A while back I wrote an article challenging readers to consider getting rid of their car if they really needed to save money (How Much Can You Save by NOT Owning a Car?). The article was admittedly extreme, at least as far as American cultural preferences go, but the point was well made nonetheless.
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Most people don’t realize how much money they spend just keeping a car on the road. According to AAA, it costs an average of $8,558 per year per car in 2016. That knowledge alone should provide a powerful incentive to consider ways to live without a car, or at the very least, to have as few of them per household as possible.
That’s what we’re doing in my family. We’re four adults, and we make do with just two cars. Impossible? Not really. As a fulltime freelance blog writer I work from home and don’t need a car to commute. My wife and daughter each work within two miles of home, so they alternate/share a car. And my son – he works all over the map, so he needs a car most of the time.
Even though we live in a suburban area, the arrangement isn’t nearly as difficult as you might imagine. I do some ferrying of my wife and daughter, and make use of my son’s car when he’s home. We’re also on a bus line that offers regular daytime service to important places around town (that I mostly never go to). But for those times when we absolutely need a “third car”, there’s Uber.
The beauty of Uber is that you can get a ride for those times when there’s no other way. It’s quick, convenient, and inexpensive. In a real way, you can say that we’re using Uber as an extra car. And I can promise that Uber costs a lot less than the $8,588 per year it will cost to keep a third car in the family.
You might want to think about using Uber to eliminate a car in your household as well. The current obsession of having a car for each adult in the household is an incredibly expensive way to live.
I must disclose that I’m writing about the Uber Rider program as part of their affiliate program. That means that I will receive compensation if you sign up with the service.
Who Is Uber?
Uber is a ridesharing service that connects riders directly with drivers, through the Internet. That gives you greater access to more drivers than is the case with traditional taxi services. The rider works directly with the driver to coordinate pickup and delivery, which is handled entirely through the use of smartphones.
It’s probably safe to say that ridesharing is the latest evolution of traditional taxi services. Like so many other services, third-party individual transportation is becoming more democratic. That means the elimination of the middleman – in this case, the taxi service company – and connecting the rider directly with the driver.
The concept is really taking off too. Ridesharing services accounted for 49% of the ground transportation for business travelers in 2015, compared with 37% for car rentals and just 14% for taxis.
Uber is by far the largest ridesharing service available, operating in more than 500 cities and providing more than 2 billion rides. That’s incredible for a company that only began operations in 2008. It’s providing consumers with a desirable alternative to either taxis or car rental services.
How Uber Works
Uber is free to join, and there are no membership dues. You pay only as you use the service. You can download the app for free on your smartphone, including iPhone, Android, or Windows Phone. Whenever you need a ride somewhere, you simply open up the app.
Once you do, you enter the address that you are at. You can even use your smart phone’s GPS to tell Uber your location for pickup. Uber will send you a text letting you know how long you need to wait for your ride. They will also send you a text telling you when your driver arrives, avoiding confusion.
Your credit card information is added to the app, making payments automatic. That avoids the need for an uncomfortable monetary exchange at the end of the ride. It also avoids the need either to carry cash or to provide the driver with your credit card. Payment is handled entirely through the app, so your financial information is never turned over to the driver, minimizing the possibility of identity theft.
If there are other riders sharing the same ride, the cost of the fare can be split between you, as long as the other riders are also Uber members.
Uber Features and Benefits for Riders
Available 24/7. Uber is always “on”. That means that there are drivers available anytime you need them.
Get a fare estimate. By entering both your current location and your destination, you can get an estimate of the fare. No guessing or waiting for a dispatcher to call back, or worse, finding out at the end of the ride.
Rating scores. Once your ride is over, you can rate the driver. It works on a sliding scale, from 1 to 5, with 5 being the highest score. The rating is done on the app itself, and helps to ensure that Uber drivers remain efficient and courteous. But also understand that at the same time the driver is rating you as a rider. If either you or the driver get too many low scores, your days with Uber will be numbered! But in a real way, the rating process keeps everybody honest and cordial.
Payments. I describe this earlier, but it’s an important part of the Uber app, and worth repeating. The payment system is completely cashless, so you never have to concern yourself with making direct payment to the driver. This eliminates the need to carry cash, or to share your credit card information with the driver. That means that there is never a concern with identity theft when you use Uber.
Surge pricing. You probably won’t like this feature! Uber employs the use of surge price levels during times of high rider demand. This can include sporting events, concerts, festivals, and other events that draw very large crowds. The ride fees will be increased in accordance with the demand for the service. However you will be notified when you make a reservation that a surge price is effect. Surge pricing tends to come and go quickly, and you may be able to avoid it by waiting a bit to select your ride.
uberPOOL. This feature matches you with riders who are headed in the same direction. It’s a cheaper way to use Uber, and it adds only a few minutes to your ride. You certainly won’t want to do this all the time, but for those times when you’re not in a particular hurry, it’s a way to save some more money.
The Uber Advantage
In most respects, Uber represents the latest version of traditional taxi services. However, it has several definite advantages over those services.
Lower fees than taxis. You can easily pay $50 for a relatively short ride on a taxi. You might get same ride from Uber for $15-$20.
Better on time performance than taxis. If you’ve driven much in taxis, you know how independent they can be. That’s often reflected in their late arrival, and your late delivery to your destination. My family and I once needed a ride to the airport. We were out of town, and called a taxi. The taxi was more than 30 minutes late, didn’t make an apology, and didn’t cut the fare. Uber represents a large network of drivers, particularly in large metropolitan areas. Because each driver is in effect competing with others, it’s more likely that you will get a ride and get it quickly
More courteous drivers than taxis. For whatever reason, taxicab drivers seem to be some of the most rude people on the planet. Because of the rating system, Uber drivers have to be more cordial if they want to keep driving for the service. It’s a requirement that the traditional taxi business apparently lacks.
Better customer service than taxi companies. Taxi companies typically operate out of a regional dispatching center. When you call customer service, you’re often treated like you’re cargo that needs to be shipped to an inconvenient location. But Uber is a network application, and relies heavily on a strong customer service profile. You’re more likely to get solid customer support than you will from a cab company.
Save Thousands Using Uber as an Extra Car
I explained at the beginning of this article how we’re using Uber as an extra car. We basically use it to pinch hit when we hit those points where two cars aren’t enough for four people. But there are other times when you can use Uber as an extra car:
Use it when your car is in the shop. One of the biggest concerns with car repairs is being without car while your car is being fixed. But you can get around that limitation if you use Uber to get you where you need to go while your car is being repaired. It removes at least one nagging aspect of car repairs.
Use it to ride to the airport and avoid expensive parking fees. If you’ve ever left your car at an airport for several days, you know how expensive it can be. But for a few dollars, you can use Uber to get you to and from the airport, and save yourself all of those parking fees.
Use it when you’re away from home. My daughter does a good bit of traveling, and she uses Uber for connections in those remote areas. She feels much better using Uber than traditional taxi services.
Use it to get to an area where parking will be a problem. If you’re going to a major event, such as a concert or a sporting event, it can be easier to get a lift from Uber than to drive in yourself. Not only do you avoid the cost and hassle of parking, but the driver can usually get you much closer to the venue, resulting in less walking.
Uber is the perfect supplement to public transportation. If you live in an urban area that is served by public transportation, it may be good, but it’s unlikely that it will take you everywhere you need to go. Uber can be the perfect supplemental transportation service, one that will take you where public transportation doesn’t, and on a much more convenient schedule. After all, in many areas public transportation stops running at certain times. Uber never stops running.
How to Sign Up for the Uber App
If you think that Uber can work for you, or if you just want to get some more information, you can go to the Uber website and check it out. It only takes minutes to join, and membership will enable you to get rides just about anywhere you want to go, on short notice and at reasonable fees.
(If you’d like to be an Uber driver, please check out my article on that opportunity.)