Uber or Taxi? Here’s How to Get the Best Deal on Your Ride

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The cheapest option varies by time of day, length of trip and weather conditions. Here's how to figure out what's optimal at any given time -- and some apps to help you.

Hail a taxi or book a ride with Uber? That’s the question many people face when deciding the best — and cheapest — way to get from point A to point B.

Although using the Uber app to catch a ride is simple and convenient, it’s not always the least-expensive option. Sometimes taking the conventional yellow taxi cab can save you some green. So which ride-hailing service should you pick? The short answer: It depends.

Uber typically offers cheaper fares than taxis for longer trips that cost more than $35, according to an analysis by Anastasios Noulas, a data scientist at Lancaster University in Lancaster, England.

Based on Noulas’ number crunching, “Uber is often the more economic choice outside of large cities,” says Consumer Reports.

But for quick trips – with fares less than $35 – there’s a good chance that hailing a taxi may be the most inexpensive option. Noulas says those trips make up about 94 percent of taxi fares.

If you’re trying to determine which ride service is best for your wallet, you need to factor in the demand for rides, CR explains. While taxis typically rely on fixed fares or meters, the cost of using Uber and other ride-sharing services like Lyft can vary widely when  “surge pricing” goes into effect because demand is high in an area.

Surge pricing can boost ride-sharing fares by as much as four times the standard rate. Says CR:

Surge pricing can happen more often than you’d expect in some high-traffic neighborhoods, such as New York City’s Times Square. Noulas says the practice affects about 25 percent of UberX cars — the budget option for riders — in New York City. The result is that the median price for a yellow cab ride in New York, says Noulas, is $19.50 versus $23.50 for an UberX ride.

In other cases — like this one detailed by a Washington Post writer — surge pricing is determined by weather. After a snowstorm, a 30-mile trip by Uber from Bonnie Lieb’s Sterling, Virginia, residence to Reagan National Airport totaled $640.94 — 4.4 times the base rate of $144.76 for the UberSUV ride that she had booked. (Uber’s budget option, UberX, has a base rate of about $50, a company spokesman said.)

“That’s the most expensive ride that I’ve ever taken in my life,” Lieb told the Post writer.

If you’re not sure which ride service is the most economical choice for you, don’t fret. There are several apps and websites that can help you figure it out. CR recommends RideGuru, WhatsTheFare or Noulas’ OpenStreetCab.

Of course, cost is only one factor to consider. Even though a taxi may be cheaper, “the convenience and speed of getting an Uber versus calling a taxi service makes it the better option for many,” says WiseBread.

What is your favorite ride-hailing service? Share your comments below or on our Facebook page.

Stacy Johnson

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