Personal Finance

Uber, Lyft and Beyond: Which New York City Ride-share Service Is Best for You?

Uber, Lyft and Beyond: Which New York City Ride-share Service Is Best for You?

Uber, Lyft and the like were supposed to take the thinking out of getting around New York City. But now that on-demand ridesharing has become a common way to get to work on a Monday morning, it seems we use our mobile apps to compare pricing as much as we do to actually book rides.
uber phone app
uber phone app Source: Getty Images

That’s because there are more options than ever. Beyond the industry leaders, there are newer ride-share services with their own set of tradeoffs around cost and convenience. Let’s examine them to make your next trip cheaper and faster. We’ll end by discussing strategies to avoid "surge" or "prime time" pricing.

Ride-share App Options in New York City

In addition to Uber and Lyft, there are three newer players competing in the space: Via, Gett and Juno. You can collect reliable and accurate estimations of cost and time via your mobile apps or third-party services. Before we discuss how their pricing works, let's examine your options on a broader level.

Car Types
Uber Logo
Uber: X, POOL, XL, BLACK and SUV
  • Specific pre-trip quotes (base fares and per-mile charges)
  • Shorter wait times overall
  • Commuting: uberPOOL, a $5 tax-included service in Manhattan, groups you with as many as three other passengers
  • Other services subject to "surge" pricing
  • Allows you to book rides in advance
  • Serves New York City
Lyft Logo
Lyft, Line, Plus and Premier
  • Inexact pre-trip quotes at times
  • Shorter wait times overall
  • Commuting: Line groups you with many as two other passengers
  • Other services subject to "Prime Time" pricing
  • Serves New York City
Via Logo
  • Carpool service only
  • Flat-fee pricing dependent upon destination, time of day
  • Longer wait times
  • Commuting: As many as four passengers congregate at central meeting point
  • Not buying credits increases the flat fee
  • Serves Manhattan, Brooklyn and major airports
Gett Logo
Gett: Standard, Deal, Premium and SUV
  • Specific pre-trip quotes
  • Longer wait times
  • Commuting: Gett Deal goes where uberPOOL will not — above 125th Street — and up to four miles or 30 minutes of driving for a $10 or less
  • Carpooling option, "Gett Together," was in beta in November 2016
  • Allows you to book rides in advance
  • Serves New York City
Juno Logo
Bliss, Lux and SUV
  • Inexact pre-trip quotes
  • Longer wait times
  • Commuting: No carpooling option
  • Services subject to "surge" pricing
  • Prices were discounted 35% in winter 2016
  • Serves New York City; does not yet travel to the airport

That's five companies offering a combined 17 different services. Let's review what each service within each app actually entails.

  • Basic: You and the driver
  • Carpool: You and as many as three other passengers
  • SUV: You and your friends (and/or airport baggage)
  • Premium: You and the driver, but in a luxury vehicle
Uber Logo
uberXuberPOOLuberXLUberBLACK, UberSUV*
Lyft Logo
LyftLyft LineLyft PlusLyft Premier
Via Logo
Gett Logo
Gett Standard, Gett DealGett SUVGett Premium
Juno Logo
Juno BlissJuno SUVJuno Lux
*UberSUV is a luxury SUV.

Use Price to Determine Which Service Is Best for You

While carpooling options uberPOOL, Lyft Line and Via offer a lower flat fee for in-Manhattan commuting trups, other car types have pricing models based largely on how far you're going and how long it takes your driver to get there. Industry leaders Uber and Lyft are the most up-front with their fare formulas, listing them within the app.

Cost per Mile, Minute for Uber, Lyft

per Mile
per Minute
per Mile
per Minute
Lyft Plus$2.97$0.50
Lyft Premier$3.77$0.64

Gett and newer-to-the-space Juno apparently also base their prices off distance and time but have not published or made publicly available why their similar prices are what they are.

Via, meanwhile, is the most unique of the bunch, offering flat fares for a variety of smaller sums. Less conveniently, it also does not include tax in its fares. Plus, it adds $2 surcharges should you not pay for your rides in advance by purchasing non-refundable credits. Without tax and any surcharges, you could expect to pay anywhere from $5 to $13.95 for non-airport trips, depending upon the day and time of day of your trip.

Via's Flat Fares

Within Manhattan$5-5.95 plus tax
Within Brooklyn$5-5.95 plus tax
To/from Brooklyn/Manhattan (below 23rd Street)$7.95-13.95 plus tax

Now that we have a handle on how each of the five apps price rides, let's examine which may be best for your desired use.

If you commute in Manhattan and don't mind carpooling... Go with uberPOOL. At $5, the cost is lower than Via. Given the size of Uber's fleet of drivers, it should also be a shorter wait time. If, on the other hand, you don't like the idea of being picked up and dropped off a block or two from your present or desired destination, splurge on Lyft Line instead; for a few dollars more, you can travel door to door, even if you're still doing so with other passengers.

If you commute in Manhattan and want to ride solo... Go with Gett Deal, which will charge you $10 or less to travel for as much as 30 minutes or four miles anywhere within the borough. Juno Bliss, at its promotional discount rate, will be your next best-option if you're not in a rush. If you are, uberX and Lyft will offer higher pricing and shorter wait times. Of all the car classes, this is the most competitive.

If you're riding with friends between Manhattan and Brooklyn or Queens... Go with Juno Bliss if your party can squeeze into a sedan. Thanks to its promotional discounts late in 2016, you could save as much as $10 off the estimated fares of industry leaders Uber and Lyft. If you need a bigger car for a bigger group, however, go with UberXL (it cost us $40.61 for a recent trip to the Barclays Center).

If you're airport-bound... Go with Via if you're leaving early and don't have a ton of baggage. You'll get the lowest price ($24.95 to/from LaGuardia Airport, for example) and meet some fellow travelers. If you prefer to go it alone to the airport, do some quick in-app price-comparing between uberX, Lyft and Gett Standard. They'll be competing for your business, so choose the best-priced option with the shortest wait time.

Avoid Surge Pricing with These Workarounds

Of the five services, only industry leaders Uber and Lyft as well as Juno increase their rates in real-time, using proprietary algorithms that ostensibly revolve around supply (drivers) and demand (riders). Your ride may be subject to "surge" (or "Prime Time" in Lyft’s lexicon) pricing, as the companies attempt to get more drivers on the road during peak times for consumers; Uber board member Bill Gurley wrote in 2014 that surging worked to achieve this aim.

Uber and Lyft did not respond to our request for guidelines on how to avoid their heightened rates, but according to a 2015 data analysis by San Francisco-based web developer Jon Sadka on Uber specifically, it’s best to avoid, for example, 1-to-4 p.m. trips from Grand Central.

In any case, free-to-use third-party services like SurgeProtector (which was built using Uber’s API) and Cut the Surge can help you avoid paying, say, two times the normal fare. How? They’ll simply direct you to take a short walk into one of the city’s surge-free zones.

There are more workarounds for those "1.3X" (Uber) and "+75%" (Lyft) alerts you might find upon opening your apps. Get instant quotes for the service’s more expensive vehicle options; just because a surge exists for uberX, for example, doesn’t mean there aren’t plenty of UberBlack or UberSUV drivers waiting around and willing to drive for their normal — and now relatively cheaper — price tag. Be wary, however, of increased minimum fares during high-demand times of day. UberSUV has a minimum fare of $25 during non-peak times, but your app may alert you of a new minimum during high-demand hours. (Just ask the Australian man who faced a $100 minimum during a Sydney hostage siege in 2014.)

Not in a rush? Uber’s app also allows you to request an in-app notification of price "drops." (Researchers found in 2015 that most surges last less than 10 minutes anyway.)

If you’re finding it difficult to avoid a surge, consider an app like Via, Gett or Juno, which are immune to rising rates.

One last tip to avoid being sucked into paying a heightened price: Make sure your phone has plenty of battery left. You wouldn’t want all of that energy-consuming cost-comparing to leave you without a ride at all. (Keith Chen, Uber’s head of economic research, said in an NPR interview that the average consumer is much more likely to look past a surge and book a more expensive ride if his or her phone is about to die.)