Uber- Can Someone Please Explain The Big Deal?

a logo of a companyOver the holiday weekend, Kim, Lucas and I spent a few days in Atlanta. While there we got great use out of our four-day MARTA passes. They were well worth the $19 we paid per person (Lucas was free). The pass allows for unlimited rides on trains and buses.

While the buses and trains come pretty regularly, at times it can be a long ride. For instance a 12 minute car ride might take around an hour on MARTA public transit.

Due to this I decided to finally try out Uber and burn my $35 credit that I earned from signing up and a couple of referrals.

I love Uber’s wacky promos ( Delivering KittensChristmas Trees, Toy Drives, UberSky), but I know they are also a bit sketchy when it comes to pricing.

Due to some interesting Google Maps updates, Uber now shows up in some searches which makes it tempting to use. During our visit, we used Maps all weekend long to get around and it was pretty much spot on with public transit and walking directions. I was tempted on a few occasions to select Uber but resisted until the last day.

We took a train and bus near the airport to visit the just reopened Delta Flight Museum. (Check for my post about the Delta Flight Museum in the next couple of days.) From our hotel in Midtown, this took around an hour. However, after the museum visit we would be heading to Turner Field to check out the home of the Atlanta Braves.

Getting to Turner Field is actually a bit of a pain when taking MARTA from the Delta museum. Even though it’s only around 8 mile away (13 minutes on average by car) Google Maps said that it would take around an hour and a half by public transportation.

To make our visit to the Delta museum not be a rush, I came up with the plan to use my Uber credit!

When checking Google Maps, it told me that Uber could pick us up within 4 minutes and the ride should take about 13 minutes. This sounded perfect!

Once I select Uber from within Google Maps, my Uber app opened up. I tried this a few times and was given a fare quote of $28-$36. Since I had the $35 credit this seemed to be perfect. The only question I had was- just how accurate is this quote?

Well it turned out that it wasn’t so accurate.

The good:

A moment after selecting my ride with Uber a text came in telling me that my Uber was on its way. Ranjit (4.7 stars) would pick us up in 4 minutes. Within the Uber app, a small photo of the driver along with the car showed up at the bottom. So far, so good!

Soon after the driver, Ranjit called my cell to confirm exactly where we were and let us know he would be by in a couple of minutes. I also got another text that my Uber was arriving.

The driver was polite, opened the door for us and helped put Lucas’ stroller in the trunk and we were on our way.

I loved how quickly you could call a car with a few clicks through the Uber app.

The bad:

Even though the air was on, the car still felt a bit stuffy. After some smooth driving, when we got closer to the stadium, the road came to a halt and there was a lot of traffic. Definitely not something that you can blame the driver or Uber for.

While sitting in traffic, I was curious to know what the price was currently at. Now maybe since it was my first time using Uber I just didn’t know how to use the app properly but I couldn’t figure this one out. I figured the fare would be going up a bit since our Uber ride went from a 13 minute ride to around 25-30 minutes. I wondered if the fare would double in price or be more like a car service where your quote is your price. I pretty much knew the latter option wouldn’t be the case.

I am really uncomfortable with the unknown price of an Uber ride. When I take a taxi, even though I might not know the final price of a ride, I can at least see the price changing on the meter so there is little surprise (in a way) when you leave the car.

A couple of other things:

  • Another positive is no money changing hands. Since you are booking with the Uber app, all payment is done with your credits and credit card on file. This makes for a quick and speedy exit. Also no need to worry about what to tip.
  • Another negative– I noticed that the driver didn’t hit the end fare button on his phone until we were walking away from his car. I know (at least in NYC) when a cab ride ends at home, the button to end the fare is immediately pressed. I am not sure if this was how our driver did things or if this was an Uber policy.

In the end I loved Uber for the ease of calling a car through my iPhone but didn’t see much more positive to it than that. If I didn’t have a $35 Uber credit, I wouldn’t have tried the service.

Can someone please explain to me what all of the hype (and big deal) about Uber is?

Oh, I almost forgot- that fare which was quoted at $28-$36 came to $55 in the end which after an Uber discount of $.01 came to $19.99 out of pocket for us.

a car in a circle with text

If any of you haven’t yet signed up for Uber and are interested in trying out the service you can get $10 credit after taking a ride with my invite link. Once you take a ride we will each receive $10 in Uber credit.

20 thoughts on “Uber- Can Someone Please Explain The Big Deal?

  1. I was given a fare estimate of £49-£59.

    The actual fare was £104.50.

    This is not the first time the fare estimate was completely inaccurate. I will not be using this service again and will be warning others about massive discrepancies between estimated and actual fares.

  2. Frank Oswalt- It sounds like Houston has a pretty good system already in place with the app you mentioned. Not all Uber is unscreened and private cars although I do find it pricey and maybe not worth all of the hype. I’ve only used it one time and checked prices on a few other occassions so my experience with Uber is a bit limited.

    Patrick- Sounds like you have a good understanding of Uber and see a lot of value in the service. Are the taxis really so bad in Dallas? I think when it comes to Uber, it depends on each individual’s situation.

  3. Here in Houston, Yellow Cab (and it’s many subsidiaries) are quite inexpensive – you can get a ride to most places in the greater Houston Metro area for under $20, and the Yellow Cab “Hail-A-Cab” app is available for ALL SmartPhone platforms (IOS/Android/Windows Phone) and the app works extremely well (typical wait time for a cab in any metro area is less than 5-minutes).

    Plus, Yellow Cab properly screens and insures their drivers-a mandatory requirement to drive for them-and complaint resolution is very efficient and fast.

    I’ve never used UBER and I doubt that I ever will – even at half the cost – I just don’t like the idea of getting into a stranger’s car who may have dubious credentials, etc.

    Silly idea, if you ask me.


    1. So, there is a huge difference between Uber and Uber X.
      Uber drivers meet full screening and their cars (Towncar or better) are always insured as any limo or other professional car would be. In Dallas, the taxis were actually not insured to mandated levels until Uber pointed this out. They run a few dollars more than taxis but are always professional and you can view their location on the app. The couple of times I had problems were people getting my car by accident and it was resolved with just an email.

      Uber X and Lyft is where people can use their personal cars. The insurance and legality of this does worry me and I don’t like riding in other people’s car either. It is cheaper but I still ride Uber as they are the true professionals.

  4. Wandering Aramean- I totally agree. The only reason we tested Uber out was due to a $35 credit. It was convenient but I could’ve also just called a taxi and waited an extra few minutes.

    Dave- My research was my trip. If you read my full post you should’ve seen that I did know what the fare should’ve cost. And I did open the app after the ride ended. I said I would’ve liked to have known throughout the ride an idea of the current costs… It might be better for you to fully read a post before making judgements. Have a great day!

    Jon- Exactly how I felt (seeing the fare during the ride)! I am not sure of the insurance issues you mention so I can comment there.

    Dan- Our ride was not 7 miles in traffic. It was probably about a miles or so in traffic! While we rarely ever take a cab, I have no problem with regular ones. I am not taking a cab looking for a luxury ride. We tried out Uber due to the credit and also being at an inconvenient location.

    Jay- After trying it out, I’d have to pretty much agree with this.

    MJ- Definitely good to know! This was our only cab ride in Atlanta. We walked a ton and took MARTA everywhere else. Wish I knew you were around in ATL over the weekend!

    James- Why is public transit unappealing in Atlanta? We found MARTA to be quite good and at a very reasonable price.

    ATLJason- I did not compare MARTA to Uber. What I said was the options we considered was trains/ buses which would’ve taken too long or using my Uber credit. Our other option was to have a taxi called but it maybe have taken a bit longer plus we were told it might cost around $40. With my Uber credit, I figured if the ride went over the estimated quote, it wouldn’t be $40 over!

    Noah- Good rundown on Uber and thanks for the tip about Taxi Magic!

    Patrick- Interesting. The rating system does sound like incentive for drivers to do the best possible job!

    Jay- Thanks for sharing your experience with Uber. I can only judge it from this one ride.

    Val- Sounds like you’ve had some great Uber experiences and crappy ones in traditional cabs. I don’t see why it is so hard for Uber to show the price as it changes either in the app or on the drivers dash somewhere. I can see how the price could stress you out but I prefer to know what I am in for during the ride!

  5. I enthusiastically “hype” Uber to anyone who will listen. There are many things to like, as others have posted, but for me the biggest plus is that the trip is recorded and a map with your route is sent in the confirmation email. I believe this discourages the type of taking the scenic route to drive up the fare that has been a problem for me with taxis. If there is a dispute at least you have evidence to prove the route you went. I am usually only taking taxis in a city I don’t know. Online I’ll see that the hotel I want to go to is only 2.1 miles from the airport. I pop in a taxi and 20 minutes and $30 + tip dollars later I arrive. Should it really have taken that long? I don’t know if we went the “right” way or not. Seeing the meter run when you don’t know how much longer to the destination doesn’t help much – and for me just makes it more stressful. In a dozen Uber rides I’ve only gone over the estimated price once (by $2). For me, Uber beats a taxi hands down.

  6. I have to agree with Seth on this. Uber is constantly promoted by bloggers who get tons of free credits. However, the reality is a bit different. Uber often goes over the estimate they give you. You can complain but the way they handle the case is usually very unprofessional. I have dealt with many cases with Uber because the free credit was luring. Eventually, I realized that Uber hasn’t yet built a solid culture of business ethics. It might take a while, but this culture should be built from the top managers, who are far from being ethical and doing a good business. I understand some people take uber because of its convenience but the way Uber does business is just not for me.

  7. The reason I take Uber all the time in Dallas is because of how unprofessional taxis are. Taxis will not show up at times, or even tell you flat out the fare isn’t worth their time (happened to me a lot). Uber has always shown up or called if a problem arises. They also can’t deny to take you somewhere, if that ever happens you can call \ text this to Uber and they lose their ability to take fares thru the app. Plus, since you get to rate the driver they are much more professional – lower ratings equals lower status in the que and once you hit a certain low level you are deactivated until you take a class to address your issues.

  8. I use Uber occasionally, living in NYC. Mostly when I’m in Brooklyn or Queens and cant hail a regular cab.

    The pros – superior service, reliable pickup times, can be cheaper and faster than a black car, available more often than a yellow cab and more reliably than suburban/radio cabs. Fare includes tip. Most convenient taxi service around. Price estimates tend to be accurate unless you hit big traffic.

    The cons – price can be expensive if going long distances or stuck in traffic. Remember, Uber pricing can vary by city but it is usually about 2x regular cab rate. Its not that different than other car services, suburban cabs, etc. though.

    Always try UberX first as it is cheaper. Hand out referral codes to get cheaper rides, if possible.

    You can also try using Taxi Magic app next time, which lets you call local cab companies. They may not be as good as uber with service, but they are cheaper in most cities as they dont collect the fare, just give you a phone number of the local cab company

  9. I think you’re making a false equivalency by comparing it to MARTA. MARTA doesn’t go everywhere you need but if it happens to run where you are going (airport or downtown) it is quick and generally not too unpleasant. The real benefit comes when you compare Uber to other taxis. Yes, you might be able to see the fare changing in a regular taxi but you also might wait 30 minutes for a cab to get there and it will be dirty and have a rude driver. Our experience with Uber has always been pleasant and fast. In Ft. Lauderdale this past weekend (a city with no Uber), we had one expereince in a cab with a driver smoking a clove–nasty!–and another experience where we waited 30 minutes and had to ask the hotel to call the cab company twice. We’ve never had those kind of issues with Uber.

  10. I loved how quickly you could call a car with a few clicks through the Uber app

    You’ve answered your own question. In a major city with taxis hard to find and public transit unappealing, Uber is hands-down the best way to get around.

    As for cost, it’s unlikely that your $55 fare would have been much less in a taxi. Uber prices its cars competitively (and has to to maintain business).

  11. I find it more useful in DC than Atlanta. Cabs are more plentiful in DC, but more likely to be dirty too. On the other hand, for just transiting around town, the fare spread between Uber and a taxi in Atlanta isn’t that much. I’ll take the no haggle, no attitude option most of the time. I’ve been pleased with UberX locally as well, where as far as I can tell, the fare is the same or better than a taxi for the routes I’ve tried it. Say hi next time you’re in Atlanta! 🙂

  12. The appeal is that certain bloggers can promote a referral link constantly to ride for free .

    Uber is very overrated, when you have to pay for it

  13. Your uber was expensive since you took it 7 miles in traffic. Niether cabs nor ubers are affordable if you end up on the highway. If you take Uber in the city, say from Georgetown to the Park Hyatt in DC or Fenway Park to the Grand Hyatt in Boston, you are looking at a sub 10 dollar fare assuming no surge pricing. Its also useful if you live off of a main street and need a car since they will come most to your door. It is not a wonder service but most of the complaints about it seem to be from people who are not familiar with it.

    When I think about my last five Uber rides verus cab rides there is no comparison, Uber has treated me better. Albeit I was taking cabs in Boston and DC, two cities not known for great cab drivers but my ubers have at least had reasonably well kept cars and not talked on cellphones the enitre trip while four of my five cab drivers were driving ancient beaters and yelling into their bluetooths in Pashtun or Amharic the whole ride.

  14. The hype mostly comes from those who never pay for it anymore because they get so many referral credits that they are constantly riding for free. I’d enjoy it too at those prices.

    There are plenty of scenarios where it is far better than the other transit options, but I don’t think the fawning and gushing would be nearly as significant if some of the folks doing so were paying for their own rides.

    1. You should do a little more research before putting posting about topics you don’t know much about. When you call an Uber it tells you the rates in distance and time so you should have a basic idea how much the fare will cost. You said you were uneasy about not seeing the driver hit the end far button. But if you open the uber app right after the ride you’ll see the total fare and the route the driver took on your phone. You also complained about the cost being $55 but Uber X is 20% cheaper than taxis with nicer cars so it’s is blows taxis out of the water.

      1. Seeing the total fare after the ride is not helpful – it would be ideal to see the current fare in real-time either on the driver’s phone or on your phone. Uber X drivers are regular folks that likely do not have insurance or a license that allows them to shuttle people around as an income-producing venture. I would happily pay a 20% price premium to ride with a properly licensed and insured driver (imagine how much you would have to pay out of your pocket if you are injured in an accident while in an Uber X car).

        1. You’re making an assumption that you are not covered by insurance while riding in an UberX car, which I believe is inaccurate. From what I have read, yes, an UberX driver may not be insured but if you are riding in one as a paid fare that you arranged through the Uber app, you are covered by Uber’s insurance. The gray area comes from when an UberX car is ON THE WAY to pick up a fare and then, say, kills a pedestrian. Technically the car is not carrying a paid customer (remember, it was only enroute to pick up one) so Uber’s insurance won’t cover it. If the driver is uninsured, there is no insurance there. But, if you are riding as a piad customer, you are covered.

        2. Just Because taxis have licenses, and /or insurance….don’t think you are getting a safer ride…Besides, its not their vehicles, so how safe do you thing they will ride knowing that. I think driving your own car means you will drive safely. And I do believe drivers by law have to have insurance. I think UBER keeps competition alive. In NYC, and big Cities, you have options with public transport, but some cities, you don’t. It took me two hours to get from a friends house , here in florida, and it was only 4 miles away, and 8pm !

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