uber vs lyft

[NOTE: The following is just a theory. I’ve tested in out in two different cities for about a dozen rides. I’ve also chatted with drivers from both companies to gain further insights.

If you are new to Uber or Lyft, you can start off your account with a $20 credit by signing up using these promo codes for UBER: derekw742ue & Lyft: DEREK410221.

I get a $20 credit as well… so we both win! You’ll want to sign up for both, I’ll explain why in this post]

If you want to drive for Lyft, use this link and we’ll both get $500 when you complete 50 rides in 30 days (totally doable): https://www.lyft.com/drivers/DEREK410221

What is Uber & Lyft

Quick background… Uber and Lyft are the two leading companies in the ride share economy. Basically drivers use their personal vehicles as a taxi service where people can order a car to pick them up using the respective apps and drop get dropped off at desired locations like airports, hotels, etc. It’s a great way for people to make extra money. In some cases, better money than their day jobs.

These two companies have troubles expanding into new markets because the local governments often have regulations over the taxi industry (for safety purposes). Their concern is that if anyone can call themselves a taxi, then the streets will be littered with Taxis and people will be getting into unsafe cars driven by drivers with sketchy backgrounds.

My town of Portland is one of those towns that heavily regulate.

While I was in Costa Rica (more on that trip in another post), Portland granted Uber & Lyft three months to prove they won’t crumble our city. It wasn’t until I went to a marketing conference in Denver that I actually had the opportunity to experience the two services. I actually don’t own a car anymore. Since moving downtown, I walk everywhere and insurance and parking ended up being more than some car payments. So I’ve relied on other methods to get around town.

— My Criteria in Selection of Service —


First off, the rates are not the same. For being competitive companies, you think they’d have the same pricing. Both companies practice something known as “surge pricing” or “prime time” in the case of Lyft. During peak times and occasions where drivers are readily available, both companies will charge 1.25-2x the base rate. I’ve found that when Uber is in surge pricing, Lyft wasn’t and the opposite held true as well. I’m sure in busier cities this isn’t the case.

Lesson learned, check the competing service if the other is in surge pricing mode. Generally Lyft seems to have the better base rates, even when “prime time” pricing is in effect.

Car Availability

Funny thing is that a lot of the drivers who work for Lyft, also work for Uber and vice versa. I found very few drivers are loyal to one particular company. Both apps do a good job at tell you how far away the nearest car is from being able to pick you up. One morning I was running late and this was the deciding factor between services. Even if I had to pay surge pricing it was nice to have alternatives.

Driver Friendliness

Safe, friendly drivers who can hold a conversation seem to be a hiring criteria so far. I have yet to encounter an unfriendly or creepy driver. Of course, I’m a 230lb man, so I doubt I’m going to get hit on like the many stories from women who’ve been harassed by drivers from both companies. BUT you know what? I’m sure Taxi services have creepy drivers too. Don’t let this be a factor.

[I jinxed myself. As I wrote this, I took a Lyft less than 4 miles and the driver missed his turn twice… TWICE, in Portland]

From my understanding there is a background check on the drivers and one Lyft driver told me about an intense safety inspection his car when it went through for Uber (did you catch that?). He actually had to fix a part on his car before Uber would let him drive where as Lyft wasn’t concerned about the issue.

Other Similarities

Both services are controlled through an app for your smartphone. There isn’t a dispatch that you can call like a taxi service. I would go as far as saying these companies are very similar, that they are almost interchangeable. However, I like to use them against each other to get the best rate & quickest pickup time. Hooray for competition!

Noticeable Differences

Aside from the clear branding differences (Uber is very tech startup oriented. It’s black, sleek, and sexy… Lyft is the home of the pink mustache rides). I couldn’t find too much different between the two companies aside from the fact that I really like the fare estimate on Uber. I use that to assume a similar price for Lyft when deciding on if I even take a ride-share car.

Also, if you’re a Spotify user, Uber allows you to connect services so you can listen to the music you prefer. Since I’m primarily a podcast and Pandora radio guy, this feature does me no good.

App Features

Uber has a great “fare estimate” feature that gives you a ballpark range on what it’ll cost for your trip. I couldn’t find that feature in Lyft, but would really like to see it. Overall, I think Uber has the superior app, but that doesn’t keep me from making it my go-to service. There are other factors…

Other Factors to Consider

If I find out someone is a driver for these services, I have a series of questions. I also asked my drivers during my trips some similar questions. The main finding is how much these drivers get paid. For Lyft, drivers receive 80% and if they rack up 30hrs of drive time in a week, they get 90%. On top of that, if they flat out live in their cars and drive more than 50hrs a week (active drive time), they keep 100% of what they earn.

Lyft also offers the rider the ability to tip the driver on top of the fare for transportation. Uber didn’t have this option. If you want to support people making a living (sometimes as side income), then Lyft seems like the service that treats the drivers better.

How I am Able to Get the Best Ride

I use the apps to compete with each other based on my criteria to get the best ride for the situation I’m facing. If I’m in a hurry, I find the service with the closest drivers. If you look closely, you’ll see that the cars on the map in each app are in the general same vicinity. I assume this is because the driver is currently running both apps in driver mode, looking for a waiting customer.

If Uber is in surge pricing and Lyft isn’t, I’ll choose Lyft. All things equal, I go with price. In most cases for me, that’s been Lyft. During my initial trips, it was which provider had an available promo code. Since I’ve started, I’m always in search of new ways to get credits. For now that seems me getting people to sign on using my promo codes.

Remember, UBER: derekw742ue & Lyft: DEREK410221 😉

Alternatives to Uber and Lyft

Sometimes neither ride share service will suit my needs.

CURB! – Curb is an interesting app that I’ve used once before Uber & Lyft were allowed. Curb is a service where you can order a traditionally regulated taxi service. Of course, I have a referral code for them as well. Use code: R76H92. I’m just baffled at how the taxi union is upset about Lyft & Uber when they’ve had the same technology available this whole time. Silly. Stay competitive or lose business, taxi companies!

Car2Go – I wish I had a promo code to share with you on this service as it’s been my go to way to get around Portland for the past couple of years. I like the ability of being able to pick up a car from within the service area and end my ride in another part of town (still within the service area). If I’m running a bunch of errands and need a car for an hour or two, Car2Go in Portland is only $14.99/hr (the cost of an average Uber/Lyft).

Public Transportation – The obvious answer… and in Portland, sometimes it’s the best. For $5 for the entire day, it’s a cheap investment in my town. The service is frequent and takes you everywhere! Even in places that other services can’t reach. The downside is well… it’s public transportation. Not always the cleanest or safest solution… and if it’s late at night, it’s often the slowest solution.

My Preference

lyftSo far, I’ve been leaning towards Lyft, especially when I’m too lazy (or drunk) to track down a Car2Go. For longer trips within my home radius, I prefer Car2Go. It’s still too early to make a final call, so I could be swayed. However, I’ve had the best luck for car availability and rates with Lyft (except for that one time I mentioned earlier).

As more, inexpensive options become available to get around town, I doubt if I’ll ever own a car again. Especially in any given month, I might spend $100 on transportation compared to hundreds of dollars on car payments, gas, insurance, and maintenance.


Do you have a favorite way to get around town?

Let me hear it in the comments!