Angela Lang / CNET
The Uber and Lyft applications forthey have seemingly inscrutable ways of calculating how much gastars on each trip and, although convenient, their costs add up. When it comes to saving money with these applications, is one of them better than the other? The answer is yes, but not as you imagine.
Uber's pricing system, much less transparent, makes it harder to see how much it costs on certain routes compared to Lyft. And much of the final price determination is reduced to where you are at a certain date and time and how many Uber or Lyft drivers are nearby. This type of calculation makes it easier to understand which services will save you more money.
However, there are some good general rules that can help you get the best possible rate, especially if you are a frequent passenger. It is also useful to know how the services work, so that you can be well informed when you choose a vehicle. Next, we tell you everything you need to know about Lyft and Uber's ability to save you money. (If you want to see the result broken down, go directly to the end of this note).
How prices work in Uber and Lyft
Both Lyft and Uber break down travel costs according to base fare, distance, trip duration and a fixed service or reservation fee. Prices for both services may change depending on demand and traffic, which makes it difficult to determine which is cheaper and at what time. For example, if there are fewer drivers on the road during a congested schedule, either of the two applications can be more expensive, and charge up to 1.5 times the normal price during peak hours.
Our advice: Download both Uber and Lyft in your phone and compare their prices at the time you want to travel. It only takes a few extra seconds that can save you several dollars. The further you go, the more you can save by comparing them at the same time.
For example, Uber estimates that an 8-minute, 2.9-mile trip in Louisville, Kentucky (where I live), on a Thursday at 2 p.m., will cost a minimum of US $ 7.20. It is important to know that the minimum cost for any Uber trip is a flat rate per reservation that is added to each trip.
To do a field test of prices, I took an Uber to go to lunch and a Lyft to return to the office an hour and a half later. The traffic was equivalent and so was the duration of my trip. This is by no means a completely accurate comparison, but I wanted to see if there was a big difference in prices:
Uber versus Lyft: Field Test
|US $ 2.97|
US $ 2.92
|US $ 1.08|
US $ 1.30
|US $ 2.75|
US $ 2.75
|US $ 7.80|
US $ 7.97
For my trip, both the base rate of Lyft and that of Uber was US $ 1. Uber's cost per minute was 22 cents higher than Lyft's, but Lyft's cost per mile was five cents less than Uber's. Also, give both drivers a $ 2 tip. On any other day, these prices can be easily reversed depending on the demand of the users and the availability of drivers at a specific time and place.
The only concrete conclusion of this is that from the moment you call an Uber or a Lyft, you will be paying between US $ 7.50 and US $ 10, even if you only travel three blocks.
Shared trips will save you money, but there is an inconvenience
Both Uber and Lyft offer shared trips, which match you with another passenger with similar pick-up and destination locations. You can request a shared trip with a maximum of two people, and in essence you will be dividing the cost of the trip, but also based on complex algorithms that include the time of day and all the other factors that we already indicated.
In some cases, a shared trip costs half the price of a trip in a private car; on other occasions there is little difference between one and the other.
Tip: Smart travelers ask for shared trips when they're not in a hurry. If the driver does not pick up an additional passenger, you will have a solo trip for the price of a shared trip.
Shared trips can last longer, and the time can be increased if the driver picks up a passenger while you are on the road, especially on long trips. You also have no control over your arrival destination priority, so reserve enough time if, for example, you are heading to the airport.
For my field test, UberPool was not available when I went to lunch for the second time specifically to try these services for myself. Google Maps calculated that a trip from Union Square in San Francisco, California, to San Francisco International Airport will be approximately 12.7 miles and take 21 minutes on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m.
Although in theory a shared trip with Uber can be a little cheaper or less complicated, you should still compare both services simultaneously to choose which cost you less that day and at that time.
Tips: Uber gains flexibility
Both Uber and Lyft encourage delivering tips to drivers and suggest amounts in cash (for example, US $ 1, US $ 3) or a percentage (for example, 15 percent, 18 percent), depending on the final price of the trip.
But Uber gives you much more flexibility about the extra amount you want to pay. While Lyft only allows you to add tips in increments of whole dollars, Uber allows you to pay the amount you want, from a tip of a penny (which we do not recommend) to a specific figure such as US $ 5.15, or, more likely, US $ 5.50.
Uber also allows you to split the tip with another passenger. These concessions give you more control over your total spending, which means that you don't have to feel that you are leaving too much tip if for you the correct amount is somewhere in between two whole numbers (especially on short trips). Lyft alone allowed it too, but eliminated that option in 2018.
Both companies give drivers 100 percent of the tip, and allow you to add extra money up to 72 hours after completing the trip.
The moral of this story is that if you want more control over tips, Uber will save you the most money if you prefer to reward your driver in your own terms.
Subscriptions save you money if you travel often
Both Uber and Lyft have subscription plans for frequent travelers, but we recommend you read the fine print first.
With the Uber Ride Pass you save up to 15 percent on your trips
The Ride Pass subscription service for UberX and Uber Pool promises a "constant" saving of money on each trip, regardless of traffic, weather conditions or time of day. Uber says you can save up to 15 percent, but that figure may vary, and it is unclear if in most cases your savings range is 10 percent or closer to 15 percent. That is too unclear for our liking, especially since the Ride Pass costs US $ 25 per month.
One of its benefits, however, is that prices will not rise due to a traffic jam or an unexpected snowstorm, for example. If the trip costs $ 20 when you book it, that's what you pay, no matter what.
Price protection, as Uber calls this benefit, is already available to Uber Rewards members of the platinum level, but it only covers two routes, for example, your morning trip to work and homecoming. Instead, the Ride Pass protects the price of all trips for subscribers.
The Ride Pass also allows you a free 30-minute use of electric bicycles and Jump skateboards, if these are available in your city. That is a good additional advantage if you want to travel a short distance and do not want to bother to request a trip. However, Uber says it is a limited time offer, although it has not disclosed until it becomes available (the offer is still valid at the time of writing this note).
Lyft subscription plans make it very clear how much you save
Lyft has more subscription plans than Uber, which gives users more options if they don't request trips every day. The following table shows a comparison between Lyft plans. And you can find the full details below.
Monthly Lyft Plans
|$ 15 per month|
$ 299 per month
|10 percent discount on each trip, unlimitedly|
30 trips, up to US $ 8 discount per trip
30 trips, up to US $ 15 discount per trip
|$ 150 per month|
An average of US $ 6.30 per trip per month
An average of US $ 10 per trip per month
Smart Savings Plan (US $ 15 per month)
- This is the cheapest Lyft subscription plan if you are going to make less than 34 trips in a 30-day period.
All-Access Plan (basic level) (US $ 189)
All-Access Plan (premium level)(US $ 299)
Other Lyft plans
Lyft also offers a Commute plan and a Personal plan, which differ from the Smart Savings and All-Access plans. The Commute plan applies to the addresses you have saved as your home and workplace. The Personal plan applies to the designated collection and destination points at the time of ordering the trip.
According to Lyft information, any of these plans can cost you between US $ 2 and US $ 10 depending on the route you have determined. In addition, they are only available to selected users and only by invitation. We were unable to discover how a user qualifies for this plan or who sends the invitations.
The Uber Cash Rewards program can save you money in points
The free Uber membership rewards program awards you points for Uber Eats trips and orders, which add to your Uber Cash. Do not save money on your accounts as you will with the other programs, but you can recover part of your costs in other ways. Uber Cash also allows you to get a 5% discount on the money you add to your balance, and these funds have no expiration date.
You get different amounts of points with different Uber rates:
For every 500 points, you get $ 5 in Uber Cash and you can use two of those rewards at the same time. Other rewards include price protection, free category upgrades, free shipping on three Uber Eats orders and more.
Do not earn points for:
- Tips to drivers or delivery people.
- Payments for cancellation expenses.
- Portions of trips covered by a promotion.
- Portions of trips paid by another passenger through the shared fare system.
- Damage or cleaning expenses.
- Direct purchase of Uber Cash, credits or Ride Passes.
- Trips by taxi, bicycle and skateboards.
Gift cards and referrals
Lyft has digital gift cards that you can email to friends and family, for $ 10, $ 25, $ 50, $ 100 or a personalized amount. The company offers promotions that reduce your rate by a certain percentage, fixed discounts and ways to pay a flat rate on your trips. You can activate text alerts in your Notifications Preferences to be notified about these discounts and promotions. If you added your email address, Lyft will send you the promotions there too. The company also offers a free promotional code for new users.
In addition, Lyft partnered with World Elite from Mastercard. If you are the holder of that card, you can earn US $ 10 in monthly credits for five trips. The credits are valid for 30 days.
Frequent users can get the most out of subscriptions, while smart users can save a few dollars here and there if they use their referrals strategically.
Lyft: If a friend registers with your reference code, you will receive a credit of US $ 10. If you refer to a driver and he enrolls with your reference code, you will get $ 250 of credit after he has made 165 trips in his first 60 days.
Uber: When a friend registers with Uber using your referral code, you will get a US $ 5 discount on a trip. If you register and use a friend's invitation code, you will get $ 2 off your first three trips.
What service allows you to save more money?
If a comparison is made in terms of individual trips, it is likely that Uber and Lyft are on a par in most urban areas, and that real savings are often given on a case-by-case basis, based on factors that are outside your control It may also happen that, in certain areas, only one of these services is available, or none. Our best advice to save money on individual and shared trips is to compare the price in both applications a few minutes before requesting the service.
If you are a frequent user, Lyft subscription plans have the potential to save you more money, because you have more options and these are more flexible.
If you only travel with Uber, your subscription service remains the best option for those who use it daily. We also like the possibility of dividing rates with another passenger, and with Uber Cash, which returns part of your money, as long as you spend it on Uber. But without greater visibility on how much you actually save, it is difficult to make a recommendation for people who are open to using both services.