If you use the rideshare apps Uber or Lyft (or both) you may think that the process is pretty straightforward. Open the app, enter your destination, check that the "pin" showing your location is correct, and then wait for your driver to arrive. But experienced rideshare riders know there are a few simple hacks that can make your rideshare experience much better--and cheaper and more efficient as well.
Recently, the New York Times Smarter Living section invited readers to share their secrets for getting the most out of Uber and Lyft. It's well worth reading the full list, which you can find here. There are my favorites--I plan to start using them for all my rideshare rides:
1. Book rideshare rides in Google Maps, not the apps themselves.
When you enter a location into Google Maps and tap "Directions," (icon of a man hailing a ride) Maps will give you a price comparison of both Uber and Lyft (assuming both are available where you are) and also let you know how long a wait to expect for each. That can be handy when you're deciding which to use.
2. Choose the best pickup location.
If you're at an airport, you may not have much choice about where to get picked up. In most other locations, though, you can make life easier for both yourself and your driver by walking to a pickup location where you will be easy to see, and also one where you know (or can see) the address so you can enter it into the app, rather than relying on the app to accurately pin your location.
This is an especially smart move in crowded situations such as when a sporting event or concert has just let out. If you wait, along with a hundred other rideshare patrons, at a designated pickup point, not only will it be hard for you and your driver to find each other among all the other riders and drivers, the driver will have to fight through a traffic bottleneck to reach you in the first place. On the other hand, if you walk just a block or two away, your driver will have an easier time finding you and will have a little less traffic to deal with. That means you'll have a shorter wait time, according to an experienced rideshare driver. It might also mean that you get to avoid surge pricing.
Wherever you meet your driver, for safety's sake, make sure you're getting into the right car. Check license plate numbers against the app, and ask drivers who they're looking for. If the driver can't or won't say your name, don't get in the car.
3. Be thoughtful and courteous to your driver.
Why is this an insider tip? Because your rideshare drivers' collective opinion of you will directly affect whether you can get a ride, and how long you'll have to wait if you do. Just as Uber and Lyft ask you to rate your driver at the end of a ride, your driver will also be asked to rate you. And drivers are allowed to turn down riders with low ratings.
I've seen this dynamic in action. When I was at a party recently, an acquaintance who needed a ride to her next destination lamented the lack of Lyft drivers in our neighborhood. (I helped her call an Uber since I had both apps.)
Later, when I asked a Lyft driver about this, he told me there were actually plenty of drivers in our area, and he guessed that this passenger's low rating may have prevented her from getting a ride. And indeed, I waited on the sidewalk to meet the driver while she hung out at the party. When the driver arrived, I went back into the party to fetch her, and she kept him waiting a few minutes more.
4. Tip in cash.
Drivers told the Times that most passengers don't tip which seems a shame, given the economics of being a rideshare driver. Most have seen fares go down while gas prices went up, and according to Rideshare Drivers United, many are having trouble making ends meet. So, yes, you should always tip your driver (if you have a discount or a code for a free ride, tip on the full amount). But why cash? For one thing, most drivers prefer cash tips--they get the money right away. But more importantly, they rate their riders before they find out whether or not the rider tipped them within the app. A cash tip gives you the added bonus of a likely five-star review from your driver. That can make getting a ride easier and quicker next time.