If you told me a year ago that I would now be a part-time driver for Uber and Lyft, I wouldn’t have believed you.
The idea sounded wild. Me? Driving around strangers in my car? Are you serious? What if the people are weird or super drunk? Is it even safe? No way. There will be too much wear and tear. I hate driving in traffic. I’ll end up too far from home. The long hours will get to me.
And, most important, driving around strangers in my car?
Well, my wedding is two months away. I’m a computer tech for an elementary school, and my fiancée is a kindergarten teacher. We work our tails off at our jobs, but unfortunately that is still not enough to save up properly for a wedding. Something had to happen.
That’s how I found myself, months ago, at 26 years old, signing up for both Uber and Lyft, muttering to myself, “Driving around strangers in my car?”
My name is Clarke, and I’m a part-time Uber and Lyft driver.
That sign-up process was months ago, and I have since given hundreds of rides around the streets of South Florida, picking up passengers and transporting them to their destinations safely, like a modern-day Clark Kent ride-hailing superhero.
After all these months and hundreds of rides, I’ve finally formed my opinion on the No. 1 question that passengers love to ask me: “Which company do you like better, Uber or Lyft?”
Most people think there’s not much difference between the two. You pick people up, you drive them, and you drop them off. What more to it could there be? Surprisingly, a lot. Both platforms have their pros and both have their cons, but one platform is clearly superior to the other.
For me, the better platform is Uber. Read on to find out why.
Signing up with Lyft was easier than Uber, which gave me concerns about other drivers.
When it came time to physically sign up for each platform, Lyft was easier. Much easier — to the point of being almost too easy.
Both were about the same process: You enter your information, wait for the subsequent background check to clear, upload all the paperwork they ask for, and then you wait.
Lyft approved my account for driving within a few days, almost a full week before Uber did. It almost made me worry if something was wrong with my Uber account, or if I had messed something up. I reached out to Uber support before my final approval, just to make sure everything was OK, and I was reassured that their onboarding process is extremely thorough, and they were simply going through their standard procedures.
Once approved, Lyft and Uber both asked me to upload a picture of my vehicle registration. Uber took almost a day to process. Lyft accepted my paperwork within minutes. This led me to believe that with Lyft, this process is automated via computer and not by a person, which could lead to the possibility of other drivers submitting fraudulent paperwork.
Neither company physically inspected my vehicle, and neither company asked me to take photos of my vehicle. This shocked me.
Despite Lyft being quicker than Uber, I feel that Uber did a better job of vetting me before it approved my account. As an Uber passenger, I want to know that my driver is a safe person and their vehicle is properly registered and insured. For safety and security reasons, I think taking longer is the better option.
Uber is more popular than Lyft, which means more money for Uber drivers.
As a driver, you learn quickly that you are making money only when you are on a ride. If there is not someone sitting in the backseat, you are not making money.
I start my shifts by putting both the Uber and Lyft apps into online mode. This means I am available to start accepting rides. I figure by running both apps at once, I’ll double my chances of getting a ride. In my area, both platforms pay about the same base rate within a few cents, so whichever platform sends me a request first, I’ll accept. Once I accept the ride, I’ll turn the other app off.
On average, I drive about three or four Uber rides for every Lyft ride. This isn’t me being picky; it’s just the reality. More people seem to prefer Uber over Lyft. I see other drivers on the roads with only a Lyft decal on their windshield, and it makes me wonder how they are making any money at all by limiting themselves to only one platform. After talking to hundreds of drivers, I’ve learned that most have both Uber and Lyft or only Uber.
Uber also likes to give me back-to-back rides, and will give me more information on the next prospective passenger before I accept it. The downtime between rides is what kills your dollars-per-hour ratio, so I absolutely love when Uber strings me on back-to-back rides. Sign me up.
For example, let’s say I’m dropping someone off at a hotel. When I’m about three minutes away, the app may pop up and say, “Samantha, 4.96 rating, UberX, 22-minute trip northwest,” and I just have to tap it to accept. The app then tells the next passenger that I am dropping off a current rider and I will be there shortly after. I have a guaranteed ride after this current one that I am now mentally preparing for. I am now going to make more money due to having zero downtime between rides. The passenger knows they have a driver coming. Everyone is happy.
Lyft rarely will give back-to-back rides, but when it does, it will just automatically add them to your queue, telling you absolutely no information about the passenger — no name, no rating, whether it’s a regular ride or a shared ride, no estimated duration or direction, and no way to reject this ride without clicking through quite a few options on the app (which is unsafe, and illegal while driving).
The biggest gripe here is that Lyft doesn’t tell the next passenger that you are currently on a ride and dropping someone off. The next passenger is often annoyed by the time you get to them because they didn’t know you were still on a ride dropping off another person. They were watching your car’s location on the app and you weren’t driving towards them, so now they either think you were wasting their time, or that you can’t follow a map correctly, neither of which is true.
Uber takes safety very seriously — but Lyft seems to treat it as an afterthought.
My fiancée’s biggest concern with me driving, especially late at night, is safety. And I don’t blame her. I’m driving around the busy roads of South Florida letting strangers into my car. If I were in her shoes, I would be concerned too. While over 99% of my passengers are extremely nice and normal people, she and I still worry, as I think any person would.
To give her peace of mind, I can share my location with her through the Uber app with the “Follow My Ride” feature. Since I obviously can’t call or text while on a ride, there are often stretches of long periods of time where she won’t hear from me. With Uber’s “Follow My Ride” feature, she can check her phone any time she wants to and see exactly where I am. It’s super easy to do on my end — I click one button and it’s active. That’s it. The Uber passenger app also has this feature.
Lyft doesn’t have this feature. It’s absolutely baffling to me that it doesn’t have something similar, when safety is something that is extremely important for all parties.
Additionally, passengers like to know which driver they’re getting matched with. Passengers on both apps can see the driver’s name, their rating, their profile, and their profile picture. Profile picture requirements are strict: You’re required to upload a nice photo, with no sunglasses, no hat, not too close, not too far away, and with proper lighting. Drivers also like to know who they’re getting matched with. A simple name and a rating can go a long way to giving you peace of mind.
On Lyft, passengers can upload a picture of themselves. Uber drivers can’t view their passengers’ profile pictures. At least on Lyft, for example, I now know that my next passenger, Samantha, has a 4.96 rating and also has blonde curly hair and glasses. This helps me so I can see who I’m looking for at a busy pickup spot.
However, this idea falls flat on its face, as there are clearly no requirements for profile pictures on Lyft, and they’re not nearly filtered with the same strictness as they are for drivers. If you based my passengers solely off of their pictures, to date I have given rides to the following: three cats, a horse, a red Ferrari, the Italian flag, SpongeBob SquarePants, and two beautiful golden retrievers. I would almost prefer no profile picture over seeing Spongebob smiling at me after I accept a ride on Lyft.
Like I said before, 99% of my passengers are nice, normal people. I have had two issues regarding safety, one on each platform. Without going into detail, let’s just say I absolutely did not feel safe in the scenarios. I cancelled the rides and reported them. Uber responded to my report immediately, giving me the impression that the company had my back the entire time, and said it would contact the authorities.
With the Lyft incident, it took the company hours to respond, and when it finally did, it was a simple, scripted email message that said, “You will not be matched with this rider again.”
The Uber user interface is fantastic and the app works flawlessly. Lyft’s seems to get in its own way.
The Uber app just works better than the Lyft app. Plain and simple.
It’s 2019. We have all been to a bad website before. You know what it’s like: Things don’t seem to flow, and menu options are in odd spots. Things aren’t where you think they should be. The colors are slightly off. You click something and it’s not working quite right. It freezes. It’s glitchy. You get the impression that the website is clunky and unfinished.
This tacky website is a perfect description for the Lyft app, except I can’t just go to a different website. This is the app that I am stuck with if I want to make money, and it is rarely updated for UI changes or performance upgrades. It’s slow. It freezes. The default map is of the entire United States, instead of zoomed in on my location. Trying to zoom in sometimes doesn’t work, and it regularly freezes mid-zoom. Getting to my profile requires a few taps in weird areas. The details of my recent rides aren’t in an obvious spot.
The Lyft app gives you the impression that it was designed by a team that has never given an actual ride.
The Uber app, on the other hand, is a well-polished machine. It’s clean looking. Everything you might need to access can be done within a tap or two in logical spots. It rarely freezes or glitches. Everything makes sense — the app just works.
As drivers, we need the map to work, and we need for it to work well. It’s how we get to the passenger. It’s a tool, showing us streets, traffic patterns, and routes. Uber shows the fastest and shortest way to get to a passenger, and it is almost always spot on. Lyft sometimes takes me on the craziest routes in ways that make no sense. I once almost took a 1.4-mile detour because that is what the directions said to do, when all I actually had to do was to make a U-turn instead.
The most important time for the map to work is within the last hundred feet of when I am arriving to the passenger. Often times I will have to turn onto an unnamed side street sandwiched between giant hotels and restaurants, in a busy area full of other cars and pedestrians. Maybe I’m not 100% familiar with the area and I get pinged for a pickup on a busy street. I’m looking at the map, looking at the streets, looking at the map again. With Uber, I can tell exactly which street to turn on, and when I arrive the app automatically tells the passenger I have arrived, and then I simply wait. That’s it.
With Lyft, as soon as I get close, right when I need the map the most, the app makes a loud sound, zooms all the way out to the United States, and says in big letters that take up the whole screen, YOU HAVE ARRIVED. You can’t dismiss this message for five seconds. I don’t know what’s going on. I don’t know where to turn.
The guy behind me is laying on his horn and is probably wishing ill things upon me and my stupid Prius. I’m now trying to turn onto what I hope is the right street, watching for jaywalking pedestrians, trying to click the “I have arrived” button on the app so the passenger with the SpongeBob profile picture knows I’m here, and now I’m slamming on my brakes to not hit the 38-year old man whizzing by me while he is having the time of his life on one of those new rentable electric scooters plaguing every major city. Somewhere, a baby is crying. And then, finally, the app is zooming back in only for me to see that I turned on a side street too early. Oh, and I think it just froze. Great.
I contacted Lyft about its horrible in-app navigation. Their response? “Use Waze.”
One of the most annoying things about Lyft: The app doesn’t have dark mode.
People always talk about how great “dark mode” is on their electronic devices. Whether it’s on websites or on an e-book, people love dark mode. Me, I never saw the true appeal of it. That is, until I started driving for Uber and Lyft.
Look at any airplane cockpit or any ship wheelhouse at night. You’ll realize that there is very little light, if any at all. Instruments are barely lit and if there’s a light on it’s a dim red or blue one. The pilots and captains prefer almost no light. The reason is simple: Your eyes adjust to the darkness, allowing you to see better in front of you.
While I’m not a pilot or a ship captain, I am driving people in a vehicle that weighs over a ton, often times at highway speeds. Being able to see properly and safely is critical.
Uber has a dark mode that automatically turns on every night, and it is beautiful. You can see things on the map just enough to read and navigate your way around busy streets, but your eyes are dilated enough so you can see the roads properly, keeping you ultimately safer.
Lyft doesn’t have a dark mode. I thought for sure there was a setting somewhere deep in Lyft’s confusing menus, but, nope. Nothing. You have to stare at a very blindingly white app with its bright pink logo, neon green notifications, and highlighter yellow street lines.
You might think I’m exaggerating here, but after driving around for hours at night using the Uber app, switching over to the Lyft app is akin to the feeling you had when you were 12 years old and your mother flicked on the bedroom lights at 6 a.m. and yelled “Get ready for school!”
It’s bright, it’s not safe, I hate using it at night, and turning down the brightness only helps marginally.
Lyft, get a dark mode. Please.
Lyft puts pressure on drivers if they’re not accepting enough customers.
While passengers order rides from their apps, we can all agree that it’s not the app that gets you from point A to point B — it’s the drivers. Self-driving cars aren’t here yet. Without the drivers, there is no service.
Drivers are considered independent contractors, which means drivers can legally accept or reject any number of rides they want. While a driver should strive to accept as many rides as possible to make the most money possible, sometimes they do reject rides for a number of reasons. Being an independent contractor allows me to drive whenever I want, which is a huge benefit of this side gig. (It also means I don’t get a fixed salary, or benefits, but that’s a separate issue.)
If you reject a ride on Uber, that’s it, nothing to it, and the app starts finding you another ride. Rejecting a ride on Lyft is an entirely different story. You get a big notification urging you to sign off, saying, “If you’re not available for rides, simply go offline.”
You then get a text message saying the same thing. Then, another in-app notification alert. Finally, you’ll also get a lengthy string of emails in the following days. Its notifications really make it seem like the company’s trying to guilt-force you into accepting more rides.
Uber offers ‘surge’ pricing to drivers in particularly high demand areas. Lyft doesn’t share wealth as easily.
If an area is busy, like if a concert or sporting event ends, the demand for rides may be greater than the current supply of nearby drivers.
In order to entice more drivers into the area, Uber will “surge” an area that shows up on the driver’s app, and charge passengers more per ride, but also give the drivers a bonus from the ride. It’s a great idea to meet demand.
Lyft took away “Prime Time,” which was its version of surge pricing, and replaced it with “Personal Power Zones.” To date, I have never seen a Personal Power Zone, meaning I have never seen a higher bonus on Lyft for a busy area. All the app shows is a heat map of busier areas. This doesn’t mean surge pricing went away. Lyft will still charge the passenger a higher rate because an area is busy, but share none of that extra profit with the driver who is doing all of the actual work.
It’s not fair to the passengers, and it’s not fair to the drivers.
For all those reasons, Uber is by far the better platform for drivers.
Before I go online to start driving, I want a few things.
I want to make as much money as I can. I want to feel safe. I want my fiancée to know that I’m safe. I want an app that works properly, with a support team that I can call at a moment’s notice and has my back. I want to be able to drive my passengers as safely as possible with a map that I can see and a map that makes sense. And, most important, I want to be respected as a person.
Uber checks all of these boxes and then some, while Lyft leaves much to be desired. If it were a horse race, Uber would already be in the winner’s circle while Lyft would still be in turn one playing in the mud.
While I am very appreciative of both companies giving me the opportunity to make money with them, Uber is clearly the better company — and it’s not even close.