Uber vs Lyft: What’s the Difference and Which Should I Use?

By Chris Stobing on June 25th, 2015

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The party’s letting out, your shirt’s on backwards, and if you had to take an educated guess, your lungs could probably set a new breathalyzer record. Time to call a car, but which one is right for you?

In the debate of Uber vs. Lyft, each service brings its own sense of style and savings to the driveway.

Price

Both Uber and Lyft enjoy pricing models which simply blow the yellow-tinted competition clean out of the water, though the cost will vary city-to-city depending on local regulations. Lyft will generally hover around $1.50 for the base charge, and run equally about $1.50 per mile after that.

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Uber’s just about the same, with some cities going as low as $0.75 a mile, while others tip out at about $2, depending on how congested or clear the area of the town or city you’re travelling in might be.

The company’s lower-end, better-bargain Uber X service runs just about the same price as your average Lyft, which makes sense considering both employ their drivers own cars as opposed to blacked out SUVs or specialized Lincoln towncars.

Both participate in programs that will vary the rate you pay depending on the time of day and day of the week. Wednesday at noon? That’ll be bargain basement pricing. Saturday night at 2am? Expect to pay at least triple, if not even more, depending on which service you go with.

Lyft’s “Prime Time” price structure caps out at three times the regular rate, while Uber’s “Surge Pricing” can go as high as seven or eight times the normal cost during peak hours.

The Apps

As far as functionality is concerned, the two apps for Uber and Lyft offer an almost identical set of features. You can call a car, see how long until your driver arrives at the pickup location, and even give them a rating after the trip is complete.

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The one point we have to hand to Uber is its ability to tell you exactly how much your fare is racking up as you drive along. Lyft’s mobile moneymaker benefits from having a bit more of that “fun factor”, with fireworks that shoot off if you tip well. Uber sticks to its high-class roots, and offers a sleeker, modern feel that’s more Hugo Boss than it is shorts-and-a-t-shirt.

Safety

As far as safety is concerned, the competition between Uber and Lyft is basically a dead heat. Both services require their drivers to have a current driver’s license, and up-to-date insurance. Background checks, DMV checks, and criminal checks are run on all their employees, which ensures you don’t end up on a dark road with a shady character 10 minutes into your ride.

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The only difference in this department is that Lyft drivers can pick up their big pink moustache when they’re only 21, while Uber chauffeurs will have to wait until they’re 23.

Last but not least, both services have a star-based rating system that customers can use to weed out the best drivers from the rest, and every driver has his rating displayed before you agree to have him or her come pick you up.

Wait Time

In an experiment run by a columnist at Insurance Zebra magazine, the two competitors just barely missed out on a tie, with Lyft beating Uber by only six seconds, 4:10 to 4:16.

Of course, this result can vary quite a bit depending on the city you’re in. Uber is still the dominant force in both the US and Europe over Lyft by a wide margin, thanks in no small part to its venture-capital backed investors and fleets of swanky new rides.

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In more populated regions the wait time will probably measure about the same, but once you get out into the boonies, it’s probably a good idea to call in Uber, as they enjoy a wider coverage map and a larger number of vehicles available in a given area to pick you up.

Luxury

As we mentioned earlier, both Lyft and the lower-end Uber X allow their drivers to use their own cars to scuttle fares around town, which can be a mixed bag if we’re honest. There are certain regulations that a car has to meet before it’s approved for takeoff, and even then, you’re going to find quite a different general riding experience between Uber and Lyft.

While Uber feels more like your own personal driver as you rest in the backseat and sip on free bottles of water, Lyft is more like your buddy picking you up from the bar. Although it’s not required, Lyft drivers encourage their passengers to sit up front in the passenger seat, strike up a conversation, and keep things light and easy.

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Uber, on the other hand, caters more to the prestige package, giving its customers a svelte, luxury-style ride that will make you feel like James Bond, even if you’re just coming out of a party and look more like Mr. Bean.


No matter which temporary chauffeur you eventually flag down, at least we all know it’s not going to come in checkered paint with an illuminated sign on top. That’s so three years ago.

You can get started on your journey by downloading the Uber and Lyft apps in the iTunes (1, 2) or Google Play App (1, 2) stores today.

 

Image Credits: Flickr 1, 2Wikimedia, Uber 1, 2, 3

Chris Stobing is a writer and blogger from the heart of Silicon Valley. Raised around tech from birth, he's had an interest in PC hardware and networking technology for years, and has come to How-To Geek to contribute his knowledge on both. You can follow him on Twitter here.

  • Published 06/25/15
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