I’m Starting to Use Lyft More Than Uber. Here’s Why.

$50 in free ride credits from on-demand Uber competitor Lyft

I’ve been a huge fan of Uber since they began disrupting the taxi industry.

Seventeen years ago the most valuable thing Delta owned was shares in Priceline — the company liquidating unsold airline inventory was worth more than the carrier that actually had that inventory. Priceline is worth a ton, but was supposed to be able to revolutionize other industries too. The Priceline liquidation model, taking excess capacity and finding consumers through an opaque bidding model that wouldn’t cannibalize existing sales, was supposed to extend to everything from gas for your car to home mortgages. The vision didn’t extend as far as it was supposed to.

I love Uber but I’m skeptical that they’ll revolutionize several industries. Investors much smarter than I am clearly disagree. I think the business model of taking underutlized resources (downtime of cars, cabs) and connecting up those with consumers looking to pay for them is a brilliant one. It makes the economy more efficient, delivers value without substantial additional capital. This idea can be extended, of course, to other industries. And embedded in Uber’s valuation is that they’ll be able to expand beyond connecting passengers to cars.

But Uber’s market position, while greater than Lyft’s, isn’t really protected by significant barriers to entry.. though in becoming in many cases pro-regulation they’ve tried to impose costs on other services that might start.

I like competition and so I’ve been using Lyft more. And it’s seemed as though there are more cars where I’ve been, in Austin and in Northern Virginia, which has translated to shorter waits (though this is only a difference of a couple of minutes).

How easy it is to transition underscores just how tenuous a place Uber is in in the market, even as they lose money on every ride and make it up on volume.

Lyft gives out $50 in new rider credits, which is more than Uber’s been doing ($15 – $20). They’re burning investor money doing that of course, but if they can get to scale there’s no fundamental reason they can’t catch Uber. (Do investors still think scaling is more important than making money..?)

The service is very similar to Uber albeit not in as many markets. Here are Lyft’s cities, they’re growing in the US while Uber is growing worldwide.

Lyft has clearly grown up. They’re not all pink mustaches on the hoods of cars and fist bumps with the driver when you get in anymore. It is now totally fine to sit in the back seat of the car.

Several months ago in DC I simply could not get the Uber app to open on my phone, so Lyft was a lifesaver. I want to keep Uber under competitive pressure, so think it’s worth giving Lyft a shot.

I thought their GPS and directions might not be as accurate as Uber’s, since I’ve had a few issues with drivers finding me recently, but I opened my Uber app yesterday for the first time in a couple of weeks and had the same thing.

This is my referral code for $50 in new rider credits. Feel free to leave your referral code in the comments.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. You missed the most obvious benefit to Lyft – Lyft allows the passenger to add a tip via the app. Therefore,
    1) Lyft is better for the drivers than Uber
    2) Lyft passenger ratings are fairer because you don’t get drivers retaliating against you for not offering a cash tip

    In NYC, Uber drivers are starting to systematically downrate drivers for not handing over a few bucks for each UberX ride. This impacts passenger ratings, which impacts service. Lyft avoids this problem. I tip every time in Lyft but rarely tip cash in Ubers because I often don’t have small bills and feel like Uber should fix its tipping policy on its own.

  2. I use both a lot, but have also started using Lyft much more. First off, drivers just seem happier. May have to do with the comment posted above, but I have drivers tell me point blank they much prefer working for Lyft. But one other thing – at least in the San Francisco area, Uber has WAY WAY WAY more surge pricing than Lyft. I don’t really know this for sure, but I also suspect there is something dark and dirty going on with the way Uber surge prices. I find that Uber usually gets me “outbound” with no surge then imposes a huge surge request on my return. This happens so frequently, and at times when for that same return Lyft has NO surge, that I think it can’t be just coincidence. For example I took an expensive (even at non-surge) ride from Sf to Silicon Valley for a client dinner, then to return to SF Uber wanted 2.7x; Lyft had no surge. This happens to me ALL THE TIME. So I think Uber must know “this guy is trapped down in Silicon Valley and is going to have no choice but to use us to get home” and they pump up the surge. from some other bad rides and failed attempts for help from Uber froma customer service standpoint, Uber just seems dark, dirty, aggressive, a bad company overall in terms of how they treat people.

  3. Thanks for the update on Lyft, Gary.

    My Lyft referral code is REDCAT1 — Thanks in advance to those who use it!

    And while I’m at it, my Uber referral code is UBERRONNIEA

  4. I prefer Uber to lyft because the app/technology is so much better. Lyft you cant even get an ETA in the app without going through some hurdles (texting yourself the link to the online ETA??); however their tech has improved a lot in the last 6 months (no longer randomly crashes). However I have been using Lyft a lot more recently. Namely Uber surges often and Lyft rarely does, and Lyft is constantly offering promotions. I recently got 10x $5 off for getting 3 5-star reviews in a span of 3 months – Easy. Then the last 2 weeks in Chicago they have been running 50% off all rides from 9-5 on weekdays. This is huge. Lately I’ve also gotten some really shitty cars on UberX in Chicago. Lyft is generally clean and nice.

    I do not tip on Lyft though. Its nice they give the option and I will tip from time to time, but it should not be expected even though its built in.

  5. Here in Chicago, Lyft is a tiny bit more expensive than Uber ($0.22/mile vs. $0.20/mile – everything else is essentially the same) but here are reasons I like Lyft:

    a) App crashes far less often and is far faster than the Uber app
    b) Customer service used to suck but has improved a lot

    That being said, the whole tipping thing is complete crap. For all of those that tip, you are ruining it for everyone. Thank goodness Chicago drivers aren’t as rude as NYC drivers as seen by the comment above about downrating riders who don’t give cash tips on Uber rides. Who freaking needs cash anymore?

  6. @ Jordan — Yes, I believe uber is up to dirty tricks. I swear they read my airline reservations and impose a surge when it is time to leave home for the airport.

  7. A lot of drivers use both, and I have NEVER heard a driver say that they prefer Uber to Lyft.

    Lyft takes a smaller commission, has better support (for drivers and for passengers), and pays a tiny bit better on base rates than Uber–making up for that by surging less.

    Gary, you’ve rightly lambasted Uber’s terrible VIP program, but Lyft’s is actually not terrible. They have given me free baseball tickets, they do some happy hours, and they offer periodic discounts. I’m not sure which markets the program is in, but in south Florida, it is great.

  8. Should note that the $50 credit is 10 rides of $5 each and have to be used within 2 weeks.

  9. I live in Arlington, VA and, generally speaking, Lyft is way more reliable and available than Uber, which is a huge reversal from just a few months ago. That being said, I still use Uber, not out of specific preference for the brand or service, but because I can, in effect, get double Starpoints, since I use my SPG Amex to pay, and take advantage of the SPG-Uber partnership. I realize this will likely disappear in the coming months/years as Marriott takes over and eventually guts SPG, but in the meantime, it’s worth it.

  10. Who cares if Uber drivers downvote riders who don’t tip? The rider’s score doesn’t matter unless it’s truly horrible.

  11. Wow the article and comments are so poorly thought out that I can’t help myself.

    1. Gary: you’re using lyft more and here’s why. Why?? You never say why. To keep the heat on Uber? Good luck applying all that heat army of one.

    2. Anthony. Who cares about your score? Concerned it will be reported by the registrar to future grad schools are we?

    3. Anthony. There’s a reverse side to the joy of tipping. Every time I get into a Lyft I hear the drivers whole life story and their aspirations for their starving children. The tip line completely changes the conversation and turns the whole ride into a sales call.

    4. Jordan I swear there’s a conspiracy. Sometimes when I commute to work on Uber it’s like they KNOW and then rush hour pricing is expensive on the way back.

    5. Preston. Embedded in what you’re saying is that lyft is about 10% more expensive than Uber. They don’t lead on price. Somehow this strikes me as not a good thing.

  12. Thanks Gary. I just used your link to get Lyft. Seeing how Uber is squeezing the $$ from the drivers, I think I’ll give Lyft some business to give Uber a run for their money.

  13. Sorry Gary, but the only reason you give for using Lyft is that one time time your uber app didn’t work.

    Sounds to me like the only reason you are using Lyft now is because you are hawking the $50 credit.

    This is why you get criticized man.

  14. Competition is good, all you smartasses.

    That is a good enough reason to use lyft.

    And once in a while taxis too.

  15. I’ve used both Uber and Lyft in Silicon Valley. When I first tried Lyft, I preferred them, but then I found that Lyft consistently underestimates how long it will take for the driver to arrive (the app always starts out estimating 3 minutes, when in reality it usually takes 6-8 minutes or longer for the driver to arrive). For that reason I now prefer Uber.

    Has anyone else seen this issue with Lyft?

  16. The less obvious but substantially more important reason to favor Lyft is that they insure their drivers from the moment you enter the car.

    Uber drivers are on their own, and many (most?) don’t bother with commercial insurance because it’s expensive. That means that in an accident the driver’s claim could be denied, and you’d have to rely on your own insurance.

  17. Glad to see you highlighting Lyft, Gary. I’m using Lyft over Uber whenever possible. I always ask drivers for either company which one they prefer, and the answers are very consistent with what preston posted:

    “A lot of drivers use both, and I have NEVER heard a driver say that they prefer Uber to Lyft.”

    “Lyft takes a smaller commission, has better support (for drivers and for passengers), and pays a tiny bit better on base rates than Uber–making up for that by surging less.”

    I’d add that some drivers are a lot more acerbic than preston was in describing their experience working with Uber.

    Uber just seems like a generally sleazy company in many of the ways it operates.
    As a former taxi driver and bartender, I appreciate Lyft making it easier to add tips.
    Finally, competition is indeed a very good thing.

  18. It looks to me like their GPS is terrible if you’re trying to get around DC and it sends you out to Interstate 35. 🙁

  19. I will add that while we were in Hawaii, we took Uber to a fairly remote national park. At closing time, NO Ubers were in the area. The app just said, ‘sorry’. We tried Lyft and a driver came from 30 minutes away for us. He drives for both Uber and Lyft. He told us that Uber does not put out the call to ALL drivers; just the ones within a certain radius of the request. Lyft puts the call out to everyone and lets it be the driver’s choice how far he wants to drive to pick up the request. Were that not the case, we would STILL be in the closed park!

  20. I tried to use lyft once and couldn’t find a way to estimate the cost without it calling for a driver – user error or has this been changed yet?

  21. We use Lyft whenever possible. We used Uber in Paris only because Lyft has no presence there.

    A friend drives for both Lyft and Uber because he gets more business from Uber, but he strongly prefers Lyft for the reasons noted by earlier commenters.

    The hyperlibertarian corporate attitude of Uber turns us off, and their threat to sling mud at a journalist critical of their operation also discourages us from using their service. See http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2014/nov/18/uber-exec-apologises-emil-michael-journalist-sarah-lacy

  22. Used Lyft 3 times. Got the most annoying drivers I ever got. They all complained about Uber during the trip and that Uber app does not allow users to add a tip. All rides where from my local airport to my house. All rides where more expensive than what I always paid on Uber. NO THANK YOU!!!!! The only reason I use Uber or Lyft is for the convenience and cash free transaction. If I have to touch my wallet or give a tip I call a regular taxi.

  23. @Red. Interstate 35? Not in DC
    @Gary, the credit $50 for signing up with you is divided up to 10 rides at $5 and it has to be used by 4/17/2016? 10 rides in 2 weeks? That’s disappointing at least 3 months would have been nice.

  24. I disagree — Lyft has not grown up and they’re still all about their ridiculously stupid pink mustaches and fist bumps. Maybe they’re “growing up,” but they have a long way to go and their entire marketing approach shows it. Every Tweet is about how some juvenile passenger loved the song the driver was blasting. Not my style. I prefer warm professionalism to this over-the-top familiarity.

  25. Gary,

    I tend to still use Uber as a default for the SPG points, and also UberPool; I know Lyft has LyftLine as well.

    I do tend to use Lyft more for trips in and out of BOS, they charge a substantially lower airport fee and drivers seem to be more willing to pick me up at a location I designate such as the departure level.

    I’m also frustrated because I’ve taken well over 500 rides, maybe 1,000, with each, and they don’t offer an elite level program like an airline or hotel. Uber comes closest in BOS where they offer “business class,” a highly rated UberX driver if you sign up for a business account. Its interesting that these companys don’t seem to do much to incentivize more and more rides from their customers.

    I can think of the following elite benefits:
    1. Full or partial exemption from surge or Prime Time, or some type of annual allowance exemption based on the elite status;
    2. Priority for rides in busy markets kind of like priority standby on an airline; also priority for better drivers in the algorithm;
    3. Discount or free rides based on volume of business in a month, year, etc;
    4. More empowered customer service and an ability to influence future enhancements;
    5. Partnership events or coupons with restaurants, etc;
    6. A higher value referral promo code for elite members;

  26. @Anthony
    The passenger rating is a nifty gimmick and fun to look at, but unless you have a 1 or 2 star rating, I don’t think it makes any difference at all in your user experience with the services. If you were to have a 1 or 2 star rating for some serious incidents the service might fire you as a customer; but other than that its fun but I don’t think materially important.

    I don’t think a driver is going to cancel your trip because say you have a 3.5 instead of a 4.5 rating.

    Has anyone read or come to know any information that suggests the passenger rating is factored in except for the most extreme cases

  27. Lyft acts like it believes in its mission of getting cars off the road, not just disrupting taxis and making money. Lyft Line (Uber Pool) was their idea and now they’ve doing more to encourage car pooling. Helping them compete encourages these innovations.

  28. I agree that the existence of two strong competitors in this space is good for society as a whole. I’ll keep using Uber for its lower prices and less tip-begging. But as long as someone is using Lyft we are good to go as a society. So thanks Gary. Thanks a lot.

  29. Also Gary can you keep renting from Advantage car rental and staying at Omni hotels? And flying Silver Airways? More competition is better. In every marketplace. Also, next time skip Taco Bell and go to Taco Cabana. Make sure your swipe your Discover card.

  30. Having been using the both vendors. I feel there is some dark side of uber when it comes to price surging. I believe, though I can’t prove it, based on my experience, when you enter your destination and get a fare estimate, somehow Uber knows what you will be using its service. If you just get an estimate and decide to call uber later (maybe 10-15 mins later), Uber always (or almost always) surged the price. I feel like there is some kind of algorithm that collect your data. I feel they are dishonest and not transparent about this and I absolutely hate it.

    In contrast, Lyft is always more transparent. It rarely gives me a surge charge. Sometime it is more expensive, however, I do appreciate a company who run their business honestly and fairly for the consumers. That is the reason I choose Lyft over Uber. I think this is where my loyalty comes from.

  31. Gary Leff, the Most Interesting Thought Leader in the World:

    “I don’t always take rideshare, but when I do, I take Lyft because they are smaller and I believe in maintaining duopolies at all costs.”

  32. I think the best part of this whole thing is watching stvr lose his shit in the comments. 10/10 would check back for followup comments

  33. My girlfriend tried Lyft multiple times and it was really a mess with drivers taking the fare and then cancelling, long waits, totally hammered other passengers, etc. Was a real step down from Uber and she refuses to use Lyft after her trial was done.

  34. Ok, I will be different. I drove for both Lyft and Uber also used both as a rider. I eventually quit driving for Lyft. As a rider, I stopped using Lyft unless there is no Uber available. In my experience, Lyft support was terrible from a driver standpoint and a customer standpoint. Uber has always given me much better support as a driver and a rider.

    Tips, you say? Uber’s model is built around no cash tips. As a rider, I carry a 5-star rating so I am pretty sure no Uber drivers have been downgrading me based on tips.

  35. I am an Uberx driver and yes I take the customer rating into account before accepting the trip! I find that with lower ratings the better chance that the rider cancelled the call before I get there leaving me headed into a direction I don’t want to be

  36. So in short, you use Lyft more because you have a free $50 with them and they happen to be more present/popular in your area. Hope you got some referrals…

  37. no, stvr, I’m actually arguing that Lyft is effectively cheaper because they surge far less.

    if the base rate of Uber is 10% less than Lyft, but Uber is virtually always surging 1.4x+ and Lyft is virtually never surging, the math says that Lyft is cheaper.

    Gary, would be interested in you doing a post on Lyft Nation. I was invited and a member last summer, but it seems it was either a trial or I got booted. Were you ever invited? It was pretty great while it lasted–a bunch of discounts and event invites. Post-August, I never heard anything about it again.

  38. I like uber over lyft because I gain starpoints by having my SPG AMEX linked 🙂

  39. I have used UBER extensively in Las Vegas and have NEVER seen a surge in price. UBER also lets me tip using the app, so I don’t know why some people here have said you cannot??? I haven’t yet used LYFT or GRAB but have the apps on my phone so will definitely use them in the future.

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