Uber vs. Lyft: Some Musings

Ride-sharing isn’t all that new, but I’ve been running into people are not too familiar with it, have questions, or just want to know what the deal is. Ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft made news this week in Chicago, as taxi drivers spent the morning driving around downtown, refusing to pick people up. The protest stems from these new programs taking away business from cab companies.

How it works

For both Uber and Lyft, the premise is pretty much the same. You download the app on your smartphone (free), and set up your account. You’ll need to enter a credit or debit card. Then, you can request a ride. You simply put in your pick-up location, and are assigned a driver. You input your destination and the fare is charged to your credit card. As soon as your request your ride, you’ll see a picture of your driver as well as car model and license plate information.

How I got started and initial thoughts

Uber: When the train doesn’t cut it (I’m cold, hungry, lazy, or it’s late), a cab was once the only option. Then there was Uber. I had heard about it from various people but was late jumping on the Uber bandwagon. Finally, my boyfriend told me I should definitely get it. So, I downloaded it and got hooked.

Lyft: On a recent trip from my apartment to downtown, one of the drivers of my Uber vehicle also drove for Lyft. He gave me a card with some sort of promo code and told me to check it out. So, on my way back, I did just that. Downloaded Lyft to see what all the fuss was about.

After riding both services, I gathered some thoughts. Here’s the breakdown:

The app itself, Winner: Uber

I find the Uber app to run more smoothly than Lyft. You can see the path of the driver more clearly–i.e. you can tell exactly how far away he/she is, where the car is located, and how fast it will arrive to you. While both display time til arrival at the bottom, I’ve found Uber to be more accurate when it comes to this.

Drivers, Winner: Tie

During my experiences riding with Uber and Lyft, I could see no noticeable difference between drivers. They all range in age and background. All were nice. Of course, each driver is unique, but between the two services, there’s not much difference to note.

Surge pricing, Winner: Uber

During certain primetime hours when demand for a car is high, a higher price will get tacked onto your fee. You have to be wary of this when you ride. Both apps will warn you of the surge pricing before you accept the ride, but let me tell you why I like Uber’s system better. For Uber you will see the base rate, and be notified that surge pricing will be, for example 1.8x for the ride. You can then choose between accepting the higher fare, or selecting an option for the app to notify you when rates drop. Lyft has no such function. You simply have to keep trying. For Lyft, you’ll be told a percentage of the overall fare that will be added on. Uber wins this one for more clarity behind the price and also for notifying customers of rate changes.

Promotions, Winner: Lyft

When I signed up for Lyft, my account was credited with 10 free rides (Up to $20) for the following 8 days. Awesome! I thought. I used the heck out of that app for that week. However, oftentimes when I’d request a car, I’d be slammed with surge pricing. The $20 credit was helpful, but I couldn’t help noticing that more often than not, there would be surge-pricing on. Nevertheless, this is a pretty sweet promotion to start out.

Safety, Winner: Tie

Despite the horror stories we’ve heard about creepy drivers and assaults, I’m happy to say I haven’t encountered anything of that nature. Every driver I had was friendly. Either that or they didn’t talk much. Fine with me. But there are a few things you need to do common-sense wise to keep yourself out of trouble. They are pretty much the same rules you’d follow in any situation:

  • Be alert. If you are drunk, make sure you have a friend to help you or ride with you. If not, it’s probably best to stay where you are and sober up slightly before getting in a car with a stranger.
  • Always check the license plate on the car before you get in. For both Uber and Lyft, you’ll see the model of the car, a picture of the driver, and license plate information. Check the license plate to see if it matches. Then, what I like to do is ask for the person’s name before I get into the car, just to make sure they are who they say they are. Maybe this is me being paranoid, but I’d rather be safe than sorry.

Have you had negative or positive experiences with either Uber or Lyft? Share your stories or tips below.


  1. I would be VERY wary of Uber or Lyft or any other ride-sharing. Their background checks are poor, and if they charge you anywhere near what a “standard” taxi service does, with all that service’s overhead, you could very well be getting taken to the cleaners.

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