Culture

How Lyft and Uber Are Changing Us

As a business traveler, I used to almost always rent a car when I arrived at my destination. But now, I rarely do when I’m staying in a large city. Instead I’ve been using Lyft and Uber to get around.

Data from Certify, a travel management company that analyzes expense reports, shows that I’m not alone, and that business travelers are turning to Uber and Lyft while renting fewer cars.

The company reviewed more than 10 million receipts filed in the past three months and found rental car expenses have fallen two percent, while Uber and Lyft grew by two percent.

“Increasingly, we are seeing the business traveler say, ‘I’ll just take an Uber or Lyft,'” said Bob Neveu, president of Certify.

The trend, which is expected to accelerate, makes sense as rental car costs keep increasing. There’s the rental fee and the taxes that can add as much as 50 percent in additional costs. And if you’re staying in a large city or even in the suburbs, you can incur hotel parking fees of another $30 or more per day. So the cost of that car could be as much as $80 to $100 per day, which pays for a lot of Lyft rides.

While you might think taxis would be a good alternative to car rentals, their usage has fallen by two percent according to the same report. Eleven percent of business travelers took a taxi in the fourth quarter last year down from 20 percent a year earlier.

That’s because Uber and Lyft are so much more convenient compared to taxis. In my experience the rides are about 10 to 15 percent cheaper, but it’s much more than cost. These companies allow you to order a car at the last minute and free you from the dependency of calling a taxi dispatcher with busy signals and the unpredictable wait times.

With Uber and Lyft, you see the path of the car arriving to pick you up. And since they already have your credit card information, you simply get in and get out with no money changing hands. And while the Uber and Lyft cars can vary from showroom clean to somewhat messy, they’re usually much better than your typical taxi. Ironically, the one time I used a taxi in the past year, the driver wanted to charge me $3 to use my credit card and tried to take a longer route to my destination, something that is less likely to happen with Uber and Lyft because the company records and monitors the route and cost and then emails you a copy.

On the negative side, neither Uber nor Lyft thoroughly screen their drivers as well as they could or as some police departments screen taxi drivers. Both companies have refused to fingerprint their drivers as part of their security check. I try to use Lyft because their drivers seem to be more pleasant and the company treats their drivers better.

With its origins in Silicon Valley, where inventing never ends, Lyft and Uber are continuing to bring new services, particularly in the food area. UberEats lets you order food from good restaurants in many cities that are delivered by an Uber driver. And Lyft just started a service called “Taco Mode.” A passenger using a Lyft to a destination can request to stop along the way at a Taco Bell drive-in to make a purchase. The passenger can order using an in-car menu and sample taco chips in selected vehicles. And there’s no extra charge for detouring to the restaurant. This service in starting in Southern California between the hours of 9 p.m. to 2 a,m. and will be rolled out nationwide between now and the end of 2018.

Uber and Lyft are also changing car buying habits. Many city residents have decided to dispose of their cars and use a car service instead to avoid the cost of the sutomobile, insurance, and garaging.

It used to be that we couldn’t wait to learn to drive and get a car, but today’s generation thinks very differently, and the trend is for far fewer of them to own a car.

When you think of this phenomenon that’s taking hold and affecting so many industries, it all began with a simple premise of offering a service that solves the problems we have with taxis: providing near-instant availability of rides at a reasonable cost with no hassles.