Claim Your Free Uber Ride: Your Guide to Getting Started With Uber

Sometimes, you don’t know you need something until it appears right in front of you.

The advent of Uber was the beginning of a beautiful love story between empty car seats, carless passengers, and gig-seeking drivers. The rideshare service seemingly appeared out of nowhere, offering a solution for everyone’s monetary and commuting needs. Today, it has changed transportation as we know it. The best parts of ride-hailing services are now condensed into a single app — and it’s all affordable.

It’s time to jump on the Uber bandwagon and save on rides. In this article, we’ll discuss the basics of how Uber works, compare Uber to other car services, and help you find invite codes for a free first ride.

Jump to:

How Does Uber Work?

Getting a free Uber ride

More than likely, you’re familiar with the basic concept of Uber: A platform where everyday riders and drivers are connected to help meet each other’s needs. But have you ever wondered how it works?

Once you’ve requested a ride, Uber automatically pairs you with a nearby driver.

The match process isn’t exactly as simple as finding the driver closest to you. Uber’s technology attempts to reduce wait times for all Uber drivers and riders in the market, which means your wait time might increase by a couple minutes if it reduces another rider’s wait time by 10. Uber services at large-scale events, like sporting events and music festivals, may have different matching processes that increase your wait times due to an influx of requests.

Regardless, you’ll receive an estimate arrival time within a matter of seconds, and you can expect the time to be considerably low. Even in heavily populated cities like New York, wait times impressively average out to under five minutes — a testament to the huge network the company has accumulated over the years.

Calculating Costs

Getting a free ride on the app

The final cost of your ride will depend on a variety of factors, the most important being the vehicle option you select and your current location. These two factors together determine your base fare, which is a set fee everyone must pay to use Uber.

While Uber’s most popular services are its economy services — which include Uber Pool, UberXL and the iconic UberX — the company also offers luxury services like SELECT and BLACK that can quickly drive up the cost. On the other hand, taking an Uber can actually help you save money in large cities like Chicago and San Francisco, where supply can keep up with demand.

Two other major factors that determine your final cost are the time and distance you expect to travel. Uber charges per-minute and per-mile fees, so a ride home from work will be much cheaper from a ride home from another city. Don’t worry about traffic driving up your costs — the Uber app will always provide an upfront price based on a calculated average.

In addition to these factors, Uber charges a general flat booking fee, multiplies costs when demand is greater than supply (called surge pricing), and offers an option for you to tip. You can use our Uber price estimator to help you determine how much you’ll have to pay. If you’re still not sure if Uber is for you, new customers can use an Uber coupon code to receive free credits for their first rides (more on this later).

Comparing Uber, Lyft, and Taxis

It’s not a secret that Uber faces tough competition, which is only increasing as the gig economy grows. Two of the company’s most contentious relationships are with Lyft and taxis.

Uber vs. Lyft

Red and blue car aerial shot

We’re going to be honest here: Uber and Lyft are pretty much neck in neck.

Uber and Lyft are each consistently within the same price range as the other, competing in a race to become the preferred provider for essentially the same services. However, there are times when you may take a preference to Lyft, particularly during times of high demand. Both rideshare platforms will multiply fares if demand is high, but Uber doesn’t limit its surge pricing, whereas Lyft’s Prime Time will rarely exceed double fares.

That said, Uber does offer far more premium options, and has been known to specifically provide accessible, on-demand services for wheelchair assistance (WAV), car seat needs (Uber Car Seat), Spanish-speaking riders (UberESPAÑOL), and more in select cities.

While Lyft does have a better reputation among riders and drivers, it all comes down to whether you prefer your app experience in pink or black.

Uber vs. Taxis

Uber driving next to taxi

In comparison to taxis, both UberX and regular Lyfts tend to be more cost-effective than taxis. Because taxis are metered and the final cost can be impacted by traffic, rideshare providers’ upfront costs usually win out every time. The only exception is if you’re in a busy area. In this case, surge pricing may drastically bump up your cost, but luckily, you’ll know before you request a ride.

The other major consideration people take when comparing Uber to taxis is whether or not rideshare safety is up to par with taxis. While it may not have started this way, Uber policies and local regulations are quickly increasing safety. In addition, Uber ratings and feedback provide drivers with incentives to be cautious and courteous drivers.

Another point for Uber: Every transaction is cashless and done straight through an app. Considering that you’re paying less for greater convenience, plus equal service and safety at the least, there are plenty of reasons to take a preference to Uber.

Unlocking Your Free Ride

Thousands of promo codes are available every day, and first-time riders are eligible to earn free ride credits from the majority of them. These promo codes typically involve getting a few dollars off multiple rides, or getting a larger amount off your first ride.

Getting free Uber credits that are dispersed among multiple first trips is easy. Anyone currently using Uber — your friends, your family members, or even your local grocery clerk — can give you their promo code straight from their Uber app. They’ll appreciate it, too. As you receive a total of $6 off your first Uber rides, your lucky friend will receive $5 off their next ride.

New riders can also peruse RetailMeNot, Groupon, and other discount code platforms for Uber promo codes that existing users have submitted online. If you’d prefer the sweetest deals over the convenience of hitting up an acquaintance, this method will provide the most diverse list of promo codes out there.

Uber coupon codes on RetailMeNot

Another strategy you can consider: Look for promo codes from festival organizers, universities, and other organizations with upcoming events. When Uber is the official rideshare partner for events, the company frequently provides a generous amount of Uber credits as part of the partnership promotion. It’s not uncommon for new users to get $20 off, which easily translates to a free Uber ride if you’re not heading too far.

Once you’ve obtained a promo code, click here to sign up for your Uber account and add a promo code in the designated area before you submit the form. Take your first ride before the expiration date (typically within days for the average referral) and your discount will automatically apply.

Frequently Asked Questions

Rideshare driver

Now that you know how to nail down your promo code for a free Uber ride, and understand how your experience will compare to that from other service providers, we’ve answered a few pressing questions you might have left.

1. Is Uber safe for riders?

Uber takes plenty of safety precautions to keep you safe on the road. Every Uber driver has to pass a background check that cross-checks their criminal history and driving records for any red flags that would affect their rider-facing performance. Drivers must have adequate driving experience, and their vehicles must pass annual inspections.

Premium rides are guaranteed to be even safer and more comfortable, as Uber drivers have additional requirements to provide luxury services.

2. Do I need a smartphone to use Uber?

While you must have an updated Android or iPhone to use the Uber app, you can actually request rides by visiting m.uber.com and logging into your account. The desktop site has limited features, since Uber was built as a mobile application, but this method can get you where you need to go.

3. What payment methods are accepted on the Uber app?

Uber allows you to use generic payment methods like credit cards, debit cards, and gift cards. In addition, you’re also welcome to use Venmo, PayPal, and Google Pay. Uber Cash and account credits are also accepted. Any of these payment options can be used in conjunction with a promotion code.

Continue Saving on Your Commute

Even when you’re an established user and an expert at how Uber works, the saving doesn’t have to stop. From sharing your Uber code to acquiring membership reward points, there are many ways to earn Uber Cash. If you’re always on the go, you can feasibly be saving every day. Or, if you’re patient for a big reward, you’ll earn another free Uber ride in no time.

Read this article for tips on saving on your next ride home.