taxi yellow and green cars are coming out with an app just like Uber within the next couple of months.No surge pricing like Uber.Game changer
    Effecting the skinny geeks.

    • http://maphappy.org/ Erica Ho

      Can’t wait!!

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