Is Uber or Lyft cheaper?
The emergence of ride-hailing services has introduced a more economical (and convenient) method of vehicle travel, especially when compared to traditional options (like taxi services, and black-cars). The rideshare industry’s two most popular companies – Uber and Lyft – have been instrumental in facilitating the shift from regular taxi services to lower-cost ridebooking apps.
Because both companies offer different pricing models, many users have attempted to determine which service really offers a more economical option.
The short answer to this question is: Uber is a cheaper option that Lyft.
However – the long answer to this question is: it’s not that simple.
Both companies offer consumers different cost structures (and, at times, byzantine pricing rules) which cause substantial confusion amongst consumers, and prohibit easy answers to the question of ‘which service is cheaper?’.
Comparing Uber and Lyft Pricing in Real Time
Theoretically, when it comes to booking a ride, users can always open both apps at the same time and compare prices in real-time. There are also convenient price-estimation tools (like Alvia’s fare calculator) which can provide close estimates on the approximate cost of an Uber trip vs the price of a comparable Lyft trip.
Alvia’s Fare Calculator is a simple tool for comparing trip costs. To use the calculator, simply type in a starting point (and a final destination) and receive an accurate estimate of the cost of an Uber or Lyft ride. The tool can be beneficial for determining which service is more economical, especially if a rider is unsure about surge-pricing or high-demand hours in a particular city.
But – besides using a cost calculator – is there a way to tell which service is cheaper, overall?
For a full breakdown of how Uber and Lyft stack up in terms of cost, read on!
What Factors Influence Cost?
The factors that influence the cost of a ride with Uber or Lyft include:
- The time of day
- Current ride demand
- Type of vehicle/service chosen
- Start point and destination.
Uber and Lyft both charge a basic staring fee of $1 to $2 (plus a cost ranging from $1.50 to $2.50 per mile, and a cost per minute of $0.25 to $0.50).
Both company’s pricing schemes generally result in as much as a 45% price reduction versus the cost of taking a taxi. Rates fluctuate, however, and – in general – there appears to be a consensus amongst users that, between Uber and Lyft, Uber is ultimately the cheaper option.
One of the most significant factors influencing cost variation between Uber and Lyft is the ability to tip drivers. Lyft drivers often will go the extra mile by providing in-vehicle ‘perks’ (such as water, gum or mints), in order to increase revenues through tipping. Uber drivers do not have the same incentive (as tipping is permitted by the company, but not required).
Interestingly, those who choose to tip their driver when riding with Lyft will spend – on average – an extra 10% to 15% or more on their overall fare.
Regular Costs (Distance and Time)
Once all factors are considered, Uber does tend to come in a little cheaper than Lyft, and is often the slightly faster service (if only by 10-15 seconds or so, on average). Uber’s prices tend to be only about $0.01 – $0.09 a mile/minute cheaper than Lyft – which, in the larger scheme of things – is a somewhat negligible savings.
Of course, over time, any savings can add up – so it’s worth bearing in mind that Uber currently has the edge in price throughout the ride-booking industry (likely due to the company’s fleet size and market domination, which have allowed it to keep prices artificially low).
Surge Pricing and Prime Time
When demand is high, Uber raises prices. This practice was once referred to as ‘surge pricing‘, although the term has technically been discontinued since Uber’s institution of a program called ‘Upfront Fares‘. However, surge pricing lives on (at least in practice), due to Uber’s use of a dynamic pricing model, which takes into account real-time factors to project fares in advance. Some analysts contend that Upfront Pricing has actually made Uber’s prices even higher – and only given the appearance of eliminating ‘surge’ costs.
Similarly, Lyft also resorts to a surge-pricing model during periods of high-demand (technically called ‘Prime Time‘ pricing). Prime Time pricing can result in significantly large increases in the cost of a typical Lyft trip (sometimes exceeding the cost of a comparable taxi trip).
Situations that may result in exceedingly high price increases for both Uber and Lyft platforms include:
- Morning commute times
- Rush hour
- Late weekend nights
- Large gatherings, such as concerts or sporting events.
All of the above factors vastly increase demand for rides. During these times, it’s worth comparing all options to find the best possible price, or simply waiting 10-15 minutes for prices to normalize (*the average time it takes for surge pricing to come to a complete end).
A passenger’s ultimate destination is also (obviously) a prime factor in the overall pricing of a Lyft or Uber trip.
UberBLACK, for instance, charges a $65 flat rate from downtown San Francisco to the city’s airport. Conversely, Lyft eschews a flat rate for airport trips, charging only a regular trip rate, plus an additional cost of $3.85.
Comparing rates based on destination (especially specialized destinations, like airports) is important to ensure you get the cheapest-possible ride.
As the popularity of ride-booking continue to grow, costs will continue to vary (due to competitive pricing amongst providers). Nonetheless, it’s always best to take into consideration the range of factors that may influence the cost of your trip, in order to ensure optimal savings.