Reviewing Zimride, the City-to-City Rideshare Service

Zimride is Lyft but for inter-city travel. Which is a little funny because if you know the story, Lyft was launched as an offshoot of Zimride.

I actually can’t remember how I came across Zimride but I hadn’t planned my trip at all—yes I suffer from procrastination a lot—and I’d rather go to hell before I pay $300 for a 45-minute flight to Los Angeles from San Francisco. The bus was out because I don’t enjoy ten-hour migraines, bus transfers and enduring rush-hour traffic not once, but twice. That left two options: rent a car and drive down on my own or take a Zimride. The upside of ridesharing through Zimride and Ridejoy is that it allows drivers going from city to city to offer seats to other travelers, for a small price. It’s also a lot better than grabbing a ride off Craigslist.

Sometimes it’s more time-efficient (and cheaper) to fly than dealing with the cost of gas and a rental car with distances that only require 4 to 12 hours on the physical road. If I can’t fly for whatever reason, I’ll drive second. But that means I still have to put in the time in addition to the money and hassle… so I decided to chance it. Besides, Zimride has some cred to it: turns out the Lyft founders cofounded Zimride first but not before selling it to Enterprise.

The website is straightforward. Drivers post origin, destination, date and time. Passengers can see how many seats are left for a particular trip and for what cost. The first trip down to L.A. I took with Zimride only cost me $40, which was the same price as the bus but much more efficient and more comfortable (it was also cheaper than a rental car, which would have cost me $70 minimum). The second trip I took, which was from Orange County to Los Angeles, only cost me $10, and was cheaper than a taxi or a Lyft Line. I like to think of it as spotting people gas money.

The key main difference I found with Zimride, which sets it apart from Craigslist, is that it connects to everyone’s Facebook profile for an extra layer of security. There is no app, just a website. The community self-polices itself through mutual reviewing, so it’s a little bit better than just hitching a ride with a stranger. To be fair, college kids seemed to use the service more actively than any other demographic and fortunately, I’m not scared of 19-year-olds. I can hang!

Perhaps the main downside is that drivers usually set their own time schedules and prices so this isn’t really a bonafide taxi ride. You’ve got to somewhat plan this (at least a day) in advance and operate on someone else’s schedule. But wouldn’t you be doing that anyway if it was an airline or bus company?

Confirmation of my booking.

Confirmation of my booking.

Payment is straightforward. You can pay for a one-way or a round-trip and prepay through credit card on the website. There’s also a cash option, which I’ve done, though this is generally more risky from the driver’s side of things. I personally like to get things out of the way when I can and from there on out, you can message the driver through the Zimride website or start texting each other by swapping numbers. There’s no denying that texting is usually way more efficient. The nice thing is that there are no fees involved.

The pickup points can vary though most people seem to be willing to drop you off exactly where you needed to be dropped off. The first driver I met in Berkeley where I jumped onboard with a bunch of other Zimride passengers. The second driver picked me up directly in Orange County. In both cases, each driver was pretty flexible and dropped me off exactly where I wanted to be dropped off. (I did ask them beforehand, however, if they were willing to. It’s just a courtesy thing.)

The Zimride/Lyft founders. Does this inspire confidence?

The Zimride/Lyft founders. Does this inspire confidence?

Unfortunately, probably what the main thing that hindered Zimride from really taking off is that there’s not a whole ton of regional availability. It works shockingly well for California and New England, where a lot of the rides seem to be concentrated, with moderate availability spread elsewhere (though a friend did report successfully using it from Seattle to Vancouver). Which is a little bit of a shame because when it works, it works.

Worst case scenario is that you might end up hanging out with a college kids listening to music you have never heard of. Still better than the bus, in my opinion.


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