When You Should Take a Taxi Instead of a Rideshare

When You Should Take a Taxi Instead of a Rideshare
Photo: Cameris, Shutterstock

When you need a ride, are you sure you know what is the best, cheapest option? Should you open up one of your rideshare apps, or are you better off going old school and hopping in a cab? It’s hard to know off of the top of your head which one is going to be cheaper. After all, the rideshare apps’ pricing formulas are intentionally fluid, but you’ll also have no idea what the cost of your taxi ride will be until you’ve already reached your destination.

Opaqueness aside, there is a small dearth of information available that you can use to read the tea leaves to figure out which option is better in a particular situation. To do so, let’s start with a look at the average prices of a cab versus a rideshare in the country’s largest cities.

New York

Taxi

Initial fare: $US2.50 ($3)

Distance fee: $US0.50 ($1) per ⅕ mile

Time fee: $US0.50 ($1) per minute

Uber

Initial fare: $US2.55 ($4)

Distance fee: $US1.75 ($2) per mile

Time fee: $US0.35 ($0) per minute

Chicago

Taxi

Initial fare: $US3.25 ($5)

Distance fee: $US2.25 ($3) per mile

Time fee: $US0.25 ($0) per 36 seconds

Uber

Initial fare: $US1.87 ($3)

Distance fee: $US0.85 ($1) per mile

Time fee: $US0.30 ($0) per minute

Los Angeles

Taxi

Initial fare: $US3.10 ($4)

Distance fee: $US2.97 ($4) per mile

Time fee: $US0.33 ($0) per 37 seconds

Uber

Initial fare: $US2.30 ($3)

Distance fee: $US0.80 ($1) per mile

Time fee: $US0.28 ($0) per minute

Right off the bat, Uber offers a more competitive pricing model than your typical yellow taxi — if only it were that simple. Due to some additional factors, there are certain situations where taking a taxi trumps taking a car from rideshare apps, no matter what city you’re in.

When a taxi is cheaper

Despite lower initial fares and time/distance fees, it’s not always cheaper to use a rideshare app. During time windows when transportation is in high demand, the rideshare apps will implement “surge pricing,” which is the practice of taking their regular rate and increasing it by a predetermined percentage based on how many people are trying to use their service. Typical times when surge pricing occurs are weekend evenings, as well as weekdays during morning and evening commutes (think 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.).

Additionally, “going out” holidays like New Year’s Eve and Halloween are prime for surge-pricing hikes. During these windows, your best bet is to hail a taxi, which does not change its rates based on demand. Price aside, taxis also tend to be much more accessible during these hours; you don’t need a smartphone or internet connection to hail one if you’re in an area when they’re prevalent — just an arm you can wave and a little bit of gusto.

When a rideshare app is cheaper

There are a few instances where using a rideshare app can be cheaper than taking a taxi. The first instance is when you’re travelling solo. This is because some rideshares allow you to opt for their pool option, which can save you a decent chunk off of your journey. With UberxShare, you can save up to 20% off of your total fare while being guaranteed no more than eight minutes will be added to your total trip time. This discount can bring your total fare under the cost of a cab ride, with pretty minimal inconvenience. In the right set of circumstances, this choice is a no-brainer.

The second instance when a rideshare is the better option compared to a taxi is when you’re going to the airport. According to Sergei Klebnikov of Money.com, of the top 25 busiest airports in the country, there are only three airports where it’s cheaper to take a cab than it is to take an Uber (sorry patrons of Laguardia, JFK, and Logan airports). This is because taxis typically have fixed prices for trips to the airport, whereas rideshares use an algorithm to decide their prices (meaning if you’re travelling to the airport at off-peak hours, you’ll likely get a lower rate).

The third instance is during non-peak travel hours. If you’re looking to take a car in the middle of the afternoon or early in the morning, you’re more than likely not going to be met with any surge pricing. Because of this, you will be able to take advantage of the rideshare’s comparatively low initial fare charge, as well as low time fees and distance fees.

 

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