Lyft vs. Uber: What's the Difference?

Pitting the popular ride-sharing services against each other

Lyft and Uber are ride-sharing services that launched in 2012 in competition with taxi companies. To order a Lyft or Uber ride, you need a smartphone, the Lyft or Uber mobile app, and an account with the service. Both services connect drivers and passengers using location services and accept payments through the app. There are a few differences between the two organizations, but is one better than the other? We explore the similarities and differences to help you decide which ride-sharing service is best for you.

Lyft vs Uber
 Lifewire

Overall Findings

Lyft
  • Generally found in and around major cities.

  • Mostly restricted to North America.

  • More casual atmosphere and feel.

  • Brighter and friendlier app design.

  • More service options and economical rides.

Uber
  • More widely available.

  • Larger global presence.

  • Corporate and professional feel.

  • More conservative app design.

  • Simple pricing and service levels.

Lyft and Uber looked very different at launch. Uber mostly used black cars and SUVs, drivers dressed up, and passengers sat in the back seat. Meanwhile, Lyft cars featured giant pink mustaches on the grill, and passengers were encouraged to sit up front and fist bump the driver. Lyft has mostly gotten rid of the pink mustaches and fist bumps, and passengers now sit in the back seat.

The services are nearly identical now. Uber and Lyft work in the same way. Request a ride through the app, get matched with a driver, track the driver on a real-time map, and pay the fare using the app at the end of the ride. Drivers of both ride-sharing services are considered contractors, not full-time employees.

Price: It's a Close Race

Lyft
  • Location-dependent pricing.

  • Price increases with demand.

  • See estimate before booking.

  • Periodic discounts.

Uber
  • Location-dependent pricing.

  • Price increases with demand.

  • See estimate before booking.

  • Periodic discounts.

The number one concern for most people is the cost. For Uber and Lyft, pricing depends on your location, the time of day, and local traffic. Both services raise prices when demand is high. Uber calls it surge pricing, while Lyft calls it Prime Time.

The higher rates are meant to encourage drivers to go online to meet the demand. Due to fierce competition between the two companies, pricing is about the same, according to ridester.com, a ride-sharing monitoring service. In most cases, riders see a price estimate before accepting a ride.

Passengers also benefit from free or discounted rides from time-to-time, sometimes tied to an event or holiday. Chances are if Uber offers discounts on a particular weekend, Lyft will follow suit.

Areas of Service: Uber is in Slightly More Places

Uber
  • Wider coverage.

  • Been widespread for longer.

  • Global presence.

Lyft
  • Initially more exclusive.

  • Coverage in most places and growing.

  • More focused on North America.

Both Uber and Lyft are mature services that have built their reputations and scope of services over the years. Because of that, the service areas of both of these are similar.

Uber originally served a wider area than Lyft, covering more of the U.S. than its competitor and expanding away from major cities. Now, Uber boasts the wider range, but the difference isn't nearly as great as before.

Lyft started exclusively on the west coast and slowly spread to other major cities. Now, it's available in most areas of the U.S., but it's still centered primarily around cities.

Apps: Both Are Great

Uber
  • Easy to sign up.

  • Simple to select levels of service.

  • Clean, modern design.

  • Get immediate fare estimates.

Lyft
  • Sign up on desktop or mobile.

  • Simple to select levels of service.

  • Bright, friendly design.

  • Get immediate fare estimates.

Both services are primarily mobile-based, although Lyft allows you to request a ride from a desktop web browser. So, they each invested time and resources to make their mobile apps as intuitive and user-friendly as possible.

With either app, you won't encounter much, if any, difficulty setting up an account and requesting a ride. With either one, you can go from not having the app installed to waiting for a driver within a few minutes.

Uber and Lyft make it simple to choose your current location, destination, and level of service from a live Google map that displays drivers in your area. You can get real-time estimates for each level of service and see how long you'll wait for a ride. Both apps also track the driver on their way to your location.

If there's one major difference between these two, it's design. Uber feels dull and almost corporate. Lyft, in contrast, is livelier and friendlier in style. None of this makes a difference in terms of functionality, but Lyft just feels nicer.

Levels of Service: Lyft Offers a Few More Options

Uber
  • Simpler service levels.

  • Ridesharing.

  • Easy to distinguish levels of service.

Lyft
  • More choices.

  • Ridesharing.

  • More economical options.

Both services offer a range of options and different levels of service. Each one provides a series of vehicle options and ways to ride at different price points. Lyft and Uber also include ride-sharing options if you want to be more economical.

Uber breaks its service into Economy and Premium rides. Uber's economy options include the standard UberX option for regular sedans and UberXL for SUVs. You'll also find the ride-sharing option here.

Uber's premium service has only two options, Uber Black and Uber Black SUV. These are essentially the same as their economy counterparts but in higher-end vehicles.

Lyft follows a similar pattern. Their primary option, Lyft, falls under their economy umbrella, along with ride-sharing. Lyft also lets riders save more by walking to a shared pickup.

Lyft's luxury service, Lux, offers rides in luxury vehicles. Lyft goes one step further with its Lux Black service, which only includes high-end luxury rides with leather seats.

Lyft categorizes SUVs separately under a section for vehicles with extra seats. Like Uber, Lyft lets you choose between a regular or luxury SUV.

Final Verdict

In general, Uber is more corporate, while is Lyft more casual, though Lyft offers some high-end vehicle options. If you want to impress a client or customer, Uber might be a better choice. If you like chatting with your driver, Lyft might be a better option. Our take? Download both apps and pit them against each other. In some cities, Lyft is the better choice, while in others, Uber rules. When demand is high, pricing can vary widely; get the best deal you can.

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