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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.