Today, it’s hard to find someone who doesn’t know about either Uber or Lyft. Both have become words that people use interchangeably with “catching a ride.” Some people like to ride an Uber while others prefer a Lyft. It’s the same with driver partners. Some like Uber, while others choose Lyft. Both of these rideshare giants have their unique offerings, but in large part, they are remarkably similar. So, when it comes to Uber vs. Lyft, which do you choose to drive for?
Never fear, the Ultimate Comparison Guide is here! We will cover the nuts and bolts of driving for either Uber or Lyft and wrap it up with a short how-to on driving for both companies! This article is primarily geared towards rookie drivers. I do believe, however, that even the veteran might find a gem or two.
First, let’s take a look at the metrics we will be comparing the two.
The Basis for Our Uber Vs. Lyft Comparison
We will be taking a look at both Uber and Lyft through the filter of a few key areas. To craft a functional comparison between the rideshare giants, we need a standard to apply to both. I’ve gone ahead and drafted a comprehensive set of buckets that allows us to categorize and breakdown each of the major areas within which we might successfully do our Uber vs. Lyft comparison.
1. Entry to Market – Whose sign up process is easier?
The first metric we need to cover is the ease of entrance into your market. Both Uber and Lyft offer simple barriers to entry. They require a background check, vehicle inspection, and physical exam. Each of the services provides the ability to sign up via your computer, mobile device, or in person at hubs. Neither one has a hangup or barrier to entry that is particularly jarring for drivers. It will be challenging to enter either platform with a criminal record or poor driving history. In my experience, Lyft is a little more stringent with background and driving history.
2. Driver Earnings – Who pays better? Hourly Rates and Surge vs. Primetime
This is the segment that almost every driver wants to know when it comes to Uber vs. Lyft. The generally accepted maxim is that Lyft pays better per ride, by a nose. Uber, on the other hand, has a higher availability or coverage. They also have more riders, which will, in most instances, net drivers a more substantial payout per week, month, or year. This is often the reason many wants to become an Uber driver.
With that being said, Lyft is currently the king of pay per ride. The average Lyft driver payout per hour hangs around $17 per hour in most markets before taxes and expenses. Uber driver payout on a per hour basis is decidedly lower at around $15 before costs and taxes. This is due in no small part to tipping and higher payouts from Lyft.
Lyft has been far more aggressive in its acquisition of drivers. Over the past couple of years, it has lured many drivers from the Uber platform with promises of higher pay. In large part, they have stuck to their guns and kept pay per ride higher on average than Uber.
But when it comes to paying the bills and making the most you can, Uber is still the king. A more extensive customer base and a larger coverage map will trump higher payouts for the foreseeable future — at least until Lyft closes the gap in riders and coverage.
Surge vs. Primetime and Promotions
Before jumping to the next factor, I think it is essential to address the promotional programs offered by both companies. Uber calls their high demand bonuses Surge, and Lyft calls theirs Primetime. Both have their perks, and the payouts are very similar. Surge tends to cover a much larger area than Primetime does. Due to the broad coverage and demand of Uber, Surge will net the driver more money over time.
When you throw in Uber’s Quest bonuses and Power Driver bonuses from Lyft, you can get a clear picture of the potential for earnings on both platforms. Uber’s Quest bonuses feature an array of offers, such as “complete X amount of rides and get X amount of dollars.” Where Lyft’s Power Driver implements a similar program that also requires drivers to maintain specific standards, like a 90% acceptance rate. These things are constantly changing, and depending on your market, some are achievable, while others are just a pain. Currently, I am sitting in the hell of trying to grab 70 rides for $100 extra this week. In previous months, the Uber Quest beat the pants off the Lyft Power driver bonus. However, it seems they similarly matched these days.
Overall, Uber Quest is easier to achieve with higher rider demand and no ridiculous requirements that stunt your progress. Throw in a Consequetive Ride bonus, which comes and goes, and Uber definitely gives you a better chance to cash in.
3. The App – Stability and User Interface Design
There isn’t a truly objective way to compare and judge Uber vs. Lyft in terms of their apps. However, I will do my best to stay objective in judging the functionality of the two apps. Both feature clean interfaces, and both have become incredibly stable over the past couple of years. Uber’s app has made leap and bounds in functionality over the past two years, I remember the clunky nature of it a couple of years ago and can say with confidence they have done nothing but continue to improve the interface.
It used to be generally accepted that Lyft had the superior interface. However, over the past two years, Uber has risen the bar. Uber’s old interface was unstable, crashed often, lagged, and frustrated the hell out of other drivers and me. Lyft seemed to have their edge in the market, and many drivers jumped ship to avoid frustration. However, Uber listened to their drivers and like many competitors, copied the features that Lyft offered and made them their own. As of today, both apps are incredibly sleek, and neither app seems to have a particular edge. I prefer the Uber app, simply for its color scheme and design elements. However, many other drivers would argue that I’m terribly off base.
4. Vehicle Types/Options – Who has the Better Variety?
Uber and Lyft both have a bevy of options when it comes to both riders and drivers. Riders can select anything from the low end, shared cost rides to premiere or select rides that feature all the fancy features you need on your special night out. Out of the gates, Uber holds the edge in this category as they offer an extensive range of services that appeal to both riders and drivers alike.
Uber offers the following:
- Uber X- This is their primary ride, and the one most drivers will experience regularly. It is their bread and butter and in my opinion, the most desirable ride.
- Uber Pool- This riding mode is tailored to riders looking for a discount. Once you accept the first rider, up to three or four more riders can be added to your car. New riders must be heading in the same general direction as the first rider.
- Uber Express Pool- This is by far the most frustrating ride mode on the Uber platform. Like the Uber pool, this mode affords the rider a discount in exchange for walking to a predetermined street corner. The problem here is that often the passengers do not show or worse try to trick the driver into picking them up at their proper address. DO NOT DO THIS! If the rider doesn’t show at the designated location, text or call them first. If the wait time has exceeded the limit, cancel and go on about your day. With that being said I have had some genuinely great Express riders. They aren’t all bad.
- Uber XL- This mode is for larger capacity vehicles that can accommodate up to six or more riders. The payouts here are boosted to accommodate the extra expenditures and costs to the driver.
- Uber Select- This riding mode features nicer riders for the riders. To be a select driver, you need to drive a vehicle that fits in the program. This mode also grants the driver a significant boost in earnings. However, the demand for Uber Select and other luxury modes is far lower than their economy modes.
- Uber Black- Like Uber Select, Uber Black features black cars that fit at or above the Uber Select threshold.
- Uber Black SUV- Much like it sounds. This is Uber Black, with SUVs. Also a bit more $$$.
- Uber Assist and WAV- These modes are provided to accommodate disabled or senior riders. This is a huge boost to the UBER game for those drivers with the capability. It is also just damn good PR.
- Uber Espanol- For Spanish speakers, this mode affords a more comfortable environment.
- UberTaxi, Uber Eats, Uber Car Seat, UberSki, etc.- Uber offers a wide range of territorial or regional modes that aid riders in finding the precise ride they need.
Lyft offers the following:
- Lyft- Standard Lyft ride, much like UberX
- Shared- Previously called Lyft Line, this mode is comparable to Uber Pool. Although this mode is not as maligned as Uber Pool, I have not personally seen a huge difference.
- Shared Saver- Just like Uber Express Pool, Shared Saver nets a discount for the rider. Now, in this case, I have experienced far fewer problem riders. I estimate that because this mode is newer to Lyft riders that in the future similar rider scams will be picked up.
- Lux- Much like Uber Select. For a list of vehicles that fit the profile look here.
- Lux Black- Just like Uber Black.
- Lyft XL- Matches the Uber XL mode and from my personal experience, there is a great deal of a boost in per ride pay on the Lyft platform.
- Lux Black XL- Add black to your SUV and you get more money!
- Scooter- Compact scooter for a single rider. This is a unique factor that Uber has yet to implement. I do not think I would ever hop on a scooter with a stranger though. With that being said I don’t count the novelty factor here as a win for Lyft.
- Car Seat- Vehicle fitted with a child’s car seat, just like UBER Carseat.
- Wheelchair accessible- Matches the Uber Assist/Wav modes.
Overall, you can see that both rideshare companies are comparable. The Uber vs. Lyft competition is fierce in this industry and every time Uber — the front runner — comes up with a new mode, Lyft quickly copies and innovates. The fact remains, Lyft has a bit of catching up to do. Uber still affords the rider a multitude of offerings that trump Lyft. In this instance, more offerings give the driver the opportunity to grab more cash. All you need to do is make sure your ride or rides have the capability.
5. Driver Support – Who has a more responsive service?
This segment of our Uber vs. Lyft post is what, in my humble opinion, makes or breaks a company. The desire to feel valued and taken care of is huge in any industry. In this case, we are talking about driver support and not Customer Service.
Drivers often run up against problems that can stump them and that is where driver support has an opportunity. Have an issue with a fare or rider? Call up driver support and get the issue squared away. Did a fare come through shorter than you expected? Call driver support.
However, once you do this a time or two, you will find that these support systems are sorely lacking. Lyft is the big winner in this category and I think many drivers who have driven both would agree with me. Uber has struggled to find a solution to their driver support issues.
Whether this is due to a lack of trying or an ineptitude, I cannot say. Any time I have reached out to Uber support with an issue, I have been rebuffed despite sufficient evidence for my claims. Even the claims I have won have been blatantly disregarded in favor of the rider or Uber’s bottom line. Lyft, on the other hand, has always been friendly and supportive.
THE HALFWAY POINT
At the halfway point, we’ve got Uber leading our Uber vs. Lyft comparison with just 1 point. Two ties, two Uber wins, and a Lyft win. So far both of the rideshare companies have proven that they are competitive.
Should I drive for both? My answer is always yes. This industry, particularly if you drive full-time, does not leave room to be choosey. If you want to make a sustainable income, you need to incorporate both Uber and Lyft into your strategy and treat them as your business. In fact, I think it is smart to tack on a third or fourth platform like DoorDash and Postmates if you can. The rideshare game is a staunchly difficult game to succeed in the long term, so if you plan to use this article to decide. Go with both.
6. Coverage Areas – Scope of Service – Availability is Sustainability
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This category is a big one because as in most industries availability is the most important ability. If you live in an area that either does not have demand or worse lacks coverage then, what is the point? Both of the rideshare giants have extensive networks in major metropolitan areas, but which one holds up when you need it most? Before going head-on into this comparison, I must disclaim that in order to benefit from extensive coverage areas you must have the phone service to pull it off. No matter how big the coverage area is, if your own cell service sucks, you won’t be getting rides.
The general rule here is that Uber is far larger and services much larger areas. Not that Lyft isn’t trying to match them. They just came into the game later. Lyft has continued to improve their coverage areas over the years and has been successful. But Uber has not backed down, expanding overseas and in markets that Lyft has yet to tackle. This factor ties into rider demand and all new drivers should calculate that more riders = more money in the long run.
Lyft currently operates in the United States and Canada. They also have several test markets overseas via international partnerships with Asian rideshare companies. Uber is the big boy in this arena with overseas markets worldwide. If Lyft really wants to catch up they’ll need to expand much faster.
7. Innovation – Safety features and Bells and Whistles
This Uber vs. Lyft comparison segment focuses on the cool features that the rideshare giants have come up with. I have decided to focus primarily on the AMP vs. the Beacon, as these are two of the physical benefits. Lyft was first to market in this department, releasing the AMP long before the Uber Beacon arrived. AMP was huge, as it allowed Lyft drivers the ability to nearly seamlessly connect with the rider in ways that were previously not available. Not only did it light up with a corresponding color, chosen by the rider, but it messaged the rider when the driver was nearby. This feature drove many drivers to jump onto Lyft’s platform, it was a gimmick and it worked!
But then Uber decided to up their game. Out came the Beacon, which copied everything that was cool about the AMP. Each feature available in the AMP was in the Beacon and the design came out super sleek, featuring their rebranded logo. Now, this doesn’t matter much, because who really cares about the design?
The real magic is in the safety features Uber has built into the beacon. Uber beacon actually transmits ride data to the Uber Driver app and provides several benefits. Number one for me is an emergency response. The beacon actually knows if you’ve been in an accident and automatically alerts Uber, who can then alert first responders. I’ve heard rumors that Lyft will be following suit, but when their new and improved AMP will come out is unknown.
8. Transparency – Which company offers a better window?
Transparency has been a huge issue not only for drivers but also for riders, investors, and government officials. This hot button issue has caused many drivers to jump ship. and intensify the debate on Uber vs. Lyft.
I want to know how the money breaks down and drivers deserve to know just how much Uber and Lyft are taking. Neither company has been super transparent and there aren’t a lot of reasons they think they should be. With the industry still in its infancy and competition is as stiff as it is, neither company wants to give an edge to the other. But drivers have slowly been demanding more and more information.
In this segment, I am basing my comparison solely on how easy it is to learn and understand the pay breakdown. An old trick I learned when I was working in the field of Sustainability is how easy is it to find the breakdown on company websites. I clocked myself with a standard Google search and braced myself for what I might discover. Not only did Lyft’s page come up easier, but their breakdown is also far more detailed. Whether or not I agree with their fees and rates, I can at least find the information and digest it much quicker than I can with Uber’s pay rates.
Add in the fact that many drivers are much happier with Lyft’s pay structure and rates, the edge clearly goes to Lyft.
9. Brand Image – Which company has better riders and drivers?
Uber vs. Lyft brand image may not seem like a category that drivers should be interested in. However, I would challenge you to rethink your position. Riders often care a great deal about the hot button topics and issues that surface.
Whether the news features an Uber driver involved in an altercation, sexual assault, or a political statement by a CEO or the company’s policy towards a certain segment of the population, it is imperative for you to know. Riders will let you know how they feel and you will need to be able to field the questions in an appropriate manner. One thing, my policy is not to discuss politics, religion, or current events with my riders. Even if you feel they are amiable and might lean the way that you lean, you could be dead wrong. It is better to save yourself the trouble, and smile and nod.
The best way to avoid these topics is to be aware of what they are. In making a decision between which company to drive for, Brand image is key. Uber and Lyft have both had their fair share of bad press, but Uber has suffered far worse. This is partly due to the fact that they are much larger and subject to more scrutiny. After all, the generic phrase in most people’s minds is to get an Uber, even if they are hailing a Lyft ride.
Uber is on people’s minds and because it has become so ingrained in our culture, it affects many lives. So when a driver goes rogue and pulls some crazy stuff, we all suffer for it. Uber has done a lot in the past to try and rectify the mistakes of their company and their drivers but the fact remains that Lyft has a much cleaner rap sheet.
10. Reward Programs – Uber Pro and Lyft’s Enhanced Driver Features
In an attempt to curb rideshare driver strikes and alleviate the current state of affairs both companies have started to roll out advanced features and programs for drivers. Neither one has been accepted very well and I can tell you why. When people are given a choice between money and predetermined discount programs, they will always choose more cash. Cash is king because you can spend it how you like it. With discount and driver rewards or perk programs, the benefits are predetermined. What if I don’t like shopping at Auto Zone? What if I want O’Reilly, or what if I want my tuition reimbursement to go to a school that is not ASU Online, etc. In recent months, these two companies continue to battle it out with Uber vs. Lyft rewards programs: Uber Pro and Lyft’s Enhanced Driver Features.
With Uber Pro, drivers are positioned into tiers labeled Gold, Platinum, and Diamond. Each tier offers different perks, including expanded information about the incoming ride like distance, direction, and rider rating. They also offer benefits such as airport rematch priority, expanded discounts on car expenses, cash back on gas purchases in varying percentages depending on the tier.
Each tier expands the benefits in what seems like arbitrary ways. The benefits are largely innocuous and don’t truly compensate drivers for the continuing drop in pay rates. One major bonus, in my opinion, is the 100% tuition reimbursement plan through ASU Online features for all three tiers, with the condition that the driver has at least 3,000-lifetime rides.
It is a sizeable bonus considering how much secondary education costs in this country. The simple fact is that the rideshare industry is not long for this world, and if drivers are smart, they will capitalize on this feature as soon as possible and as much as they can. I certainly plan to, once I get to 3,000 rides. That would be my only complaint is the sheer volume of rides necessary, but it remains understandable, as Uber is not a non-profit educational grant company.
Lyft Enhanced Driver Features Beta
Lyft’s Enhanced Driver Features pales in comparison to Uber Pro, though I expect that they will respond with a deeper package in the coming months. All of the basic features are included, like additional ride information, but there doesn’t seem to be any really powerful benefits or features, yet.
Overall Winner and the Best Rideshare Platform for Drivers: UBER
When it comes to Uber vs. Lyft, our overall winner is Uber, taking four categories to Lyft’s three with two dead heats. Now, I am sure I will catch a ton of flack from rideshare drivers and I don’t disagree that Uber has certainly had its downsides. However, overall it does still wear the crown, despite Lyft’s continued quest to dethrone them. I will add that eventually, Lyft will pull even and I believe the comparison outlined here will be a moot point because a merger is inevitable. Truly, drivers should consider driving for both because it affords them the greatest chance of success in the current market. Whether you prefer Uber to Lyft is a matter of perspective and cannot truly be determined objectively. I suggest driving for both, but for the purposes of the article, the edge goes to Uber.
Bonus Uber Vs. Lyft: Potential for Stock Options – Which company will allow drivers a piece of the pie first?
As of today, neither company is offering stock options to the drivers. Given the outcome of both IPO’s, I am not sure how many drivers would actually go for it. But if there was to be a deciding factor, long-term stock growth would be the weapon of mass destruction to use when it comes to deciding on Uber vs. Lyft.
If Uber or Lyft were to offer drivers an inclusion in the company they have helped build, they would end the argument once and for all. Even a modicum of inclusion in the success of the company’s future would be a major boon to drivers. It would also be a great solution to the Fair Compensation topic that I covered in What Would Be a Fair Uber Driver Pay?
What do you think about stock options, drivers? Would stock options make you more inclined to hit the road with Uber or Lyft if they were to offer you a piece of the pie? I, for one, would leap at the chance to capitalize on the company that my driving has helped to build. I look forward to reading your comments!