Uber vs. Lyft: my story

My husband and I share a car. We live in midtown Atlanta within walking distance of Piedmont Park, lots of great bars and restaurants, the Eastside Trail, and a Trader Joe’s. We work 5 miles from our apartment, in the same building (which houses 200 startups). Though Atlanta’s public transportation system leaves much to be desired, we rarely find ourselves in a situation in which our single car lifestyle is a problem. On the occasion that it is an issue, one of us will typically just use UberX. Last night was one of those occasions. It was a nasty, rainy day in Atlanta and I needed to get across town to my sister’s apartment. As I started to pull up the Uber app, I remembered some of the disturbing things that I had read about the company recently and decided to download Lyft and give it a try instead. Here’s what I found:

The map UI on the app was basically the same. I looked around for a fare quote option like I usually use in Uber, but it didn’t seem like Lyft has that feature in the app (found out later, they don’t… -1 point for Lyft). That was a little irritating but I was already set on giving it a go so I kept with it and requested a Lyft. I was quickly greeted with the photo of my driver, Robert, and a photo of his car!

I was impressed. I had consistently been frustrated that Uber never gave me more info than the car model and tag number. As a primarily UberX user, I’ve always had to search the road for a “Camry” or a “Prius” rather than knowing exactly what the car looked like from the get-go. Standing on the side of a busy street in Atlanta (especially after dark) trying to figure out which Camry might be my UberX is not a pleasant experience. It definitely doesn’t make me feel safe or comfortable. Lyft on the other hand, went out of their way to make it easy for me to find my driver. It was the easiest pickup ever, despite it being a cold and rainy night in Georgia.

Robert was a nice guy and went out of his way to make sure that I safely arrived at my sister’s apartment. Here’s the thing – I’ve had fantastic Uber drivers too. This post is not about Lyft drivers vs. Uber drivers. The ones I’ve met are all just really nice Atlanta folks trying to earn some extra income. I’m glad that they can do that by giving me a ride to the places I need to go. And you know what? I usually want to tip them. Which brings me to the next thing that impressed me about Lyft. The decision to tip or not to tip is in the hands of the user.Every time I’ve taken UberX, I’ve felt bad if I haven’t had cash on me to tip the driver. The fact that I have to even worry about cash with Uber is frustrating. I know they claim that we don’t need to tip the drivers, but I feel like that decision should be left to me. And I appreciate that Lyft agrees.

After Robert dropped me off, I did what I usually do in situations where start to realize I might have found a new product I like – I tweeted about it. It resonated with a few folks, including Lyft investor@pmarca.

I love Twitter lively conversations, so I was super excited about this opportunity to share my thoughts on the experience. @dez_blanchfield and a few others questioned whether or not I could make a fair judgment after one ride with Lyft. So I followed up after I took Lyft back home:

Monica, my driver on my return trip was super nice. Her first question when I got in the car?

“So, do you use Lyft often?”

We chatted the whole way home about the service. Monica loves being a Lyft driver but has considered becoming an Uber driver as well because of Uber’s vehicle financing program (kudos to Uber on that one, it’s a great idea). We talked a lot about the differences we perceived between the two companies and our individual experiences with each one. All in all, my feelings about Uber vs. Lyft can be summed up in Monica’s words to me as we pulled on to my street.

“You know, I chose to drive for Lyft originally because they seemed more friendly, more grassroots. They really seem like they’re trying to solve a problem you know? Like they have a real purpose.”

Sure, giving everyone their own “private driver” is a purpose. But honestly, I don’t want a private driver when I need a ride to my sister’s apartment… or a ride to the airport, or to meet up with friends for drinks. I just need a ride with someone friendly that makes me feel safe. And that’s what Lyft provides. It’s what their brand promises. My comfort and safety and the comfort and safety of their drivers is what matters most to Lyft – or at least that’s what the design of their app and brand tells me.

*I changed the names of the drivers because I didn’t think to ask them if they’d mind me blogging about them.