Ride-share apps have become the norm for rides to and from the airport, home from a party or most anywhere else. But with so many new and existing ride-share apps and services available -- and with each operating a little differently from the next -- you might be wondering which are the best ride-share apps for you and your budget.
More accurately known as ride-hailing apps, the most famous of these by far is Uber, but there are countless competitors in the ride-share category that operate in the same or similar manner. The idea: Open an app, designate your pickup location, and summon a driver who will drive you to your destination. Think of it as the 21st-century, smartphone-enabled successor to the taxi. Beyond accessibility (you can generally find a Lyft or Uber in places taxis aren't), ride-share apps are lauded for other conveniences like the ease of payment (there is generally no physical transaction, since companies keep your credit card number on file), transparency (you are told approximately when the car will arrive), and even safety and accountability since your ride is usually tracked via the app.
The on-demand services that ride-share companies offer play a specific role in the new mobility landscape. They're different from, say, car-sharing services, where you rent out a car to drive for yourself for a short period (think Zipcar or Car2Go), and they're also distinct from car subscription services, where you sign up for a flexible type of car leasing. These ride-share services are specifically designed around having somebody else do the driving for you.
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Ride-share apps might not be the most economical choice but with new and evolving pricing structures trying to capture every type of commuter, there might be one that best suits your travel habits be it part-time or on more regular basis. Most apps can be downloaded to either Android or iOS smartphones. Here's our guide to what you need to know about the major players in the space so you might find the best ride sharing app or ride-hailing service in 2019.
Without question, the best-known -- and, owing to several high-profile scandals, perhaps the most infamous -- ride sharing app, Uber started operations in 2010. As of October 2018, the company says it has provided 5 billion trips worldwide, with Uber operating in more than 600 cities in over 65 countries; 15 million Uber trips are claimed to be completed each day. In addition to having the most users, Uber also has by far the most contracted drivers and largest coverage area including many international cities, meaning this may still be the best ride-share app for a frequent traveler.
Uber allows users to select a destination on the Uber smartphone app and request a ride; nearby drivers can then choose to come and pick up the user. Uber also allows for scheduling a ride in advance, or for saving costs by carpooling with others by choosing the Uberpool option. Uber has dynamic or "surge-pricing" which means the fare can rise (significantly) when a lot of people are using Uber -- e.g., during rush hour or inclement weather. One recent addition to the app is Ride Pass, which for .99 a month guarantees you will receive low fares even in periods of high demand.
Uber is also pursuing multiple other avenues of business growth. The company was testing self-driving vehicles, but stopped after an autonomous prototype was involved in a fatal crash. The company is also rolling out electric scooters and previously acquired the Jump bike-sharing service, believing those modes of transport will make more sense for short journeys. Long-term, Uber has even hinted it wants to develop flying cars.
Lyft is perhaps the second best-known ride-share app after Uber here in the US. It started in 2012 and, as of September 2018, said users had completed 1 billion Lyft rides, with 10 million rides every week. Lyft is available in all 50 US states as well as 9 cities in Canada. Much like Uber, Lyft users use a smartphone mobile app to pick their destination and request a ride from a driver. Riders can also save money by splitting rides with others headed in the same general direction; the company calls this Shared Rides.
Lyft has trialed some different pricing strategies. For instance, the ride-share app recently offered a 30-day ride subscription plan that costs 9 per month and has tried out promotions to encourage users to stop using their personal cars in favor of the ride-share service. The company also has a new deal with AAA that would give members free rides to and from car-repair facilities.
Generally seen as having had fewer public guffaws and problematic business practices many see Lyft as a viable alternative to Uber that better aligns with their values. Like Uber, Lyft has been exploring other mobility avenues: electric scooters, bike-sharing and even self-driving vehicles.
Read more: How to save money with Uber and Lyft
Waze began as a crowd-sourced navigation app and alternative to Google or Apple Maps, but it's now offering a ride-sharing feature called Waze CarPool. Drivers can opt to search for and pick up other people who might be taking a similar journey. Drivers can set a price for the ride, while prospective riders can search for people with whom they might want to commute. Waze doesn't appear to intend (at least for now) this to become a full-time, gig-economy type app, as drivers can only drive two carpools each day. Instead, the goal appears to be helping reduce traffic during busy commuting periods. The carpool service is currently offered nationwide in the US, Brazil, Mexico and Israel. Waze CarPool appears to be the most environmentally friendly of the ride-share apps.
Curb Mobility was formed in early 2018 after splitting from a prior parent company. It aims to provide services for taxi drivers and fleets, while offering the Curb Rider App for users to hail a taxi from their smartphone -- just like Flywheel. It's available in cities all over the country and allows riders to schedule a trip up to 24 hours ahead of time. Curb says one of its benefits over rival apps is that riders know they'll be driven by licensed taxi drivers, rather than gig-economy workers who drive for ride-share services. So if yellow cabs and taxis give you more peace of mind but you covet the convenience of traditional ride-hailing apps, this hybrid of the two might be the best ride-share app to use.
Ride-share startups Gett and Juno joined together to form one service, which currently operates in New York City in the US. (Gett has some operations in other countries.) Juno promises it gives its drivers a higher commission than some rival apps and that it only accepts drivers who have a high rating from working for another ride-hailing service.
Gett is an Israeli ride-share app company available in New York City through its partner Juno. Though its service area is limited, Gett offers cheaper NYC ride-share fares by paying drivers an hourly wage versus a percentage of each fare. The company has a major international presence especially in London where many city taxis use the interface and has plans to expand to other cities in the future.
Via is another ride-hailing app that, like most competitors, allows for passengers to request a ride from a smartphone app. Interestingly, it will also allow some commuters to pay for their journeys via various "commuter benefit" schemes. Currently, the five-year-old service works only in New York, Chicago and Washington, DC. Via also offers ViaPass (NYC only) which for between 9-9 a month allows (mostly) unlimited rides within Manhattan. So depending on your travel habits this could be the best ride-share app for the New Yorker who hails a ride more than once a day.
Arro is another app allowing people to call a taxi through its app. If you hailed a cab manually (in New York and London only) and the taxi supports it, you can also still pay electronically through the app later. Currently, Arro operates in Boston, Chicago, Houston, Miami, New York, San Francisco and London.
As its name suggest, RideAustin is a ride-hailing app unique to the greater Austin, Texas metro area. A nonprofit, the service launched in June 2016 after Uber and Lyft both pulled out of the Austin area; the companies complained that Austin laws required ride-share drivers be fingerprinted as part of a background check. After state law changed in 2017, both companies returned to Austin, but RideAustin continues to operate.
RideAustin works mostly like Uber, Lyft and other ride-sharing apps. Smartphone users can request a ride via the RideAustin smartphone app, though it doesn't support carpooling or scheduling rides in advance. The app also has a Female Driver Mode that allows women to request only female drivers. A Round Up feature allows riders to "round up" their fare to the next dollar amount, with the extra change donated to local Austin-area charities.
BMW's ReachNow service is primarily focused on car-sharing, but it does have limited ride-hailing options in Seattle, Washington. (BMW claims it's the only service letting you choose to ride or drive from one app.) As the name suggests, your ride will always be in a BMW vehicle, and ReachNow promises you can use its app to preselect the radio station and climate-control temperature in the car. There's also no surge pricing and you can schedule a ride up to seven days ahead of time.
Safr is a ride-sharing app aimed only at women riders and drivers. The service uses extensive background checks to bolster safety and also says it pays its drivers more than some other ride-share apps, noting that female ride-share drivers tend to earn a third less than men when driving for other services. The service is currently available only in Boston, but Safr says on its website, "we will continue to launch in new cities as soon as we can." The brand is hoping to be the best ride-share app when it comes to safety for women.
HopSkipDrive is ride sharing for kids. Parents can order and schedule rides for children aged 6 and older using the smartphone app. For safety, the company says it fingerprints and certifies its drivers, additionally requiring that they have at least five years of child-care experience. Kids also get a "code word" to confirm the person picking them up is the right driver, and parents can use tracking apps to monitor the ride online remotely. Parents can also coordinate a carpool through the app with other parents.
Based in San Francisco, Wingz is a newer ride-hailing app that currently serves 16 metro areas and 22 airports in the US; you can find the full list of regions on the company's website. Though in general similar to the likes of Uber and Lyft, Wingz does offer a few unique features. Riders can book a trip up to two months ahead of time, there's no surge pricing during busy periods, and riders can request a specific driver with whom they've got a good relationship.
Flywheel takes a slightly different approach to ride-hailing. Rather than enlisting its own fleet of drivers, Flywheel instead allows smartphone users to hail a traditional taxi cab -- and pay for it -- all through the company's app. As with many other services, users can also schedule a ride ahead of time.
Originally published last year.B:
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