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Ride sharing showdown: Should you grab an Uber, or hail a Lyft?

The ridesharing revolution began harmlessly enough. Uber used the burgeoning app market to launch an on-demand vehicle service that soon grew into a multi-billion-dollar game-changer. Lyft wasn’t far behind, launching its own flavor of ridesharing in its home market of San Francisco soon afterward.

While there are other ride-hailing apps such as Sidecar and Hail-o, Uber and Lyft command the greatest chunk of the market. Ridesharing has become so popular that several major automakers are either partnering with Uber and Lyft, or preparing their own competing services. This buy-in by major manufacturers highlights the current shift in consumer transportation. Instead of a corporate car, many companies in urban areas now offer credits with various ridesharing services. People have begun commuting, shopping, and hitting the gym in an Uber or Lyft. Personal vehicles are reserved for weekend expeditions.

There are still some holdouts. Those without smartphones — a percentage of the population that shrinks each year — call for cabs. Those who prefer the privacy of their own car won’t commute with a stranger. Those with access to good public transportation won’t sit in traffic. These are the exceptions, however, not the rule.

The big question for most, then, is not whether they should use a ridesharing service, but rather which one to go with. While Uber and Lyft have grown closer to the mean since their inceptions, they still operate with unique business philosophies and interfaces. In this article, we’ll compare the two so you can ride smarter.

Booking a ride

Both Uber and Lyft rely heavily on location-based data, which means you’ll need a good internet connection, either through Wi-Fi or your cellular service. Once the app loads, it will drop a pin on your current location. If the pin is off the mark, you can adjust its position to get an accurate starting point. If you want to be picked up from a different spot, simply enter that address in the text box.

The next step is to enter your destination. Like Google Maps, both Uber and Lyft can work with street addresses or points of interest. Once you’ve input your destination, the apps will estimate your ride cost based on the service you choose, the time of day, and how far you’re going. Both Uber and Lyft will also give you an estimate of how long it will take for your driver to arrive at the designated pickup spot.

At this point, Lyft offers you two unique options. The first is to choose a waypoint along your route. This is useful if you need to drop someone off, pick someone up, or to grab something at home before continuing to your destination. The second option is to schedule a pickup for a later time. Uber’s differentiator is an estimate of your arrival time before you ever hit “go.” Lyft won’t give you an ETA until you request your ride.

After you request a pickup, both Uber and Lyft show a real-time visual of your driver’s progress to your location.

Winner: Lyft (for its waypoint options)

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