When my family travel travels, ridesharing services like Uber and Lyft are a big part of our transportation strategy. There are a lot of cities where renting a car can be inconvenient and expensive. In many places, public transit doesn’t quite do the job, particular for airport runs. My hometown of San Francisco is a great example of that.
Over the last several years, I’ve taken both Uber and Lyft many times, often even with kids (if you take Lyft or Uber with kids, don’t miss my guide). If you haven’t had a lot of Lyft and Uber experience yet, how do you know which one is better for you? Does it matter whether you are traveling solo or with a family in tow? What other factors might tip the balance for you?
Before we get to the specifics, it’s important to note that Uber started 2017 with a ton of bad press. It leadership got way too close to the toxicity of presidential politics in a particularly toxic year. Then a former Uber employee published an article that went viral about the misogynist corporate culture there (which had already been widely reported on and speculated about). Soon, people were deleting the Uber app from their phones right and left in protest. Uber is not well-loved at the moment, so there’s that.
But I’m not here to take a political stance (that’s your call!). I am here here to help travelers figure out which service meets their needs best and offers the best service and price. After dozens and dozens of rides on both services in many different destinations, here’s my Uber vs. Lyft analysis.
Uber vs. Lyft Price
One of the major reasons that everyone is using ridesharing services these days is that they are cheaper than traditional taxis or black cars. We all want to save money. While Uber and Lyft have slightly different pricing calculations, the reality is that you’ll probably pay about the same using either service over time. In one city, one service may consistently be a little cheaper. But in another, the other service will be the budget leader. There are so many variables that affect pricing on a particular trip – traffic, whether there is a surge, which kind of car you request, whether you tip, etc. – that it’s hard to say that one service is really cheaper than the other. The different probably comes out in the wash for most repeat customers.
For a particular single trip at a particular time, always quickly check both apps to get the best deal. You can also plan ahead by comparing pricing between the services in a specific spot and time using farestimate.com.
Winner: It’s a draw.
Uber vs. Lyft: Availability
Even though upstart Lyft has been growing rapidly, the reality is that Uber is available at lot more places. I’m lucky to live in a city where both services are equally available (San Francisco), but in many mid-size US cities and international destinations, Uber is the only meaningful choice. Even if Lyft is making in-roads in a particular destination, it might not have the volume of drivers yet, meaning you will have to wait a bit longer for a ride on average. Uber often also has a wider variety of car types available in many locations, including UberPool, UberXL, UberBlack, etc. The bottom line is that Uber is more reliable in more places for availability.
Uber vs. Lyft: Customer Service
I said I wasn’t going to get political and I promise I won’t. At this point, however, it’s pretty much universally accepted that Lyft has a much friendlier corporate culture. That usually translates into a better rider experience. If drivers feel valued, they are happier at their jobs and return better customer service to riders. That certainly has been my personal anecdotal experience and the data shows that Lyft drivers are indeed more satisfied. Now that so many drivers are driving for both companies, the lines are blurring a little bit. But when I ride with a driver who has committed him or herself to driving exclusively for Lyft, I almost always see the difference in service.
Uber vs. Lyft: Options
When it comes to extras, which service offers more options and flexibility to travelers using it? I’m calling this one a draw because both services have their advantages.
For families using ridesharing services, Uber leads the way with its Uber Car Seat service. It’s currently available in four cities: New York, Philadelphia, DC, and Orlando.
For travelers who want to tip, Lyft offers an in-app option where you can tip without needing to carry cash. It’s a feature that is really convenient and often avoids the uncomfortable pushiness that is increasingly showing itself among Uber drivers who strategically post tip jars within riders’ view or even demanding a tip verbally.
Winner: It’s a draw.
Uber vs. Lyft: Who Do I Use?
So let me cut to the chase: who do I use? When I have a meaningful choice, I almost always use Lyft these days. In the San Francisco Bay Area, both services are equally available. I find the friendlier driver culture and being able to tip in the app tip the scales for me.
The only times I use Uber are:
- When I need a car seat and am in a destination with Uber Car Seat service (like Orlando).
- When I have a credit that gets me a free or deeply discounted ride.
- When Lyft has a much greater surge pricing at a particular moment than Uber (rare but it has happened once!)
Happy Lyft and Uber travels! (And if you are new to either service want to support Trips With Tykes, you are welcome to use my referral codes. My referral code for Lyft is LESLIE620998 and offers up to $20 in free ride credit. Use promo code 7u9vi for Uber to get $20 off your first ride. Please note that these offers change regularly but they are current as of 2/21/2017.)