Billy Penn brought you the news last week that Lyft, a rival to the controversial UberX, is coming to Philly. Soon, you’ll be able to install both apps on your phone and make the decision between the ride-sharing experience of Uber, or the pink mustache that’s made Lyft famous.
While these two ridesharing services seem to fight like high school girls, they’re virtually indistinguishable when it comes to how they operate. Both offer users GPS tracking systems to find a nearby ride, prices are similar and services offered are close to the same.
Where the difference happens is culture — just look at their taglines.
Uber’s: “Everyone’s private driver.” Lyft’s: “Your friend with a car.”
We broke down the differences:
I want what’s cheapest, plz.
Because Lyft hasn’t formally launched in Philadelphia, we don’t know what the pricing will be here. Baseline prices for both Uber and Lyft change from city to city, so we’ll have a better idea of the comparison once Lyft starts up here (a date which we don’t yet know).
Uber has been all over the news for its surge pricing that happens during big events or holidays when people are most likely to be using the service. In those times (think New Year’s Eve, big games, etc.) Uber can jack up its prices to seven or eight times what they’d normally charge.
Lyft operates similarly, and claims the uptick in pricing is to encourage more drivers to hit the roads for big events. Lyft’s is called “Prime Time,” and prices for a ride can increase anywhere from 25 to 200 percent. But unlike Uber, Lyft also offers “Happy Hour,” which is the opposite of surge pricing — Happy Hour cuts prices between 10 and 50 percent during off-hours.
What about tips?
That’s where the only significant difference in price comes. Uber tells riders that there’s no need to tip drivers, as the price of a tip is included in the price of the ride. On the flip side, Lyft encourages riders to tip their driver through the app.
So what’s this you say about culture?
I’ve taken both Uber and Lyft; I’ve never had a bad experience on either. But there is a noticeable difference in how the drivers operate. Uber often feels more like a taxi experience. In many cases, I sit in the back seat and engage in some conversation with the driver, but usually they’re pretty professional.
In my experiences with Lyft, I’ve sat in the front seat (as the company encourages,) I’ve gotten fist bumps from the drivers and they’re usually much more casual. In Philadelphia, many Uber drivers are former taxi drivers who have moved to ridesharing because it costs less money for them. Lyft drivers have always struck me more as people who are making extra money on the side, but they’re *much* more social. So decide based on how talkative you feel, at least in part. Having a crappy day? Prob stick to UberX.
Do drivers notice this?
It seems like it. A former Uber and Lyft driver wrote a guest column for Pando Daily about his experiences with both, and wrote about Uber that, “I felt that my work was not inherently valued. I can’t recall any communication that suggested, implied, or implicitly stated their appreciation for me as a driver.” Other drivers have lashed out in protest at Uber, claiming its tipping policy is unfair and that drivers are losing money so the company could compete with Lyft.
Speaking of drivers: Are they the same specs for Uber and Lyft?
Close to it. Uber drivers have to be 23 and have a four-door car that’s 2003 or newer. Lyft drivers must be 21 and have a four-door car that’s a 2001 or newer. But the Public Utility Commission, which is regulating taxis in Pennsylvania, has said that all ridesharing vehicles must be no more than eight years old.
Back up. What gives? I did hear something about Uber’s illegal in Philly
Ridesharing isn’t technically illegal in Philly, but it’s not legal either. While Pennsylvania through the PUC has granted Uber a temporary experimental license to operate in the state, Philadelphia is the lone exception — the Philadelphia Parking Authority technically regulates taxi services within the city. And the PPA has said that when Lyft comes to town, they’ll be treated the same way Uber was: Drivers will have their cars impounded and will be slapped with a $1,000 fine.
When UberX, Uber’s low-cost ridesharing service, came to town in October, the PPA carried out undercover sting operations complete with riot gear and cops on horses in order to track down the drivers. It’s unknown if the PPA will go to those lengths once Lyft launches in Philly, but they’ve promised they’ll impound cars if given the chance.
Remember: The PPA is standing up for cab companies here, which hate ridesharing and want it to stay far away from Philly because it’s cutting into their business.
In addition to UberX, Uber also operates UberBlack in Philly, which employs professional drivers with commercial licenses and is a limo-esque service that has legally operated in the city since 2012. Uber and Lyft also both operate true ridesharing services in some cities like New York and San Franciso where riders can share a ride with a stranger and get a discount on their ride.
But remember: Uber is much larger. Uber operates in about 250 cities worldwide, while Lyft only operates in 65 cities here in the U.S. And Uber has much more capital: Try $1.2 billion in fundraising for Uber, compared to Lyft’s $250 million.