Waze vs Google Maps: The Ultimate Showdown [Unbiased Review]

One of the most important and necessary things to do as a rideshare driver is correctly get your passengers from point A to point B.

The key word there is “correctly”.

There are plenty of GPS apps out there, but which one is the best for rideshare driving?

In today’s review, we’re going to settle a dispute that rideshare drivers all over the country are torn between; the most popular navigation apps: Waze and Google Maps.

For the time being, we’re going to forget about Apple Maps, Lyft and Uber navigation, and other GPS apps and purely focus on the battle between Waze and Google Maps.

Waze vs Google Maps

Before we dive into a head-on comparison, let’s define the two contenders.

Waze Maps – Waze is a community-based maps and navigation app. Drivers share valuable data about accidents, traffic incidents, and other trip info that helps other drivers get the most out of their trips.

Google Maps – Google Maps is a full navigation solution that operates like the other map apps that users are accustomed to. They are baking more community-based features into the app, but it focuses more on Google’s huge domination of mapping.

Waze screenshot and Google Maps screenshot to show Waze vs Google Maps showdown

While these two navigation apps are heavy contenders, it’s worth noting that they share the same parent company: Google. Google actually acquired Waze for more than a billion dollars back in 2013, but since then the apps have continued to operate independently for the most part.

They share the same parent company, but the apps couldn’t operate differently if they tried. They serve similar functions in getting you around, but they serve two incredibly different functions in how they actually get you there.

The Main Differences

When evaluating Google Maps vs Waze, there are a few key differences:

  • Waze is community-based, Google Maps is more data-based
  • Waze is pretty much just for cars, Google Maps offers walking, driving, and biking options
  • Waze requires a data connection, Google Maps is available offline
  • Google Maps includes business data such as menus, hours, and phone numbers, while Waze does not
  • Google Maps is fairly basic, Waze offers a high level of customization (including celebrity voiceovers!)

In short, Google Maps is a simple but powerful navigation tool that select the quickest and most efficient route.

Waze collects data from a bunch of different users and leverages that data to tailor your trip experience, giving you the most efficient route that’s free of obstacles and other nuisances.

Inferface

The Waze interface is pretty detailed, and incorporates a lot of 3D-type graphics. It obviously is going for style here, but without giving up minimalism (which I’m a huge fan of). Many Waze users are early adopters of new technology, so a sleek and well-designed interface is pretty important.

Google Maps, on the other hand, has a pretty dated interface. The downside to this is that it resembles Mapquest, a massive throwback to the late 90s/early 2000s. The upside is that while simple and dated, there’s not a lot of fluff to get lost in, and minimal distractions to the user when driving around.

 

In terms of operation, Waze moves around a lot. The app changes locations, shifts, rotates, and pans when you change directions. There are very bold, brash directions at the top of the app, which make missing a direction incredibly difficult. As you drive, there are “pins” like potholes, speed traps, and traffic jams that pop up, and they are very easy to avoid.

Using Google Maps is similar to Waze, but very user-friendly. The Google Maps app also moves around, but only when necessary. Google Maps also displays directions at the top of the app, and gives you plenty of notice when you need to take an action.

I’ve found that, especially when using Uber or Spotify, the voice direction of Google Maps tends to mute the background music to give a direction, then never pulls the volume back up to where it was supposed to be. This is a minor detail, but it’s always bothered me.

Here’s a better look at the interface of each:

Data Usage

User interface and features are great, but what about data usage? This factor plays a large role in determining the winner of the Waze vs Google Maps saga.

If you’re on a strict data plan, you’re already sucking down massive amounts of data from using Uber and Lyft. If you don’t watch out for the data usage, you’ll start to pick up unwanted overages and extra charges.

Let’s take a look at how much data each app uses.

How much data does Waze use?

The amount of data that Waze uses is dependent on a number of factors, including the amount of time you use it, trip distance, etc.. But let’s take a look at a quick real-world example from our favorite source, Reddit.

My data: About 15MB average a month driving about one hour a day on average. So about 0.5 MB a day. Multiply that by 5 and that’s 2.5 MB a day if you drive for 5 hours. This is 35 MB for the two weeks you suggested.

This seems a bit low, but other drivers also seem to agree that they’re using something similar.

How much data does Google Maps use?

Like Waze, the amount of data used my Google Maps also depends on the factors listed above.

For this example, we’ll take a look at a recent post on the Andoid Apps section of Reddit:

I also checked the logs after the fact on my provider’s website. I saw that the data download occurred in bulk at the approximate time I left before the trip. There was very little data used while I was actually driving. The majority of the data downloaded all at once when I set the trip.

It looks like Google Maps might be a bit more efficient at managing the data used by the navigation app. Google Maps also offers an offline version of their apps, allowing you to download a location, switch data off, and still get to where you need to go. I tried this when I was abroad and it worked perfectly.

Our Take

When I drive for Uber or Lyft, I use Waze every time. My personal take is that Waze is more useful, given the sheer amount of data that the app collects through it’s massive userbase. Riders don’t want to stop for traffic, hit potholes, or waste time when you get pulled over and have to go through the process of getting a ticket.

I don’t see why you wouldn’t use Waze. There’s so many other features that come standard, all of which provide a huge upside to you and the rider.

But don’t get me wrong, I like Google Maps, and I use it when I am driving myself around. I don’t always need to avoid traffic, or don’t necessarily care about avoiding traffic when I have nothing to do. On long personal trips I use Waze, but when I’m in the city I use Google Maps for accuracy.

In summary, it really depends on what you’re looking for. If you want to just get to your destination, Google Maps is probably good enough. But if you’re looking to supercharge your navigation, give Waze a try.


Over to you: What is your go-to navigation app? Are you a loyal Google Maps user, or do you prefer the suite of real-time feedback that Waze offers drivers? Let us know below!

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