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.
I’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.
- 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]