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Frugal Find: Uber

   Posted On: May 23, 2014  |    Posted In: Saving  |     Posted by: Broke Millennial®

No one wants to be trying to flag down a cab at 2 AM. After all, nothing good happens after 2 AM — but hey — it happens. So, there I was, with a few new friends I’d made, trying to fight other New Yorkers for a cab. Suddenly, a sleek black car pulls up and one of my bar hopping companions opens the door to get in. Incredibly confused, I asked if he’d called a car service?

“No,” he replied. “I just used Uber.”


After arriving at our next bar destination, we all climbed out of the car and I noticed the Uber user didn’t hand the driver any money. My perplexity reached new levels.

A few hours later, I arrived home (after using a classic NYC yellow cab) and went to my computer to Google this magically thing called Uber that makes cars appear from thin air.

What is Uber?

Uber — “everyone’s private car” — is a simple way to travel around major cities by using an app to call a car. Users open the Uber app on their phone which geo-locates their positions (yes, a little bit of a creepy invasion of privacy — but what isn’t these days?). The app shows cars nearby and estimates how long it will take for you to get picked up. You click “Set Pickup Location” and immediately receive the name of your driver, car model and license plate number. The driver sees your location, name,  phone number and rating. You can call/text your driver to provide more details about your exact location and he (or she) can also call you. After getting in the car, the driver clicks that the ride has started through the app on his phone — there is no meter in the car which can be a bit off-putting if you’re used to cabs.

Once you reach your location, the driver clicks that you’ve arrived and your credit card is automatically charged. No need to hand over cash, swipe your card or even tip.

The app offers various types of cars:

  • UberT (not available in all markets) being the lowest which simply helps you call a cab.
  • UberX will provide you with a mid-size or full-size four door car.
  • UberBLACK is a swanky town car type automobile.
  • SUV is, well, an SUV.
  • LUX offers luxury vehicles.

The base cost of these cars go up according with the car.

Uber drivers vary from taxi/private limo drivers to people who own a nice, clean car and are looking to make some extra money.

UberI’ve used Uber in NYC, Los Angeles and Nashville. In my experience, all the cars have been incredibly clean and well-maintained with very pleasant drivers. Admittedly, I haven’t used my own Uber account in NYC, but I have noticed it undercuts the price of cabs in Los Angeles and Nashville (when surge pricing isn’t in effect).

How much does it cost?

I’m not sure exactly.

There isn’t a specific rate, like you’d get in a cab, because Uber works based on supply and demand. Surge pricing goes into effect if a bunch of people in one area are trying to get a car. The cost of a trip from that area will increase, but the surge won’t last long because a bunch of drivers will flood the area. NPR’s Planet Money has a great segment about the Uber pricing model and why people are willing to pay $192 for a $65 cab ride (not the norm…).

The first time I used Uber on my own phone (wasn’t just riding along with a friend) it cost me $7.50 to get from South Central, LA (near USC) to the downtown area. My sister claims a cab ride would normally cost about $15. Had everyone else in the area been demanding Uber cars, then the price would’ve hiked and I’d have seen a note that surge pricing was in effect and been able to get a quote for the estimated cost of my ride.

Drivers Rate Riders and Riders Rate Drivers

I truly believe the best part of Uber (convenience aside) is the ability to immediately rate and comment on your driver. After your ride ends and you accept the charge, a window pops up on your phone prompting you to rate the driver and leave a comment. You rate the driver from one to five stars and if you leave a comment (even positive) you get an email response from the Uber customer service team. This rating is averaged with others, which shows up in the driver’s profile, which you see when you request a car.

On the flip side, drivers can rate riders on the same scale. This helps protect the drivers and encourages users to stay well-behaved. If you have a low-rating, it shows up when you request a car and drivers can decline to pick you up.

Other features

  • Uber helps cut the angst of splitting the check but allowing users to split the fare via their phones.
  • It’s offered internationally

Become an Uber driver

If you’re looking for a side hustle, and have a car, then consider becoming an Uber driver. I chatted with a few of the drivers in LA and they all had positive things to say about the experience and were all using it as a side job. One driver used his income just to attend music festivals and driving 10 – 20 hours a week paid for his flight, tickets and accommodation to come here to NYC for Governor’s Ball.

Do you have any experience using Uber? If you want to try Uber and get $10 off your first ride, click here.

[Gif taken from GIPHY]


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23 responses to “Frugal Find: Uber

  1. I can finally say I know what Uber is! I kept hearing about it but never had the motivation to actually go check it out. I figured eventually someone would tell me or I’d fall upon it. Thanks for sharing!

    1. It’s really popular here, but I know the awareness of Uber seems to be confined to major cities. It’s mostly word-of-mouth marketing as well.

  2. The first time you use Uber you get a $15 credit so the actual cost as probably $22.50. Uber is not a frugal way to get around town.

    1. It is safe and cost-effective in a lot of markets, especially ones like LA or NYC when cabs are the alternative. I’ve also heard great things about using it internationally in areas where the public transit is slightly less than appealing (ie: my bosses using it during a trip to India).

      My first ride in LA was totally free because of my Uber credit and the second one (same distance) cost $7.84.

      If surge pricing is in effect, then no it isn’t cheap.

  3. We use it in DC and there are ways to get credits that make it ALMOST free if you do it right. For example, a $20 credit when you first sign up. Living in a small city like DC that mean my first 3 rides were free (all around $7). Races I run also pair up with Uber to get runners some without jamming up public transport. For the Nike Women’s Half Marathon they gave all runners $10 Uber credits. My ride to the start line on race day was FREE! When friends come into town I have them sign up and get credits and we get to and from bars/restaurants/races/stores for free because of their credits. There’s ways to do it without breaking the bank. What I like most is how everything is handled electronically. I don’t know about NYC Cabs, but DC cabs can be sketchy and I for one have never been comfortable sliding my ATM card along a cabbies personal card reader. Just screams SCAM!

    1. OH! Nice to know that Uber joins up with races! I’ll need to be on the lookout for how to amass credits so I can take some free (or partially free) rides.

  4. I live in Chicago and when I use taxi’s I use Uber, it’s more convenient, feels a little nicer, and extra price is really only like a 10% increase assuming it’s not a high volume time. It’s one of the companies that I consider cool, like a Google or Apple.

    1. I would pay 10% more for an Uber car over a cab. It’s a much better experience than a taxi. But if I want to take a cab, I do like that there is UberT in NYC. It’s easier to get a cab via the app if you can’t find one right on the street.

    1. I’m glad they give you the fare estimate before you get in and warn you if it’s surge pricing. Otherwise, it would be easy to get ripped off. The logic behind the supply and demand model is great though because it encourages drivers to flood areas with surge pricing which reduces the demand very quickly.

  5. If you have a Bank of America rewards card they actually give you discounts to Uber all the time. I haven’t used it, but my good friend in DC uses it all the time although the supply/demand thing can get crazy. We were looking for a ride home after an evening of drinking and it was going to cost over $40. So we just ended up walking. I think it’s a great option though, especially in towns where cabs are not as widely dispersed.

    1. I hadn’t heard that BofA offers Uber discounts. Good to know (even though I don’t have a BofA card and probably never would 😛 )

  6. I have a lot of friends who have used it and loved it. Fortunately I have very few instances where I need a cab where I live, so I haven’t used it yet. Although I’m sure I could make good money as a driver, I’d kill myself if I had to drive MORE in LA. lol!

  7. The rates for Uber X in NY are more expensive than a yellow cab, even without surge pricing. Sure, they’re more convenient, especially when it’s hard to get a cab but they’re not frugal. If you have credits, it can help to balance things out. And the SUV option is nice if you have a large group you don’t want to split up into multiple taxis.

  8. Thanks for the tip. I didn’t think they would offer service here in Charlotte since it’s smaller, but they do! I’ll have to keep it in mind.

  9. I LOVE using Uber. Ever since I started using it a little over a year ago, I have not taken a traditional taxi cab. Uber is super convenient, and you really can’t beat their pricing if you’re using it at the right times. I use it all the time in Chicago, and rarely have an issue with surge pricing.

  10. I’m a little biased but I love Uber 🙂

    I started off driving for Lyft and then Uber offered me $500 to try them out, no strings attached. Driving for rideshare companies is the perfect second source of income and I’m surprised more bloggers haven’t tried it out.

    If anyone has any questions about driving or ridesharing in general, feel free to contact me or check out my site 🙂

  11. Although tips are not required, but I think you should tip. I mean Uber drivers are not making as much as you think. If it’s a taxi you’ll pay more and better yet you still tip taxi drivers, but not those (Uber drivers) who saved you money?

  12. Uber riders should be encouraged to tip, I understand tips shouldn’t be required, but Uber should at least encourage it instead of the other way around. Riders pay at least twice cheaper than they would normal pay a traditional taxi cab.

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