With travel increasing as we approach the holidays, many of us default to using a Lyft or Uber vs Taxi because we are under the impression that it’s faster, cheaper and all around more convenient than taking a taxi. However, I have a different perspective. As a west-coast based insurance broker who has clients all over the country, I tend travel about once every two months or so.
Most recently, I’ve visited San Francisco, New York City, Denver and Las Vegas for work meetings. I have to tell you, there were times where hopping into a cab was not only easier but also less money than their TNC counterparts.
Nowadays, people seem to think taxis are antiquated. But in reality, taxis are the same thing as an Uber or Lyft app, and I honestly feel safer in a cab. Here’s why.
Safety is my top concern when entering into a Lyft or Uber vs Taxi. For one, Uber and Lyft do not limit how long someone must have been licensed to drive for them. Someone could’ve moved to the US a few weeks ago, obtain a Driver’s License and as long as they have access to a qualifying car and pass a MINIMAL background check – they are approved. Nobody trains them, monitors them, or ensures that they are familiar with the area in which they drive.
The city highly regulates taxi drivers. They require taxi drivers to go through numerous EXTENSIVE background checks. Only then does the city in which they operate in allow them to start transporting people. Many cities require taxi and limo drivers to obtain a Hack License or Chauffeurs license. That means they have endured many hours of classroom-style and behind-the-wheel training.
Besides safety concerns regarding the driver, there are concerns around the vehicle. All taxi companies start their days by inspecting vehicles. They are required to get a vehicle inspection yearly to keep their operating permit. Lyft or Uber vs Taxi vehicles are not regulated at all. Once the driver is approved, there isn’t much regulation unless the ride share vehicle is in an accident.
With ride sharing, you are taking a risk as to who you are getting into a vehicle with. You could end up getting into a vehicle of someone with a criminal background who is dangerous. Even more concerning, I have heard of people leasing or renting out their Uber or Lyft accounts. So, for someone who doesn’t qualify themselves, they will find someone who does qualify. They’ll have to go through the approval process and use someone else’s account to work. That freaks me out, a lot. When comparing Lyft or Uber vs Taxi, this type of situation would not happen. That’s because fleet owners know exactly who they are leasing the cab out too.
Insurance issues are a huge concern when riding in a Lyft or Uber vs Taxi vehicle (and I’ll admit, I do use ride sharing apps regularly). Despite being an insurance broker who specializes in Public Auto
Transportation risks (specifically for-hire, livery businesses such as Taxi’s, Limo’s, Non-Emergency Medical Transportation, shuttles, etc), I often hop into a Lyft or Uber vs Taxi because, let’s face it, it’s super easy. Hop on an app, order a car, and it will arrive in 4-5 minutes. This is especially the case when you’re in a residential or suburban area where cabs aren’t just lined in the street waiting for their next fare. I often think about what would happen if the car I am in was involved in an accident.
I am extremely knowledgeable on the coverages that Uber and Lyft’s insurance policy include and it’s spotty at best. For one, the driver and passenger are only covered if the app is on and the driver is logged in. What if there is a technical issue and the driver is logged out? If their phone dies, what now? What if they’re in an area with poor reception and the driver is disconnected from the app? A passenger could be held responsible for injuries incurred. Additionally, the majority of ride share drivers do not have commercial insurance. Plus, Uber and Lyft require drivers to turn the claim into their personal auto carrier before they’ll accept liability.
Commercial auto insurance is expensive, about 2 – 5 times higher than personal auto and most ride share drivers do not buy it because their profit margin on operating is thin. They pay for the vehicle itself, maintenance of the vehicle, gas and almost every TNC driver who calls for a quote on commercial auto insurance so that they can be properly insured does not buy it because no one is making them. This means the only coverage they have for their vehicle and the passengers is through Uber or Lyft, which all hinges on the driver being logged into the app.
Accessibility and ease of getting a ride from an airport, in my opinion is far greater for a taxi than a ride sharing unit. When deciding on an Lyft or Uber vs Taxi, typically, I exit a plane and walk straight to a taxi to my destination. I don’t have to rely on my signal being strong enough for the app to work. I don’t have to wait for the car to come through traffic or walk to somewhere off the premises to get a ride. In some airports, they don’t allow ride share units to pick up. If they do, you often have to go up a level to the departure area or walk to a far end of the airport. When I get off a plane, I personally prefer to get straight into a car and quickly be on my way.
On my last trip to San Francisco, I saw a sign that said Ride Share pick up and I could see a side walk with several waiting areas. According to my app, Ride Share would be about 75% of the cost of a cab. I looked at the taxi line and it was empty and there was car waiting. For experimental purposes, I sacrificed my usual cab ride for a Lyft ride to see if it was actually faster and cheaper. I logged into my Lyft app and requested a vehicle. Because the airport was busy, it took 5 minutes for a driver to accept my ride plus 15 minutes for them to actually pull up to the curb. The whole time I kept my eye on the taxi line. I watched person after person get into a cab and drive away.
I wanted to cancel my ride as I had a meeting to get to, but I wanted to complete the experiment. When my driver arrived, the car was new and clean. No complaints. But by the time we sat in traffic and crossed the Bay Bridge from Oakland into San Francisco, the price was literally the same as a taxi. And it delayed my arrival by 30 minutes.
Pricing for a ride share trip isn’t consistent. Taxi’s are transparent on how much they charge and most have the pricing displayed on the vehicle. During my last trip to Las Vegas, I spoke with a conference attendee. She complained the surge pricing was triple that of a taxi when she wanted dinner on the strip. And the taxi was ready to go right there. I also found this to be true during my last trip to Denver.
I’ve gone two years in a row for three days of Phish. The band is best known for their musical improvisation, extended jams largely influenced by Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, and their dedicated fanbase. The first year we went, we tried to order a Lyft. The price was about $150 to literally go 11 miles!
At 7 am in Times Square, I left my hotel. My return flight home awaited. It was 30 degrees outside with some expected snow. Out of habit, I opened by Lyft app to find a driver 4 minutes away. As I exited the warm hotel lobby to the frigid air of the NYC streets, I saw a cab waiting right there. I waited a few minutes staring at my phone as the Lyft driver slowly creeped through traffic up the block. I asked the driver if he was available to take me to the airport, and he was. So, I cancelled that Lyft ride and walked straight into a fully insured, inspected vehicle with a professional trained driver. It was a flat fee of $55 which was the same price my Lyft app was quoting had I waited for it.
Supporting a local business rather than the corporate monopoly is another reason to consider when deciding between a Lyft or Uber vs Taxi. In a world where Google and Amazon dominate, it’s gratifying to support the local population directly. Most cab companies are the result of families passing down their businesses from generation to generation. In today’s world, it feels as if many businesses are struggling because of the monopoly of corporations that are taking over in so many industries.
It’s hard for me to be ok with living in a world where everything is giant corporation. What does that mean for the rest of us? As the world changes and modes of transportation evolve, many feel taxi cabs will one day be extinct. But many taxi companies are revitalizing and evolving their business models to withstand the test of time. They are upping their standards when it comes to the quality of vehicles they buy. Moreover, they are investing in technology to create booking apps so that they can appeal to the smart-phone dependent generation.
Although Uber and Lyft may seem like the cheaper and more convenient option, I strongly urge you to think about all of the above issues around big box ride sharing companies. Is it really worth risking your time, your wallet and most importantly your life – all because it feels easier?