Uber vs. Lyft: Which ridesharing app goes the distance?

You’re starting on page 2 of this, click here to start at the beginning.

How drivers are treated

We’ve touched on some of the driver experience as it pertains to tipping and rider interaction, but what else do drivers consider before picking a platform?

The driver experience starts with the application process. Uber and Lyft approach hiring very differently. Uber gives drivers a number of hoops to jump through upfront, and then stays out of a driver’s business except to request updated insurance or to settle a dispute. Lyft, however, “mentors” new drivers by pairing applicants with a veteran driver. Mandatory sessions with an experienced driver take each applicant through the complete hiring process, which is great — if you don’t mind setting aside the additional time.

lyft takes on uber in toronto 3

Once your car has been inspected, your insurance and registration approved, and your background checked, Uber and Lyft send you logos to display in your vehicle. These icons must be visible at all times when you’re on the clock. In some areas, like airports, failure to display your driver icon can result in a steep fine. Lyft distinguishes itself by sending drivers a welcome packet that includes a smartphone mount for his or her vehicle.

Drivers choosing between Uber and Lyft will likely factor in ease of onboarding and company culture, but the deciding factor is almost always income. Though many drivers may prefer Lyft’s interface, customer base, and support, Uber’s larger user base means the downtime between ride requests on Uber is often shorter than on Lyft.

If you drive in a densely populated area, the rates may be more important than downtime between rides. Lyft drivers who applied before the first of January 2016 take home 80 percent of the total fare (minus the service fee). Any Lyft drivers who applied after this date get the same rate as Uber: 75 percent of the total fare (minus the service fee), regardless of when they started. Neither app takes a penny from in-app tips. This means veteran Lyft drivers in Lyft-friendly areas stand to make a fair amount more than their Uber counterparts.

Winner: Lyft

Where can you find a ride?

Lyft has chalked up several category wins so far, but Uber is returning fire with its massive coverage area. First and foremost, Lyft operates in the United States and Ontario, Canada, while Uber extends to major cities in Canada, Mexico, Central America, South America, Europe, the Middle East, Africa, and Asia Pacific. Basically, if you want to grab a ride while abroad, your only option (between these two apps) is likely Uber.

1272266 autosave v1 uber 3  1

Within the U.S., the coverage maps are fairly similar. Uber is available in all 50 states, reaching over 250 total cities.

Lyft is currently available in more than 300 cities across all 50 states, as well as Washington, D.C.

If it’s a global battle, Lyft has a lot of catching up to do, but here in the U.S., Lyft is giving Uber a run for its money.

Winner: Uber

Which app is less controversial?

When disrupting an industry, you’re bound to break a few eggs, but Uber — and to a lesser degree, Lyft — has built a long rap sheet of major controversies. We’ll start with the issues that plague both Uber and Lyft.

The very concept of a peer-to-peer transportation service completely undermines the taxicab industry, which has led licensed taxi drivers to protest every ridesharing app. Uber and Lyft’s safety standards, background checks, underregulated procedures, and insurance have come under the most fire.

Surge and Prime Time pricing have upset taxi drivers and app users alike, with the potential for a $20 ride turning into one that costs hundreds of dollars. Massive increases in normal fares aren’t the worst of it, though. During emergency situations such as Hurricane Sandy and a bombing in New York, Uber was slapping Surge rates on people who were attempting to flee dangerous situations (at least briefly). Lyft isn’t immune to PR trouble, either. Though the app capped Prime Time increases at 200 percent, the company lifted the ceiling in 2016, upsetting many users.

uber request ride for loved one 1

Apart from these broader points of contention, Uber takes the cake for controversy. Here are just some of the headline-grabbing moments in the app’s history:

Since the app launched in 2009, Uber has skirted the issue of employee benefits by considering its drivers “contractors,” but that line in the sand has led to dozens of lawsuits by drivers who claim they are entitled to traditional benefits. In the United Kingdom, a court ruled drivers are in fact employees, but the jury is still out elsewhere.

There have been several accusations by Uber passengers of attacks by drivers over the years. Two independent lawsuits have been filed by women who say they were sexually assaulted by Uber drivers: A woman in Los Angeles accused her driver of kidnapping her, and one San Francisco Uber driver allegedly smashed his passenger’s head with a hammer. The public and government have cited these instances and others during calls for improved driver background checks. Uber has been forced to pay millions for misleading safety fees and marketing related to its “gold standard” of background checks. While Uber does require driver names and Social Security numbers, it doesn’t use fingerprinting, which would reveal when a driver has been charged with a crime.

Both Uber and Lyft have announced their decisions to end a controversial policy regarding sexual assault, in which users were required to resolve such cases through arbitration, rather than through the criminal justice system.

Uber has drawn ire for operating at JFK International Airport during the taxi strike of Trump’s Immigration ban, absorbing self-driving vehicle service, Otto — whose founder has been accused by Google of trade secret theft — and for Uber CEO Travis Kalanick’s dashcam-recorded argument with a driver.

While hitching a private ride anytime, anywhere may be convenient, it does contribute to one of the greatest ecological problems of our time: Greenhouse gas emissions. Lyft accounted for over 375 million rides in 2017 alone, while Uber — which operates in numerous countries around the world — reached 4 billion rides. And while the age of Teslas may soon be upon us, transportation is still a massive source of pollution: A 2016 EPA report labeled the transportation sector as the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions.

In April, Lyft launched a program to offset its carbon emissions, purchasing carbon credits to balance out every ton of carbon the company’s rides emit. It’s important to note that carbon credits are a controversial solution to climate change; after all, Lyft’s operations will still be putting gases into the atmosphere, the company will merely be paying to keep other carbon grounded.

Still, it’s something. If you’re concerned about environmental issues, you may want to opt for Lyft, as Uber has yet to announce a similar program.

Winner: Lyft

Overall winner: Lyft

The executive summary of this comparison is that Uber and Lyft offer nearly the same service. Both provide convenient, inexpensive transportation in most major areas, and either option is more than sufficient for day-to-day commuting. But while Uber and Lyft are more like apples and pears than apples and oranges, there are enough differences for us to declare a clear winner.

Yes, coverage areas and diversity of service are in Uber’s favor, but for the rest of the spread — booking, passenger experience, driver experience, and company controversy — Lyft is our pick. If none of those issues are contributing factors for you, let’s get down to brass tax: Lyft is generally the cheaper option. Not only is Lyft’s minimum charge lower, its heat maps are usually smaller as well, meaning your ride will be easier on your wallet during peak hours.

To its credit, though, Uber has invested heavily in innovative technology to make the riding experience simpler. Specifically, the app is testing self-driving vehicle fleets and hopes to have driverless rides available to the public in mere months. Lyft is of a similar mind but has yet to invest on the same scale. The future for ridesharing drivers looks grim, but riders may be in for the safest, smoothest experiences yet.

Product Review

Mercedes-Benz updates the timeless G-wagen for the modern world

For decades, the G-Class has been an outlier in the Mercedes-Benz portfolio, a body-on-frame brute with the soul – and driving manners – of an off-road pickup. With the all-new G550, Mercedes seeks to smooth out some of the rough edges.

Samsung Galaxy S10 vs. Galaxy S9: How much better is Samsung’s new flagship?

You'd naturally expect the Samsung Galaxy S10 to be better than last year's S9, but just how do the two phones differ? We break down the specs and compare Samsung's flagships in various categories to pick a winner.
Movies & TV

Here’s how to watch the 2019 Oscars livestream online

The 91st Academy Awards will air live on ABC, but there are also a number of ways to watch Hollywood's biggest night online using your mobile device, desktop, or set-top streamer. Here's how to catch the Oscars livestream.

Here’s everything we know about the zombie-infested, survival horror Days Gone

Days Gone, the first PS4 title from Sony's Bend Studio, looks to offer a different type of zombie game. Here's everything we know about the forthcoming title, from the setting to its gameplay.
Home Theater

Throw away those EarPods -- we dug up the best headphones in every style

Trolling the internet for hours to find headphones is no way to live. Instead, leverage our expertise and experience to find the best headphones for you. Here are our 10 favorites.

2019 RAM 1500 Classic Warlock special edition: Badass style without the whoop

If you like the looks of blacked-out badass trucks without the cost of a desert racer, FCA announced the 2019 Ram 1500 Classic Warlock, a special edition pickup that focuses on appearance with only a touch of additional off-road capability.

2020 GMC Acadia toughens up on the outside, gets smarter on the inside

The 2020 GMC Acadia crossover gets styling updates and a more rugged AT4 trim level. Under the skin, the Acadia sports a new turbocharged four-cylinder engine and a wider array of tech features.

Nissan is using old Leaf batteries to power and connect off-the-grid campers

Nissan has teamed up with trailer manufacturer Opus to design a mobile, weatherproof power pack built with battery cells sourced from the first-generation Leaf. Called Roam, the pack stores enough electricity to power a camper for up to a…

Alfa Romeo’s latest Ferrari-powered F1 race car is ready to hit the track

Alfa Romeo is doubling down on Formula One racing after a decades-long hiatus. Now essentially a support team for Ferrari, its 2019 driver lineup includes a former world champion and a potential future star.

Researchers teach self-driving cars to predict pedestrians’ next moves

University of Michigan researchers are developing a system that teaches self-driving cars to predict pedestrian movement. Humans don't always act in their own best self-interest, so autonomous cars will need to practice protective driving.

Subaru’s latest VIZIV concept car is pumped full of adrenaline

The Subaru VIZIV Adrenaline is the seventh member of the Japanese automaker's family of VIZIV concept cars. It debuts at the 2019 Geneva Motor Show, but for now, all we're getting is a shadowy teaser image.

Audi is advancing the tech that teaches cars to talk to traffic lights

Audi is teaching its cars the language of traffic lights. The company developed technology that tells motorists what speed they should drive at in order to catch as many green lights as possible.

Waymo rules and Apple trails in California self-driving car benchmarks

California's DMV releases annual reports of self-driving car disengagements on public roads. In the most recent reports. Waymo had the best performance, GM Cruise came in second, and Apple's self-driving program was in last place.

Watch a modified Audi e-tron electric SUV drive straight up a ski slope

A modified Audi e-tron climbed up an 85-percent gradient on an Austrian ski slope in a tribute to a classic Audi commercial. The vehicle used for the stunt sported an extra electric motor and spiked tires.
2 of 2