I don’t need to sell you on the benefits of using on-demand transport, or reiterate that the rates are often ultra competitive compared to the old school taxis your grandma still uses. As a cost-conscious traveler, these apps are your best way to get around the city, and I have learned a thing or two over the years on how to cut down the fare.
First in my arsenal is Up Hail, a free and nifty app that was named by Mashable as on the most useful tools on the web - and rightfully so. Up Hail is like the Kayak or Expedia of ground transportation, and in real time tells you what the best option is for your trip. It saves you the time that you would normally spend opening up each app (I toggle between 4 in NYC alone - Uber, Lyft, Gett, and VIA), to get a fare estimate for each service. Up Hail lets you know instantly if your journey qualifies for a promotional rate, such as with a recent trip I took from Midtown Manhattan to JFK (Up Hail recommended Lyft Line which offered a flat $35 promo rate; UberX charges twice as much). Up Hail also lets you project your travel expense based on simulated traffic conditions, and how much a surge can affect the cost of your trip. Another cool feature that Up Hail offers is the coverage maps for all the major service providers, which is super helpful when traveling outside major metropolitan areas.
Uber Meter offers that missing feature you wish were included in the Uber or Lyft app itself. It’s a real time fare meter that is a staple in the traditional taxicabs. Hop into your car, press start, and watch the meter with the current fare based on time elapsed and distance traveled. Stuck in traffic two blocks from your destination? Instead of watching the meter tick away burning a hole in your pocket, you may want to finish the trip by foot and burn calories instead.
The Pin Trick
My final tip is what I like to call the Pin Trick. I wish there were a tool or app that would automate this trick, but there isn’t, so I find myself frequently performing this trick manually. Ever since Uber and Lyft lowered their rates, demand has spiked, pushing the rates in what seems like a permanent state of surge. It’s no secret that surge is often seen during inclement weather or rush hour, but did you know that it’s hyper-local down to the block level? Drag and drop the pin (the one that sets your pickup location) across the street or down the block, and you may find the surge is not occurring in that location. Or it may be a lower multiplier than where you are currently standing. Your best bet is to drop the pin where the population density, traffic, and demand may be lowest. I personally move the pin one block north, one block west, one block east, and one block south, then request the ride from the cheapest point.
This map is what the driver sees in order to drive to the location where the potential payout and demand is the highest. Notice that in one part of town, the surge is at 2.1X, but the adjacent neighborhood, the surge is 1.3X.
Have an Uber or Lyft hack to save your fellow riders money? Share your favorites in the comments.