Using the Uber ridesharing service can be an economical and easy way to get around. Uber became popular quickly because you can hail a ride via a phone app, get to your destination for less than the cost of a taxi, and finalize payment and tip in a cashless transaction. But many people jump into an Uber experience without understanding exactly how the service works and that can cost you money. These 8 mistakes are the ones most often made by people new to the Uber service.
Choosing the Wrong Service
Among the most common mistakes made by a new Uber rider, is not understanding that Uber provides a number of services, each at its own price point.
The most economical service is UberX, which is billed as "an everyday ride at an everyday price." But some novices accidentally lock in premium choices such as UberBLACK where you'll be transported luxuriously in a sleek black car with a professional driver, or UberXL, which provides a ride in an SUV or van that holds up to six passengers and plenty of luggage, when all they wanted was basic transportation. Be careful to start with the appropriate choice for your situation to save money.
Incurring a Cancellation Fee
In busy places such as airport terminals or cruise ports, dozens of people within a block or so might be arranging an Uber ride and the responding rideshare cars are mixed in with busy traffic making it hard to find your driver. This is when many novices simply give up, hail a cab, or search for public transportation.
But if you summon an Uber driver, watch the types of cars and license numbers passing by. Your app will tell you the make, color of the car, and license plate number of the car arriving to pick you up. Your driver might be in a line of cars outside the baggage area of the airport, for example, and is looking for you. If an Uber driver can't connect with you after five minutes, and after attempts to message you, your account will incur a cancellation fee.
This fee varies by city and the Uber service selected. Generally, you may cancel your ride order while the driver is en-route to your location, or before a driver is actually assigned. But once a driver is assigned to your request, a cancellation (or no show) often prompts a fee.
To avoid this unnecessary expense, don't call for a driver until absolutely certain of your exact waiting location and destination (you can also put in some specific pick-up information such as "I'm in front of Door 8 at Baggage Claim wearing a red sweater") so they know where to find you. And then watch for their car and license number.
Failing to Understand Surge Pricing
Uber surge pricing is one of the more controversial aspects of the service. But it illustrates the fact that Uber isn't always cheaper than taking a taxi.
Uber's business model depends upon drivers arriving quickly to pick up passengers and whisking them off to their destination. But there are circumstances when demand is great and traffic is heavy. Drivers need some extra incentive to dive into these difficult situations that may take more time. Surge pricing is their reward.
Uber claims it always will notify customers of the surge and requires them to acknowledge and approve the higher fee.
There are cases on record of Uber rides coming in at $500 during a surge pricing period. But it's far more likely you'll wind up paying $75 for a ride the Uber price estimator indicated would cost $30 during normal conditions.
Assess the urgency of the need for a ride during a surge pricing event. It might be cheaper—and more relaxing—to duck into a coffee shop for a few minutes and wait for traffic conditions to improve.
Assuming Uber is Available Everywhere
It wouldn't be wise to expect an Uber ride on a rural gravel road. But there are also many urban areas where, for a variety of reasons, Uber service does not exist or operates on a limited basis. For example, Uber does not currently operate in China but does now have service in many countries and cities that previously did not permit them to operate. In addition, there are times where regulations or the cost of doing business cause Uber to withdraw service from an area and then start up again when conditions are more favorable.
Keep updated on the latest status of Uber service where you are visiting by checking the Uber list of cities and plan accordingly. While Uber operates in 500 cities worldwide the service is not available everywhere.
Missing an UberPool Opportunity
Uber offers an option that splits fares for those traveling in a small group. As long as all of their credit cards are on file with Uber, the split fare option works quickly and easily.
But there is also a carpooling option, appropriately named UberPOOL. By clicking this option, you agree to share your Uber ride with others along the route who are looking for cheap, efficient transportation. Instead of starting with UberX, enter "UberPool" when you initiate the request. You'll be shown a "guaranteed fare."
You'll then be matched with up to four co-riders who want to travel in the same direction. No more than two riders per stop are allowed under the rules. Also, note that someone who was picked up after you might be taken to their destination before you. And, there can be times when baggage space in the car is tight.
UberPool is ideal for longer, potentially expensive rides. For a trip of a couple of miles, the option may not make a difference.
Not Setting Up a Separate Business Account
Many people travel both for business and pleasure. Separating the two types of trips can be messy, especially when going through a lengthy credit card statement. Uber offers separate business accounts for its customers. This will save you the time and trouble of unraveling these expenses before tax time or when you have to submit an expense report to your employer.
Assuming Uber is Always the Cheapest Option
Don't ever assume Uber is the cheapest option. Many times, it is a simple, pre-paid option that is worthy of consideration. But if you're in a city with an extensive public transportation system, and you practice one-bag travel, taking the subway or a bus could be far less expensive than an Uber ride.
At times when Uber surge pricing conditions exist, even a taxi could be the cheaper option. The point is to make no assumptions. Use a taxicab fare estimator in places without efficient public transportation and make the public bus, light rail, or subway the first choice when practical.
Skipping the Driver Rating
Uber operates on a relatively simple principle. Riders and drivers rate each other. The system is designed to weed out consistently bad drivers or riders.
It's always a good idea to leave an honest appraisal of the ride received. The system calls for 1 to 5 stars, and only a click is required to enter that into the app. Drivers always hope for a rating of five, because low ratings can lead to termination. Give that rating if they provided efficient, courteous service.
There have been stories about drivers who add unwarranted charges to a rider's account in exchange for a disappointing rating. Such displays of spite are rare, but if you do encounter a vindictive driver, straighten out the errant charges and bring the driver to the company's attention.
Leave a fair rating and help other riders avoid trouble.