Uber, Taxify and Ola all now operate in Sydney -- here's which is the cheapest

Photo: David Ramos/ Getty Images.

Uber has ruled the ride-sharing roost since it launched in Australia six years ago but with public sentiment turning sour and the arrival of ride-sharing services like Taxify and Ola, is Uber still the cheapest way to get around? Let’s take a look.

With the recent launch of both Taxify and Ola, I felt like it was time to give the Uber alternatives a good shake. Over the Easter Weekend, I took multiple trips to and from the airport and across Sydney’s CBD and inner west to get a feel for how the three major ride-sharing apps differ. Like Uber, Taxify and Ola operate similar app-based booking and payment options: You load up their apps, create an account, select your pickup location and pick where you need to get to.

For me, it was most important to get around cheaply (and quickly, too).

To find an estimated price for the three services below I used a standard 15 minute route through the city. I plugged a trip from Sydney’s Star Casino to St. Vincent’s Hospital into each app and let it calculate the price (as at midday, April 3). This short trip is unlikely to be hugely affected by traffic, especially at the time of day I was looking, and would give me a nice clean base to establish the kind of prices I’d be looking at.

I also looked at the base fares for riding in the three services for Sydneysiders. If you’re living in other states, lucky you – most of the time you’re going to be riding at a cheaper rate then your NSW counterparts.

So who is cheapest?

Uber

Base Fare: $2.50
Booking Fee: $0.55
Per minute: $0.40
Per kilometre: $1.45

Minimum Fare: $9.00
Cancellation Fee: $10.00 (Free if cancelled within 5 minutes)

Fare Estimate:
$14-$18

The Experience: You’ll be hard pressed to find someone that hasn’t taken an Uber in their life nowadays, with coverage right across the country. Generally, the UberX experience is pretty similar for everyone. You load up the Google Maps based service, click your pickup location and destination and off you go.

Only recently, Uber launched upfront pricing (in some locations), so you could see exactly how much you would be paying before you get to your destination. They also launched UberPOOL in Sydney, which allows passengers to jump in the car with complete strangers going to similar destinations, to keep the price even lower.

Value: The pricing structure on Uber hasn’t changed a lot since introduction and as long as you are using UberX and aren’t subject to any surge pricing, it’s still one of the best priced services you can find. The pricing structure is very similar to that of other services, with the booking fee of 55 cents being the best of the three.

One big negative is their variable surge pricing. If you get caught trying to ride an Uber in peak hour or on the busy weekend evenings, you’ll likely be hit with a nasty surcharge that can make Ubers even more pricey than a conventional cab. Keep that in mind.

For some, Uber is currently the only option available in their city, though it’s likely that other ride-sharing apps will begin to rollout across the country as they pick up steam in the big cities. However, that isn’t such a bad thing – from a financial point of view, they’re still doing a great job, it’s just you might need to look past their murky, problematic board if you want to ride with them.

[Uber]

Taxify

Base Fare: $2.50
Booking Fee: $1.65 (+ $0.1/km)
Per minute: $0.40
Per kilometre: $1.45

Minimum Fare: $9.00
Cancellation Fee: None

Fare Estimate: $14-$18 ($10-$14 on discount)

The Experience: Using Taxify is pretty similar to using Uber. Living in Sydney, I wasn’t worried about a lack of drivers – until I actually started using the app. About a month ago, it was hard to find a driver in peak times as well as late on the weekends, however I used Taxify for the majority of my trips over the Easter Long Weekend and found that it was reliable and my maximum wait time hovered between three and seven minutes. It seems that a lot of Uber drivers are migrating to the service or using it as a second source of income on top of Uber.

Value: A really competitive pricing structure to take on Uber with no cancellation fees at all. There are a few knocks if you live in Sydney because of the new CTP scheme, but otherwise it’s bang on the charges that Uber dish out to their riders. That booking fee does mean you cop a fair whack straight off the top, too. Notably, that’s the Sydney-based pricing. In Melbourne, riders pay a $2 base fare, $1.15/km and $0.35/min with a 55 cent booking fee. Those kind of prices make them a cheaper option to Uber when travelling across Melbourne.

Importantly, Taxify locks their surge pricing at 1.5x and only ever manually turns it on. That is, unlike Uber, there are real human beings monitoring the supply and demand with Taxify and changing their pricing accordingly. Handy to keep in mind in the peak periods and on holidays and big event days.

A Taxify spokesperson also spoke to Lifehacker and confirmed that Taxify have implemented “automatic dynamic pricing based on the balance between the number of drivers on the roads and riders requesting the rides”

When I checked on the app, the pricing in Sydney for this week was lower: $0.32 per minute and $1.16 per kilometre, with a $2 start due to a 20% discount that runs until April 5, 2018. Additionaly, from April 1, Sydney Taxify riders will be charged an additional 10 cents per kilometre because of NSW CTP scheme. This charge will not be applied to riders in Melbourne. Worth noting.

[Taxify]

Ola

Base Fare: $2.50
Booking Fee: $0.55
Per minute: $0.40
Per kilometre: $1.45

Minimum Fare: $9.00
Cancellation Fee: $10.00 (Free if cancelled within 5 minutes of booking)

Fare Estimate: $16

The Experience: Ola has only launched in Perth and Sydney so far and if you scroll through their Facebook feed, you’ll find that there are quite a few tales of woe. The major issue facing Ola so far is the lack of drivers in suburban areas. I had no trouble getting into an Ola (after a nine minute wait) in the CBD, but when I looked in the early morning before heading to the airport last week, there were very few cars on the road and it suggested I would be waiting 11 minutes.

It seems other people have experienced this, with many booking trips only to be cancelled on by the driver immediately afterwards because the job is too far away. The challenge for Ola will be getting people on the road, but the service is similar to what you get with Uber and Taxify once you’ve got your seatbelt on.

Value: Ola don’t make it easy to track down their pricing structure, which is unfortunate. As the newest player in the game, it would make a lot of sense to be transparent and open with how much you’re charging passengers but they do at least advertise that they are ‘the cheapest rideshare in town’ but their base fares across Sydney are exactly the same as those you find with both Uber and Taxify

Currently, they’re running a promotion for free rides up to $25 throughout Sydney, which means when I tried to see how much the fare would be, Ola spat out a $0 estimate. Why? Just give me that estimate, damnit!

Unlike the other apps, you can cancel for free within five minutes of receiving the driver’s details, but a cancellation fee of $10 applies if you cancel later than that. That’s a good point of difference and does make it easier to jump onto the app if you’re looking for a ride.

[Ola]

Who is the cheapest?

It’s still hard to look past Uber as the best service across the country but with Taxify and Ola offering reduced rates compared to Uber outside of Sydney, if you’re travelling via ride-share outside of the country’s biggest city, you should look at all of the options. Uber’s current major benefits still remain the fact that they have the most drivers and the shortest wait times, but that doesn’t necessarily translate to savings, particularly in the peak busy periods.

What should you do? Riders just need to take advantage of all three apps and ‘shop around’. We’ve now got to the point in the ride-sharing economy where we can actually try and find the best deal at the time. For instance, if I was to catch a cab in Sydney today, I would probably go with Ola (granted I can get a driver) because it’s free up to $25. I can skip the train this evening and that’s a relief in itself. However, once I’ve utilised that deal I’ll probably jump over to Taxify, who are offering 20% off Monday to Thursday.

It will serve you well to sign up to all of them and stay on top of the promotions that are running. Just this past month, Taxify ran their 20% off promotion three times. As the popularity and driver numbers increase to Uber’s competitors, you may see these discounts fall away, but until then it is definitely best to keep your tapping finger ready across all three apps.

Here at Lifehacker, we will do our best to bring you the best of the ride-sharing deals when we find them, especially if you look at our morning deals round ups.

Update: A Taxify spokesperson confirmed that Taxify does not include a cancellation fee and that the booking fee is equivalent to Uber when taking into account charges and levys. The article has been amended to reflect as such.

This first appeared at Lifehacker Australia. See the original here.

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