Rideshare (TNC) Showdown Uber vs Lyft

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by A.R. Bunch

A good question that, surprisingly, doesn’t get a lot of attention is, just which is better to drive for, Uber or Lyft. I have two years’ experience driving for Uber but haven’t actually driven for Lyft although I’ve tried to sign up for them. More on that later. This article in Insider Envy provides a more neutral look at the question and I’ll recap their findings here then provide my own experience.

Recap of Insider Envy article:

Sign up Bonus Lyft wins (Uber now varies market to market but not the $500 they used to offer)
Tipping Lyft edges out because they’ve been doing it longer
Earning Potential Uber keeps you busier and has more rider options (x, xl, SUV, etc.) which can mean you’d earn more, but in my experience it depends.
Public Image Lyft presents as Happy Hippy (which they aren’t) and Uber comes off like the evil empire.
Facts/Figures Lyft wins both driver satisfaction & hourly earnings (according to 2017 survey)

My Experience: Uber

I don’t think Uber deserves every ounce of its bad reputation. There’s a lot they could have done better, a lot of improvements they’ve made, and a lot more room to improve. However, Uber has a mechanism for improving how they operate and is becoming aware of their tragic flaw.

Uber’s tragic flaw, in my opinion, is a hyper-focus on their goals, which were to grow worldwide by using technology to exploit a void in transportation market they thought they alone saw, before anyone else saw it, and use that as a springboard to dominate autonomous driving vehicles from the birth of that market. To accomplish that goal they put different departments in charge of rider experience and driver experience and promised both the moon. Whenever there is a conflict between the needs of the rider and the needs of the driver, Uber chooses the rider. They didn’t seem to spend any time on contemplating corporate culture, brand perception, or win/win solutions. They knew they’d make enemies in every city they went to so they put on their thickest skin and took a damn-them-all-to-hell attitude to everyone’s problems. It served they well, ultimately.

Two Sides to Every Battle:

To be fair, the cities they sparred with weren’t lily white in their efforts to keep Uber out. They were often protecting a local taxi cartel who’d operated without competition for decades, or even their own mass transit systems that ran so inefficiently that people would pay twice the price to rideshare just to get where they needed to go in a timely manner. But the cities came out looking like they were looking out for their citizens’ safety when in fact they were delaying inevitable technology advancements that actually pull drunk drivers off the road, making it safer.

Since Uber was focused on winning they treated all press like good press and marched like Sherman to the Sea across America and the world. In my opinion, they saw themselves as resilient, while the public saw them uncaring. In the past not caring about something was often appropriate—like minding your own business. In today’s political climate, not caring is the darkest of evils.

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Mistakes vs Sins

Uber has heard the clarion call, however. Not just the CEO stepping down, etc. which we’ve covered (internal link), but recently they’ve been sewed by google’s Waymo over stolen secrets. While the lawsuit is not resolved, Alphabet has already awarded Lyft $500 million in venture capital which has to be connected to the suit.

In my opinion, Uber is a young company despite its size and making typical young company mistakes. They only become a problem if they don’t do anything about them, and they’re already working on them.

My Experience: Lyft

Lyft on the other hand. I’ve not had great experiences with. Nothing tragic and that’s probably telling. I tried to sign up with Lyft soon after I started driving for Uber. The app hung up and when I went to the local Lyft Hub they said I’d need an appointment. I couldn’t get an appointment because the app hung up before I got that far. I had a similar issue while on-boarding for Uber and when I dropped into the local green light hub they fixed it. I’ve gone in for several issues, as I said they aren’t perfect, and each time I’ve had a great experience. They know they have bugs and they created a way to address them. Lyft seemed surprised that something didn’t work and not interested in doing anything about it. Now, that’s just one person’s experience and may not be typical.

 

 

I did try to sign up again. It took a while to break through the previous hang up, but I finally got to go into the hub again and they treated me well. However, I had a hang up with my insurance card. I co-own my vehicle and the insurance card only listed the other driver. It took me three weeks to get my insurance company to mail me a card with my name on it and by then I’d decided to drive for Roadie, a package delivery company instead of adding another rideshare like Lyft.

Earnings:

My reason for giving up on Lyft is based on two factors around the topic of earnings. When I turn the Uber app on I don’t usually have a lot of downtime. I talk with a large number of other TNC drivers. Many who driver for both, and repeatedly I get the same comment. “I earn more per trip with Lyft, but they account for less than a third of all my rides. So my weekly earnings are bigger from Uber.”

Now, most of my contact is in the Portland, OR, market. I’m told that in Vegas everything is Lyft. I’m betting that Lyft does have a better toehold in some markets. It’s just not possible for Uber to dominate all the cities worldwide they’re trying to focus on. The recent hit to their reputation will probably shove them out of some cities, like London, and even if the city government doesn’t step in formally, it wouldn’t take too much for a local taxi company to launch their own app and keep the big players out.

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So at the end of the day, it’s pretty much impossible for me to recommend one rideshare giant over the other. Fortunately, you can easily audition them both for yourself. You’re going to need a lot of the same paperwork for either one so you may as well higher on for both at the same time. It’ll make for a busy week, but I’ve you’ve just lost you’ve got the time I’d race them against each other to see who starts you faster. Then I’d drive them each for a week and see who makes you more money and who treats you better. Then do us a big favor and respond to this article to share your experience.

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