What's the Difference Between Uber and Lyft?

By Nidhi Nangia. May 22, 2018
What's the Difference Between Uber and Lyft?

Uber and Lyft are two of the biggest transport network services providers in the US. Basically, they are ride sharing apps you can download on your smartphone and call for a ride 24/7. The difference between ride sharing and a taxi service is that these are drivers of their own cars who don't work for a taxi service. They cannot be picked up by hailing and are paid through the app rather than directly to the driver. Both these services use the same principles, but does this mean they are interchangeable? What are the differences between the two? To know what's the difference between Uber and Lyft before you sign yourself up for a ride. Let’s explore at oneHOWTO.

You may also be interested in: How To Use Uber

How Uber and Lyft work

The business model of both Uber and Lyft is almost the same. They allow drivers to pick up passengers from their place and drop them at their destination when they book a ride through the app on their smartphone. The drivers are not hired by the companies, rather they are independent contractors. They charge their passengers with a base rate, on a per mile, per minute basis. The overall cost is much less than the cost you would pay for a traditional taxi service.

However, this is not the only reason people have started preferring them over taxis. There are other benefits including:

  • You can book your Uber or Lyft right from your phone.
  • With the cars GPS direct to your phone, you can see where your driver is exactly at present and when they would be arriving. This is much more beneficial than a taxi, which often leave you wondering when your taxi will arrive.
  • Once you download the app on your smartphone, you can use it in any city they are registered, change your pickup and drop-off locations and track your car’s location in real-time.
  • At the end of the ride, you are allowed to rate the driver and even tip them from your app. On the other hand, drivers have the right to rate you as the rider as well.

Service area

One major difference is the service area of Uber and Lyft. While Uber services are available across 84 countries in the world, Lyft is currently present only in the US, except for Canada and Toronto. So, if you are outside of the USA, you don’t have the option to call Lyft.

Service hours

Both Uber and Lyft are available 24/7. However, people living in smaller cities may have trouble finding a ride at odd hours. Both come to your desired place when you order them through your app and both have a typical waiting time of only a few minutes. In some cities, you even have the option to book an Uber or Lyft well in advance. For instance, Lyft allows you to book a ride 7 days in advance, while Uber allows you to book it as much as 30 days in advance. This facility may differ from one city to the other.

If punctuality is an important issue for you, such as booking a ride for the airport, job interview or a business meeting, booking a ride in advance is a suggested option. But if you are flexible with time, you should check the availability of your nearest driver and the traffic conditions on your route. This way you can plan your ride accordingly.

What's the Difference Between Uber and Lyft? - Service hours

Types of services

Uber has drivers are generally professionals with experience. Some of them are non-professionals too, but they have passed background checks and driving record checks. There are different classes of services offered by Uber, varying by city:

  • UberX: basic sedan ride for 4 people.
  • UberXL: affordable SUV ride for 6 people.
  • UberSUV: luxury SUV ride for 6 people.
  • UberPOOL: shared ride for passengers riding in the same direction with same or different start and end points.
  • UberBLACK: it is a luxury ride offered by professional drivers only. The car is a new make and model, it has black exterior, and black interior with leather. The driver is professional, well-mannered, and impressively dressed.
  • UberWAV: the ride is assisted by drivers trained in handling wheelchair or scooter dependent passengers.
  • UberSELECT: offers high-end, stylish cars with professional, top-rated drivers.
  • UberTAXI: allows you to call a licensed taxi cab from your Uber app.

Even if you call a basic uberX, you will not be disappointed with the service offered. Before registering with Uber, drivers need to meet a minimum vehicle eligibility requirements. Mostly, the car that will come to pick you up will be a 4-door car in good condition without any physical damage. It will have a properly working air conditioner and it must have passed the vehicle inspection.

Similarly, Lyft also has minimum requirements that its vehicles have to meet. The cars are new with 4 doors, they don’t have any physical damage and they have a working air conditioner. Lyft also offers a number of service classes, including:

  • Original Lyft: Rides for 4 people in a regular vehicle
  • Lyft Plus: Rides for 6 people in a regular vehicle
  • Lyft Premier: Rides for 4 people in a high-end vehicle
  • Lyft Lux: Black car ride in a luxury vehicle
  • Lyft Lux SUV: Rides in a premium black SUV for 6 people
  • Lyft Line: Shared carpool service for passengers traveling in the same direction

Cost and pricing

Fare charged by Uber consists of a base fare, plus some distance and time rate. The fares may vary as per the city and vehicle type being ordered. Pricing during peak hours may increase, but you are allowed to get an estimate of the fare even before booking the ride. UberX is least expensive, and UberSUV is the highest paying ride. There is a minimum fare too, which requires the customers to pay a certain amount even if they order the ride for a very short ride.

Lyft ride costs also vary by vehicle type and city. They are based on the total times, miles, service fee and base rate for the rides. Prime time charges are also applied during peak hours. Riders in certain cities need to pay an exact price to the driver, while they are given an estimated price quote in others. Once a ride starts, the price is affected in both services. Customers can pay for the ride through the smartphone app too. Lyft users have the option to tip their driver either through the app or in cash. The driver keeps 100% of his or her tips. Lyft users have the option to split their ride’s cost through the app, but only during the ride and not after that. On the other hand, Uber does not endorse tips and there is no way a user can add a tip to the fare, though they may tip the driver by cash after the ride. Uber also allows riders to split their fare with fellow passengers.

Brand image

Till date, Uber has got its name in a number of scandals, lawsuits, bad PR and harassment claims. On the other hand, you will rarely hear anything bad about Lyft. Even if they get involved in something, they have the guts to accept their mistake and correct it in the best possible way. Because of Uber’s bad name in the market, many users have deactivated their account and uninstalled their app and have switched to Lyft. In order to lure those users back, Uber keeps sending promotional incentives and offers which the users need to stay aware of. Since many users are switching to Lyft from Uber, it may mean increased demand and higher rates from Lyft. So, you need to pay due attention to the company’s brand image. Better reputation may sometimes mean inflated prices and low availability.

There are some differences depending on the location of where the background checks are being carried out. For example, in New York in the USA drivers need to provide fingerprint information as this is something also carried out by taxi drivers in the same state. There is still some information we don't have about these background checks and there are some which slip through the net.

If you compare, between 2014 and 2018 there have been 120 accusations of rape against both Uber and Lyft drivers according to a list compiled by CNN[1]. 120 are by Uber drivers with 18 from Lyft drivers. While this implies that Lyft is generally safer, this doesn't take into account the fact that Lyft has less drivers in total.

Another red mark against Uber is their breaking of a taxi strike during protests against Donald Trump's refugee ban in January 2017[2]. They crossed the line and upset a lot of people in the process which saw them put business in front of morality. A social media campaign to #deleteUber followed swiftly. Lyft came out much better by promising to donate $1 million to the American Civil Liberties Union, although as a way to repair their bruised image, Uber promised to also make a donation.


Uber has a wider availability of its service, but Lyft is working to expand in more markets. With its greater amount of investment and wider brand recognition, Uber is probably more likely to be the first company passengers will go to. However, Lyft does have a better image and a (relatively) better safety record. Uber offers more types of rides, but so many that some of them seem a little unnecessary.

Lyft seems to value its drivers by offering the option to tip them, but this may be something which is a pro or con depending on your views on tipping. Lyft in general do seem to have the better brand image, even if there are mitigating circumstances for both companies. Lyft also seems to be the relative underdog to the corporate giant of Uber, but this is unlikely to deter many customers who are simply looking for a cheap ride.

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