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Rideshare users more than doubled in the U.S. in the course of three years, but if you’re still part of the majority of Americans who haven’t hailed their first ride, you may not know where to start navigating the industry. So what is rideshare — the term we’ve all heard thousands of times — exactly? And what ridesharing companies are out there for you to use?
In the past decade, rideshare apps have definitely transformed transportation as we know it. They seemingly came out of nowhere, with Uber quickly gaining traction across the United States and soon, the world.
However, there’s more to the story — more history, more apps, and more growth than you may know. In this article, we’ll give you a little background on ridesharing and introduce you to some of the global ridesharing leaders today.
- What Is Rideshare?
- How Ridesharing Started
- Top 4 Rideshare Companies in the World
- 3 Popular Rideshare Companies in the U.S.
- How to Find Ridesharing Services Near You
- Frequently Asked Questions
What Is Rideshare?
The term “rideshare” refers to a service that connects passengers to drivers of private vehicles, who provide rides in exchange for a set fee. Modern ridesharing companies make these rides accessible, usually on-demand, through a mobile app or website.
Rideshare services are known for their convenience above all else. They’re built especially for smartphones and use special algorithms to match you with the driver closest to you — no need to search for or call one yourself — which reduces wait times and keeps costs low. When you request a ride, your driver will instantly receive the pick-up and drop-off locations you enter on the platform, so you can both track your trip progress in-app.
The driver who arrives will typically be an everyday driver, not a professional. Most rideshare drivers are not required to pass the stricter, city-mandated background checks and training that taxi drivers have to complete, though nowadays, you can request black car service (like Uber Lux) or an alternate taxi service (like Uber Taxi) through rideshare platforms. Still, you can rest assured that your driver has been screened.
Once your ride ends, the convenience continues with cashless payments and tips. There’s no need to count out your bills or even swipe a card. Instead, you’ll be able to select your tip within your rideshare app and the credit card (or other digital payment method) you have on file will be charged.
How Ridesharing Started
While Uber undoubtedly led the rideshare boom in recent years, rideshare services didn’t actually begin with the now-international company.
Modern ridesharing — originally known as ride-matching — services already began flocking to the internet in the late 1990s, over 10 years before Uber was even founded. Many of these early digital services functioned more like carpooling, simply helping drivers earn extra cash on their way home by finding a rider to cover part of the trip.
However, ridesharing has segmented into its own commercialized industry, with many full-time Uber drivers and Lyft drivers waiting for requests throughout the day. This can, in part, be attributed to the massive popularity of Uber, after the company pivoted from being a smartphone-based black car service to offering its most popular service, UberX — the standard for what ridesharing is today.
Uber proved to be a profitable and flexible career for many of the company’s drivers, who function as independent contractors, and a convenient, affordable option for riders. The rest is history.
Top 4 Rideshare Companies in the World
The explosive growth of ridesharing around the world was unprecedented, but nowadays, many rideshare companies are household names. The big four apps in the global industry are now worth over $166 billion alone. These four apps are as follows:
Uber is, of course, the world’s biggest rideshare brand. Though its well-known UberX service has pretty much defined what ridesharing is, the company also offers a huge lineup of rideshare services that include:
- UberPool, an affordable carpool-style ride option that matches you with a driver and other riders headed in the same direction.
- UberXL, a standard rideshare service for up to six riders instead of four
- Uber Black, a luxury black car service with a professional driver
Uber users can also use the ridesharing app to request package deliveries and helicopters in some cities.
One unique feature that Uber helped popularize was the ability to rate users. Once your Uber ride is complete, riders can jump on their smartphone app to give drivers a star rating, and vice versa. This helps keep all users on this peer-to-peer ridesharing network accountable.
Uber rates and fees vary widely depending on what ride type you request — Uber Express Pool being the cheapest and Uber Lux being the most expensive on-ground transportation option. However, all services tend to be among the most affordable ride options of their kind (for example, Uber Black when compared to other black car services) in their respective markets.
All Uber rides are subject to surge pricing, which raises fares when demand is high to balance the amount of riders and drivers on the road.
DiDi falls just behind Uber in terms of global market share. Based in China, the company now operates in over 400 cities worldwide, with a presence in Australia, Japan, and parts of Latin America.
DiDi is almost exactly like Uber in every way, just available in different markets. Like Uber, it not only offers a wide variety of rideshare services, but has also expanded into food delivery, bikesharing, and more.
Though DiDi actually bought out Uber’s Chinese operations as it continued to expand, the two companies still have some shared markets. Within these markets, DiDi tends to be about 10% cheaper than Uber.
Lyft is a rideshare company that solely operates in the United States and Canada, but it’s already the third largest rideshare company in the world. Though the company has launched some bikeshare and scooter share programs recently, it remains the most heavily rideshare-focused brand of the top four.
Like DiDi, Lyft offers its own version of the majority of Uber’s services. For example:
- Lyft Shared is the same as UberPool
- Lyft is the same as UberX
- Lyft XL is the same as UberXL
- Lux Black is the same as Uber Black (just without professional drivers)
The Lyft app is very similar to the Uber app, and due to the intense competition between the two companies in North America, Uber and Lyft rates and fees are extremely close in every market they share.
The fourth biggest rideshare company in the world is Grab, a Singapore-based platform that leads the industry in Southeast Asia.
In addition to the ride types offered by the platforms above, Grab also offers unique regional services like smartphone-based tuk-tuk and remorque requests. What makes the platform unique is that you can actually request food, groceries, car rentals, and more — all seamlessly on the same platform you’re using to request a ride.
3 Popular Rideshare Companies in the U.S.
The United States ridesharing market is overwhelmingly dominated by Uber and Lyft, but in many markets, there are regional rideshare apps giving you alternatives to the big two. These apps offer a little more variety, with niche offerings that make them stand out to the fairly homogenous big four.
We’ll introduce you to three popular platforms used by riders in the U.S. below.
Via is a ridesharing service that blends public transit and public car rides.
Like UberPool and Lyft Shared, this platform focuses on matching riders with drivers and fellow passengers who are headed on the same route. However, it does also offer private car rides and, uniquely, taxi rides that can turn into shared rides during your route.
Via is also built to be cheap. Because riders have to meet their drivers at a nearby corner for every pick-up — even for private rides — the platform is able to offer rides that start at just $3.95 in some markets. Via rides remain incredibly efficient, too.
Wingz functions a lot more like a standard rideshare service, but instead of focusing on on-demand rides, the company specializes in rides scheduled up to two months ahead. The rideshare platform matches you with a driver upon request, so you know there’s someone who has you on schedule.
Though Wingz is best known for providing rides to and from airports, it also operates in many metro areas, helping you get reliable rides to meetings, events, and more.
Wingz requires a $25 minimum fare and requires airport fees, but you’ll never have to deal with anything like Uber surge pricing, which can multiply fares without a limit when demand is high.
Technically, Curb isn’t so much a ridesharing app as it is a taxi app, but it fits the concept nonetheless. This platform — which is currently the top taxi app in the U.S. — allows you to hail a taxi and pay your driver straight from your smartphone. This turns your traditional taxi service into a modern ride-hailing experience.
One of the biggest perks of using Curb is the fact that you can avoid surge pricing. Instead, you’ll always pay based on your local taxi rates, plus a flat $1.95 service fee. This makes it an incredibly affordable way to ride with a professional driver, so you don’t have to pay the luxury prices of Uber Black to get matched with one.
How to Find Ridesharing Services Near You
If you’re interested in finding more rideshare services in your area, or if none of the companies above operate near you, make sure to check out our list of rideshare apps for more options that may be available to you. This international list is also a great resource for global riders in search of a transportation solution.
Of course, you can always Google “rideshare apps [your city]” to quickly find services that you may be able to use.
Frequently Asked Questions
Now that you have a little background on ridesharing and know some of the most popular apps you can choose from, take a look at our FAQs to learn more:
1. Are rideshare drivers covered by insurance?
Most of the world’s largest rideshare apps provide ample liability insurance coverage when riders are in the vehicle. All drivers are required to have personal car insurance policies, and many even purchase separate rideshare insurance policies to ensure they have full coverage whenever they’re on the road.
Riders never have to worry about their drivers being uninsured in the event of an accident you’re involved in.
2. How do I know my rideshare driver can be trusted?
Though not as heavily regulated as the taxi industry, ridesharing is far more regulated now than when the modern industry first blew up. In New York, all rideshare drivers actually have to pass the same licensing requirements as a taxi driver.
In other cities, even if you’re not riding with brands like Uber or Lyft with specific driver requirements, odds are, your state still probably requires your driver to pass a background check and have at least a year of driving experience. Most major apps also allow for driver ratings, so you’ll see if your driver is consistently getting low ratings.
Your rideshare driver is also required to submit documents like their driver’s license, personal auto insurance policy, a passing vehicle inspection form, and more to verify their identity and confirm their vehicle is safe to drive.
3. Do I need to tip my rideshare driver?
Yes, much like you would tip your taxi driver and other service workers, you should tip your rideshare driver. A tip of 15% or more is custom.
Request Online and Ride
Ridesharing has totally disrupted the transportation industry and is now available to passengers all around the world. No matter where you’re located, there’s probably a great mobile app that will connect you to private or shared rides.
The rise of modern ridesharing has also led to new convenient solutions that accommodate less tech-savvy users, too. For the older adults in your life, learn how GoGoGrandparent empowers users to request important transportation services just by making a phone call.