Cabs are soooo five minutes ago. New ride sharing programs make it easy to find a fast, safe ride and keep the payments reasonable because passengers set (or choose) their own rates. These companies describe themselves as "ride-sharing" rather than alternatives to traditional cabs.
What is ridesharing?
Think of ridesharing the way you would a cab. People summon a ride when they need to get somewhere and they don’t want to drive (or don’t have access to a car). In most cases, people use these ride services once or twice (for a ride to or from the airport, to a special event like a concert, to a ski resort, etc.). But the service is more personal than a cab because drivers are encouraged to chat with their passengers and even encourage them to choose the music they want to hear during the ride. Reviews of these services include several stories about friendships that have formed between drivers and passengers, and some drivers have commented that they learn about new restaurants and other fun sites in their cities because of conversations with passengers.
Ridesharing is perfect for:
- People who are visiting from out of town who don’t want to rent a car and don’t want to pay higher prices associated with traditional cabs.
- Environmentally focused people who want to make driving as efficient as possible by sharing a ride with someone else.
- Extroverts who love meeting new people.
For tourists, it's an ideal way to see the city on a budget: The prices are competitive and the drivers are chatty locals who are eager to talk about their city (friendly, outgoing personalities are among the driver requirements).
Drivers come from all walks of life (students, professionals seeking extra income, moms and others who enjoy meeting new people and want to earn extra money.
Here's how to get the most from these programs, whether the goal is to get a ride or fill seats in your car:
The basic idea behind Zimride is to connect like-minded people who happen to be going in the same direction. Participants use Facebook to find rides, and the program aims to connect people with common interests. Although Zimride's overall structure is much loser than other ride-sharing programs, it is widely accepted at universities around the country. In fact, more than 100 schools are connected to the Zimride network, and many have direct links from the school's website to Zimride.
- Location: Available at universities and businesses throughout the country. Zimride lists all currently available locations and also offers instructions on how to launch a Zimride location in a community not currently listed.
- Download: Users must connect via Facebook. After finding the ride you want to reserve, click on "book it" and follow the step-by-step instructions to finalize.
- Payment: Drivers post ride opportunities and the cost on Facebook. After booking the ride, passengers make a secure online payment with a credit card.
- Safety: Riders and drivers are encouraged to leave feedback about their experiences on Facebook. Zimride keeps a record of each participant's first and last name, email address and phone number.
While Zimride focuses on universities and businesses, Lyft (Zimride's sister company) branches out to include any potential rider or driver, has more structure and uses an app rather than Facebook.
- Location: Serves the San Francisco area. Lyft cars are easy to spot because they feature a fuzzy pink mustache on the front bumper.
- Download: App is free for Android and iPhone.
- Safety: All drivers are rated by other Lyft users so passengers know what to expect and can decide whether or not to accept a ride. All drivers must pass a background check and must also pass a vehicle safety inspection.
- Payment: Passengers decide how much of a "donation" to make. Lyft doesn't give passengers an average donation to use as a guideline, but the company says most rides are 30 percent lower than a comparable cab ride. Drivers rate each passenger, so unruly customers or those who pay little or nothing will likely have trouble finding a ride from other drivers in the future. Payment is made by credit card via the app (no cash).
- Locations: San Francisco and Seattle
- Download: App is free for Android and iPhone
- Safety: Drivers must pass background checks in advance and agree to ongoing random DMV record checks while remaining an active SideCar driver.
- Payment: Passengers decide how much to "donate" and make the payment by credit card via their app when ordering the ride (no cash). Passengers can see the average donation made for similar rides before confirming the ride request.
Uber is an alternative for situations where a cab would be considered (to or from an airport, getting around in a new city, etc.). Unlike the three ride-sharing services above, Uber is found throughout the United States (east and west coast cities) and even around the world. Click here to see a full list of cities served by Uber: https://www.uber.com/cities/san-francisco#
Here’s how it works:
- Sign up by providing general information (first and last name, email, etc.).
- Use the free app for Android or iPhone.
- Choose the type of ride wanted (options, along with fares, are listed on the ride selector on the screen.)
- Uber sends a text message when the ride is on the way and another text when it arrives.
- Payments are pre-arranged (credit card information is taken at signup), so there’s no need to have cash on hand.
Driving passengers around your city is a great way to make extra money on a flexible schedule. It is an ideal job for extroverts who enjoy meeting new people and can easily carry on a conversation with a stranger.
- Apply: Drivers follow the "post a ride" instructions to find passengers via Zimride's site. There is no screening process for drivers, but Zimride encourages users to look at a driver or rider's profile to ensure there are common interests, mutual friends or other cues that indicate the experience will be positive.
- Payment: Drivers are paid via PayPal and receive a payment 24 hours after the ride is completed.
- Apply: Lyft says it tries to contact all online applicants within 24 hours. The entire process takes up to two weeks and includes a criminal background check in addition to a driver's record check. Drivers must be at least 23 years old and must pass a video screening and in-person interview.
- Payment: Drivers receive 80% of the total donated by each passenger (money is deposited into the driver's account weekly).
- Safety: Drivers rate each passenger, and drivers can see the passenger's rating before deciding whether to respond to their ride request. Lyft provides drivers with $1 million in liability insurance.
- Apply: After completing an online application, applicants must participate in a video interview with a SideCar representative. The company then completes a background check and verifies the applicant has a clean driving record.
- Payment: Drivers receive 80% of the passengers' donations (SideCar keeps the other 20%) and the money is deposited into the driver's account weekly.
- Safety: Rides are tracked through GPS and no cash is exchanged. The passenger's personal information (credit card and phone number) are verified before rides are granted, and drivers rate each passenger (those ratings are visible to all drivers) based on behavior and pay. SideCar also offers $1 million in liability insurance to its drivers.