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Over the past 10 years, rideshare apps have taken the world by storm. All across the globe, commuters have adopted a new and affordable way to get around their city.
Ridesharing services have given people an innovative alternative to standard taxi services. You can reserve a ride, pay, and manage your trips all from your mobile device.
There are many different rideshare apps on the market. You may not know where to start if you’re new to ridesharing or are interested in driving for a rideshare platform.
In this article, we’ll go over what rideshare apps are, how they work, and how much they’ll cost you. We’ll also cover the most popular rideshare apps and show you how you can sign up and start your rideshare adventure.
- What Are Rideshare Apps?
- How Do Rideshare Apps Work?
- How Much Do Rideshare Apps Cost?
- Types of Rideshare Apps
What Are Rideshare Apps?
Rideshare apps let you easily reserve a ride in your city with little effort. Think of them as a convenient on-demand taxi service that requires only a few taps of your smartphone.
Ridesharing is a concept that was pioneered by Uber in 2009. Uber provided customers with a way to easily reserve a ride on their mobile device. Instead of hiring their own taxi drivers, they gave gig workers an opportunity to make money by driving customers in their own vehicles.
Once Uber took off, a flock of new companies mirrored Uber’s platform and created their own rideshare services giving customers several choices for urban travel. There are now over 1.4 billion users with nearly 20% of urban residents actively using a rideshare service.
So how do ridesharing apps work?
How Do Rideshare Apps Work?
Most rideshare apps follow the same formula. You open the app, reserve a ride, and then hop in the vehicle once your driver has arrived. Ride reservation, payment, and account management are all handled through your rideshare app.
Each rideshare app will have its own unique intricacies, but most will have similar functionalities. Here’s how they work.
You can reserve your first ride after creating your rideshare account. You’ll open the app, type in your destination, and see available vehicles in your area. The app will show you how long it will take for your rideshare driver to arrive, how long your trip will take, and how much your trip will cost.
You then reserve your ride and wait until your driver arrives. Upon arrival, you’ll hop in and head to your destination. All drivers are given thorough background checks to ensure the safety and comfort of passengers.
After your trip, you can tip your driver through the app and rate your experience. You never need to worry about paying your driver cash since all payment is handled through the app.
How Much Do Rideshare Apps Cost?
The cost of your ride will depend on how far you’re traveling and how long it takes you to get there. You may also be charged more for things like traveling during rush hour or limited driver availability.
Every rideshare app will have its own unique cost structure. Some will have flat-rate pricing, while others will have dynamic pricing depending on factors like how far you’re driving.
The more popular cost structure for rideshare apps is dynamic pricing. Your fare will follow a formula that typically has a base rate, distance traveled rate, and time in vehicle rate.
There may also be an additional charge that some companies refer to as surge pricing. Surge pricing will multiply your fare depending on factors like traffic, time of day, events in your city, or driver availability.
Although less popular, some rideshare apps use flat-rate pricing. This means you’ll pay a set fee for your ride regardless of how long it takes you to get there.
There are a few different types of rideshare apps you can sign up for. Let’s take a look at what your choices are.
Types of Rideshare Apps
There are three main types of rideshare apps — standard rideshare apps, taxi-hailing apps, and carpooling apps.
Standard rideshare apps are what most people think of. You reserve a ride and an independent contractor will come to pick you up in their vehicle. Uber and Lyft are great examples of rideshare apps that follow this formula.
Taxi-hailing apps are one step closer to your traditional taxi service. These apps have adopted the rideshare model and applied it to the taxi business. You’ll reserve your ride and a licensed taxi driver will pick you up in their cab. Curb and Arro are two taxi-hailing apps.
The last rideshare option you have is a carpooling app. Carpooling apps let you team up with others in your area to share your ride. You can either list your vehicle on the platform and allow others to drive with you, or you can reserve a ride in someone else’s car.
It’s a great way to split the expenses of fuel and reduce your carbon footprint. Waze Carpool is one example of a carpooling app.
There are many options out there for you to choose from. We’ve done the legwork and found the best ridesharing apps on the market.
There are many rideshare apps that follow the same model that Uber pioneered. You reserve your ride and take your trip with a gig working driver. Here are the most popular rideshare apps.
Uber was the first rideshare company to arrive on the scene in 2009 and turned into an immediate hit with riders. The on-demand ride-hailing service evolved its business model and now has its hands in a long list of services like food delivery, bike share, freight transportation, and air travel.
Uber is still the most popular option on the market and is synonymous with ridesharing. It has the largest rideshare footprint in the world and can be found in most major cities across the United States.
You have the option of choosing between several types of rides. You can pick between the following options depending on your city’s availability:
- UberX: The most popular low-cost ride option
- UberXL: Slightly larger vehicles to fit your entire group
- Uber Select: An upgrade from UberX with nicer vehicles
- Uber Black: Premium service in all-black luxury vehicles
- Uber Black SUV: Uber Black but in larger SUVs
- Uber Comfort: UberX but with more room to stretch and a more customized ride
- Uber Assist: Uber’s option for passengers who need additional assistance
- Uber WAV: Wheelchair accessible vehicles for everyone to get around
- UberPool: Economical way to share your ride with others heading in the same direction
Each one of these vehicle types will have different fare rates. The cost of your trip will largely depend on which vehicle you choose.
City Availability: Uber cities
Ride With Uber: Rider sign-up
Drive for Uber: Driver sign-up
Lyft is the second most popular rideshare service that’s available in most major U.S. cities. There’s a good chance you’ll have access to a Lyft driver if you live near a busy urban area.
Lyft started as a fun alternative to Uber, outfitting their vehicles with large pink mustaches. The mustaches went away, but Lyft is still going strong, providing customers with reliable transportation and great service.
Similar to Uber, Lyft offers several different types of vehicle options:
- Lyft: Standard Lyft rideshare service
- Lyft XL: Standard service but with larger vehicles
- Lyft Lux: Luxurious vehicles when you want to ride in style
- Lux Black: All black luxurious vehicles for those special occasions
- Lux Black XL: The same as Lux Black but in an SUV
- Lyft Shared: Shared carpool option with other passengers
Like Uber, the cost of your trip will vary depending on which vehicle you choose, how far you’re traveling, and how long it takes to get there.
City Availability: Lyft cities
Ride With Lyft: Rider sign-up
Drive for Lyft: Driver sign-up
Wingz is similar to other rideshare apps with a few different caveats. Drivers will wait for your arrival, you can pick your favorite drivers, and you’ll never have to worry about surge pricing.
First, Wingz lets you schedule rides so that your driver is waiting for you before you arrive. For example, if you just got off a flight that was running a little behind, your driver will still be waiting for you without the risk of receiving any sort of late fee.
Plus, you can save drivers if you enjoyed their company or great service. The next time you reserve a ride, you can look through your favorite drivers and choose who will pick you up.
Wingz also uses flat-rate pricing based on distance traveled and time in the vehicle. You’ll never have to worry about surge pricing like some rideshare apps.
City Availability: 13 major U.S. cities listed at the bottom of this page
Ride With Wingz: Rider sign-up
Drive for Wingz: Driver sign-up
It all starts with the drivers. Safr drivers are carefully vetted and given comprehensive background checks. They’re also paid higher than the industry average which encourages a higher level of service.
Before you reserve your vehicle, you can decide between a male and female driver — whichever makes you feel comfortable. Safr is all about choice, and it starts with this step.
When your ride arrives, there are added security features to help you feel more comfortable. Before hopping in, there is a color-matching feature that ensures you’re getting into the right car with the right driver. There’s also an SOS button that connects you directly to 911 and automatically shares your location. You can breathe easy knowing that if you’re ever put in an uncomfortable situation, help will immediately be on the way.
Plus, a part of every fare you pay goes directly to charities and organizations that help empower women and support children, animals, and local communities. You can give back to your community by simply using the Safr rideshare service.
City Availability: Washington D.C., Boston, Orlando, Atlanta, Dallas, San Francisco, and Charlotte
Ride With Safr: Rider sign-up
Drive for Safr: Driver sign-up
HopSkipDrive has one passenger on their mind — children. The platform was built to provide a safe rideshare option to families who need help getting their kids home from school, soccer practice, or other extracurricular activities.
HopSkipDrive helps families and schools handle the complicated logistics of managing transportation for children, while ensuring parents are comfortable throughout the entire process.
The first thing on a parent’s mind is safety. You wouldn’t want to let your child hop in the car with a stranger without feeling confident they’re safe.
HopSkipDrive alleviates these worries by making sure they do rigorous background checks, fingerprinting, and ongoing DMV checks. Drivers are certified caregivers with at least five years of experience and undergo a 15-point certification process.
The app also allows parents to see where their children are at all times. You can see when the driver is on their way and the exact moment your child enters the vehicle. HopSkipDrive was designed to give parents peace of mind.
City Availability: 16 major U.S. cities listed at the bottom of this page
Ride With HopSkipDrive: Family sign-up
Drive for HopSkipDrive: Driver sign-up
Taxi Hailing Apps
Taxi-hailing apps connect you with taxi drivers in your city. Instead of calling a cab or sitting at the corner trying to hail one down, you can open your app and have a taxi on the way.
Curb partners with over 50,000 cabs and 100,000 taxi drivers across most major cities in the United States. The app hires fully licensed professional taxi drivers instead of enlisting independent contractors to handle the driving.
Although you’re reserving a taxi, the service still works the same. Open the app, reserve a ride, and your driver will be at your location shortly.
City Availability: Curb cities
Ride With Curb: Rider sign-up
Drive for Curb: Must be a licensed independent taxi driver or work for a professional taxi service
Similar to Curb, Arro focuses on being the middleman between you and taxis in your city. It enables you to hail a taxi through the app or even pay for taxis you’re currently in.
Compared to Uber, you’re receiving pretty much the same service except you’re in a taxi and you don’t have to worry about surge pricing. The part that makes Arro slightly different from others is being able to pay for a taxi that you didn’t reserve on the app.
For example, let’s say you hailed a taxi by waving your hand at the corner. You hop in your ride and realize you don’t have any cash to pay for your trip. You can open your app, select “I’m already in a taxi,” and enter the seven-digit taxi code. Your fare will automatically be paid by your credit card on file once your trip is complete.
City Availability: Boston, Chicago, Houston, Miami, New York City, San Francisco, and London
Drive for Arro: Driver sign-up
Flywheel is a smaller rideshare operation that utilizes local taxi drivers to get their customers from A to B. You simply use the app to find the closest taxi driver, hop in, and pay through the app — no cash or credit card needed.
Flywheel plays up the fact that it uses only local taxi drivers who know the area better than anyone else. This means shortcuts and short trip times because you’ll be driving with people who know the city like the back of their hand.
The downside is that it only has operations in four U.S. markets — San Francisco, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, and Washington, D.C. If you’re not in one of these markets then you’ll have to choose another taxi or rideshare alternative.
City Availability: San Francisco, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, and Washington, D.C.
Ride With Flywheel: Rider sign-up
Drive for Flywheel: Driver sign-up
Carpooling apps connect you with other commuters who are traveling in the same vicinity. Instead of driving by yourself, you can share a ride with others and save some money.
Waze started off as a cutting edge navigation app that let drivers report traffic conditions so you could know all the secret shortcuts and real-time traffic reports. It was only natural that the company would evolve its business into the carpooling area.
Instead, you’re riding with other commuters like yourself who are going in the same direction. You can choose to be the driver and welcome other passengers into your vehicle, or you can hop in someone else’s car to save some cash.
The carpooling model allows the driver and rider to share the costs of gas and tolls. On top of that, you get to use the carpool lane and reduce your carbon footprint by taking more vehicles off the road.
City Availability: U.S., Mexico, Brazil, and Israel
Via is a rideshare platform that straddles the line between public and private transportation. It primarily focuses on carpooling reservations but also gives riders the option to book a private vehicle.
With Via, you have two ride options. You can use their standard shared service with other people or reserve a private ride.
The shared service consists of setting your pick-up time and location, getting picked up, and then getting dropped off within a few blocks of your destination. It may seem inconvenient not getting off directly at your end destination, however, this helps keep trip times down so Via can compete with taxi services and other rideshare platforms.
If you want to get dropped off at your exact destination, then you can opt to reserve a private ride. This will give you your own vehicle but you’ll pay a premium for the convenience.
City Availability: 13 major U.S. cities
Drive for Via: Driver sign-up
Zimride is a ridesharing network that lets you pair up with other drivers and carpool. It enables you to post your planned ride, choose between prospective riders who requested a ride, and share the costs with others.
Zimride is operated by Enterprise, the car rental company, and primarily serves corporate employees and university members. In order to use the service, your corporation or university must have an established network with Zimride.
After you determine if your corporation or university is part of the network, you can create an account and post your first ride request. You can choose to either post your ride in your vehicle on the app or request to ride with others.
Once you vet the potential shared carpooler, you can meet up, share your ride, and reduce gas consumption and emissions. It’s a win-win for both parties.
City Availability: Zimride network availability
Ride With Zimride: Check network availability and create an account
Drive for Zimride: Check network availability and create an account
Start Riding Today
Now that you have a thorough understanding of how ridesharing works, you can choose one of the apps mentioned above and give it a shot. You’ll be amazed at how convenient and easy-to-use the apps are. In no time, you’ll be hailing rides left and right without having to worry about ever driving yourself.
If you’d like one more transportation option, you can also look into car sharing services — which are more like short-term rentals that help you reduce your monthly transportation costs.
Brett Helling is the owner of Ridester.com. He has been a rideshare driver since early 2012, having completed hundreds of trips for companies including Uber, Lyft, and Postmates. In 2014 he acquired Ridester.com to share his experiences with other drivers. His insights are regularly quoted by publications such as Forbes, Vice, CNBC, and more. He is currently working on a book about working in the Gig Economy, expanding his skill set beyond the rideshare niche. Read more about Brett here.