On New Year’s Eve — tonight — people will once again start screaming about the price of taking an Uber car instead of a taxi. That’s because EVERYONE will want to get a ride home rather than drive, demand will be high, and the algorithm that Uber uses with its mobile app will create the infamous Uber “surge,” when prices can go up to eight times the normal rate.
If you do not know what you are doing with Uber, you can easily spend hundreds of dollars for a ride home even if it’s just a few miles.
I’ve been using Uber for a while now, and I’ve discovered that as long as you are careful, using Uber is often cheaper than taking a taxi and a lot cheaper than actually owning a car. In fact, for anyone who has ever wanted to live the dream of being chauffeured around by your own private driver in a black Mercedes the whole time, Uber is as close as you’re likely to get.
Here are a few Uber strategy tips to save you money:
1. Check the prices before ordering the ride — duh!
Some people forget that different types of cars have different prices. So tap one of these buttons to bring up the current rates:
2. Note that the SUV rates are high …
3. Whereas Uber X rates are low …
Some cities have Uber Taxi and Black Car, all running at different prices. So check before you ride!
4. Before you order a car, get a fare quote.
We decided to see how much it would cost to take Uber from the Business Insider HQ to the World Trade Center in New York.
5. Decide whether it’s worth it.
In fact, $US20 to go three miles in Manhattan during rush hour is pretty reasonable — especially when you consider that you won’t be fighting other people on the street to get a cab, and your driver will be nice and polite and actually speak English, unlike a large portion of New York area cabbies.
6. Note that there is no need to tip an Uber driver.
Your taxi costs include a tip. With Uber, there is no tipping, according to the company’s own web site:
(Although because it’s Christmas and New Year, you might want to tip anyway.)
Once you get used to switching between Uber X and Black Car, especially for shorter trips, you’ll find that Uber is often quicker and cheaper than a traditional taxi. And, because you can track the cars on the app, Uber cars really are “on the way” when they say they’re on the way — not like some car services.
There are downsides, of course. Once surge pricing kicks in, sensible people avoid Uber and opt for public transport or a regular taxi if available. There is no such thing as a free lunch!
Or, if you want to go without owning a car completely, you could write off the occasional $US100 trip as being cheap compared to the monthly cost of car payments, insurance, gas, parking, tickets and repairs. (This isn’t going to work if you live in the suburbs and have a long commute, of course.)
It only took me one experience of getting an SUV home at 2 a.m. on a Saturday night — and wincing at the $US120 bill that resulted — before I became an Uber miser.
I’ve never looked back.
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