When planning a trip, I’ll obsess for longer than I should over which hotel to stay at or which airline to fly on. However, when I’m traveling, I try not to overcomplicate things. That’s why until now, I’ve never bothered to sign up for Lyft. I have an account with Uber and while their system causes me to worry about my user rating, I’m generally happy with the service I receive from drivers. Well, those who don’t try to overcharge me by going a different route or don’t even pick me up at all, anyway.
I’ve found that many drivers work with both Uber and Lyft so what’s the difference between the two? I didn’t want to have another app on my phone to worry about. Well, that was until I went on a work trip where I needed to use ride-sharing services to get from my hotel to my worksite every day. When I tried to add my corporate credit card with Uber, it wouldn’t work and since Uber’s solution was to “try another card,” I did something different. I signed up for Lyft.
I used the service for my work rides for two weeks, along with taking personal rides with them and with Uber. Here are my impressions of the two competing services for rides in the same area around the same time.
The experiences when using the two apps are very similar. You pick the type of service you want from a shared ride to a black car. Both Uber and Lyft have similar categories for their vehicles. Most of the time I was using a plain Lyft ride for just me or when a co-worker and I shared a ride back and forth to/from the hotel. We never had to wait more than 5 minutes for a driver to show up at our hotel or at work. Following the location of our car to our pick-up spot wasn’t perfect, but it isn’t with the Uber app either, so I’d say the two are equivalent.
Showing a picture of the driver, license plate of the car and an image of the car type and color is helpful when trying to find your ride.
In all, I’d say the experience of selecting your service and calling for a ride is the same between Lyft and Uber.
Uber does seem to have more “stuff” in their appm from the ability to call for help during a ride (helpful, but hopefully never needed) to ordering food from UberEats (not helpful). I’d say that the Lyft interface is a bit cleaner and while I like some of the features Uber has added, it’s getting a bit bloated.
Advantage – Tie
Drivers and Vehicles
I don’t want to generalize but some of the vehicles from Lyft were below the level that I’ve ever ridden with from Uber. One of the cars had a huge crack across the windshield and another one had the display screen in the car cracked like a cell phone, which I didn’t know was possible. We also had a car where I felt like the muffler was in the midst of falling off for the whole ride.
I also had issues when calling for Lyft XL rides. When hailing an Uber XL, a Chevy Suburban or similar sized vehicle showed up, suitable for sitting 4-5 adults along with the driver. When calling for a Lyft XL, we ended up riding in a small SUV, where the third row had the legroom of a tin can.
Most of the Lyft drivers were nice and even more personable than I’ve experienced with Uber. I loved the guy who I saw change the playlist on his phone when we got in the car. My co-worker loved the mix of Don’t Stand So Close To Me, In The Air Tonight, Total Eclipse of the Heart and the Ooga Chaka song (Note from Sharon: that’s Joespeak for Hooked On A Feeling) but I KNOW he put on the “Wonder Bread” playlist when he saw us. All it needed was “Every Rose Has Its Thorn” to make it complete. I’ve heard of drivers doing this before but it was my first experience of being profiled by my driver for my perceived musical taste. Not that I minded, that playlist rocked (in a middle-aged, white person kinda way).
We also had some Lyft drivers who just seemed a bit off. Maybe it was just that I was tired from a long day at work but they seemed to be borderline anti-social. I didn’t experience this with any of my Uber drivers but this could also be the luck of draw with who picked my rides.
In the end, the most important thing about the ride is the vehicle.
Advantage – Uber
I guess it would be too much to ask for me to use Lyft for two weeks without having a problem with a driver. Since I had an issue with rides on each platform, it’s easy for me to compare how easy or difficult it is to file a claim with each service.
I’ve shared my problem with Uber where a driver started a ride and stopped it a block later without ever picking me up. When it came to filing a complaint with Uber, there was no heading on the help page of the app to complain about how their driver screwed me.
I had to fill out an email to their support desk from which I received a reply after a few hours where they issued a refund for my ride.
When I had a problem with a driver on Lyft, it was much easier. First of all, when I noticed the issue, I gave the ride a poor rating. Almost immediately I received an email asking me what the problem was.
Instead of replying to that email, I decided to try and put a claim in through the app. The process was straightforward and although the automated help-bot wasn’t very helpful, I received a reply to my message in 30 minutes offering a full refund and letting me know they’d investigate the matter and that the driver was unlinked from my account so he couldn’t leave any comments about me, which was a nice touch.
Advantage – Lyft
Both Uber and Lyft have the ability to set up a business profile for your account. This is helpful for many reasons. You can easily keep your rides separate, making it easy to file reports for reimbursement. It’s even possible to have those ride receipts sent to a different email. The business profile also can have a dedicated payment option allowing you to keep any credits for your personal rides and not wasting them for work trips.
I’d love to tell you about the Uber business profile, but I wasn’t able to add my corporate card to it for payment so it was a no-go for me. The Lyft platform worked great for work trips. There was a toggle button when reserving rides to select between your work or personal profile. Lyft also has an offer where for every 5 business rides, you’ll receive a $5 credit off your next personal ride. Pretty sweet.
I was easily able to download a PDF of all my business rides to submit to corporate for my expense report.
Advantage – Lyft
Perks and Benefits
While Uber is rolling out an Uber Rewards loyalty program, I wasn’t invited to join it yet. Uber does have a straightforward referral program where new sign-ups receive $2 off each of their first 3 rides and you receive a $5 ride credit.
Lyft doesn’t have a loyalty program and their referral program is rather opaque, with neither the referrer or referee really knowing what either of them will receive until the use the referral link.
However, Lyft partners with both Delta Air Lines and Hilton Hotels and you are able to stack both offers on your account.
- 3 Hilton points per $1 spent on Lyft rides (2 points/dollar for shared rides)
- 1 Delta mile per $1 spent on Lyft rides (currently 2 miles/dollar for rides to/from airports)
Advantage – Lyft
While Lyft tries to market itself as being more affordable than Uber, I didn’t find that to be the case. When comparing the two services side by side, prices were very similar and Uber usually pricing $1-2 dollars more than Lyft. However, I found times when Lyft was much more expensive than Uber and vice versa. I even had a time when my taxi app was showing a price lower than both Uber and Lyft.
I guess it comes to if you see a price on one platform that looks higher than it should be, then it would pay to check the other one for comparison.
Advantage – Tie
After looking at both services, each of them has their strengths and weaknesses. Uber is the more “corporate” of the two. Their drivers and vehicles are more consistent and they seem to keep things at a higher standard. However, their app is bloated with ads and dealing with their customer service reps can be awkward and sometimes difficult. They also don’t give much back in the form of a loyalty program or partnerships (yet).
Lyft has positioned itself as a scrappy competitor. Their app is more streamlined which is good for ease of use but is missing some of the safety features that Uber provides. Lyft has better promotions with their business credits and points earning potential with both Delta and Hilton. Lyft also seems to have lower prices than Uber (but not always).
However, Lyft does seem to have looser standards for vehicles under their umbrella. Some vehicles qualify as XL which probably shouldn’t and other Lyft cars really could benefit from some TLC.
For my needs, I’m going to keep both apps on my phone. If I need a quick ride where I just need to get from A to B, I’ll check out Lyft first. If it’s a longer ride where I don’t want to risk getting a questionable car or driver or if I need to make sure an XL ride is really an XL, I’ll check out Uber and be willing to pay the few extra dollars. While dealing with Uber is a bit harder than Lyft if there’s a problem, I’ve always gotten a satisfactory resolution from both services.
In all, I guess I’m happy with both services while I think both of them have areas where they can improve. I hope that competing with each other will result in both of them improving however I’m just as scared that only having two major players in the area will cause them to just stay where they are and only try to slightly improve at the margins to pick off some business here and there.
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary