Uber and similar ride-sharing apps such as Lyft have completely upended the cab game in major cities around the world. Since a recent road trip through the South included a number of Uber rides in New Orleans, Nashville, and Atlanta—compounded with our ride-sharing experience in New York City and San Francisco—we’ve landed upon a few hacks. We also chatted with a longtime Uber driver in Nashville (who preferred to remain anonymous), who contributed her own tips and those of Lyft driver friends.
Wait out the surge.
An October 2015 study revealed that surge pricing often only lasts a few minutes, so don’t be afraid to hit that “alert me when surge ends” button, even if you’re really ready to get the heck out of that bar, show or party. And try two minutes later on your own: In our experience, sometimes it took only that amount of time to find that the surcharge had vanished.
Walk a couple of blocks out of the surge zone.
A combination of experience, the study cited above, and chatting with drivers reminded us that sometimes avoiding surge pricing is as easy as walking a block away from the main drag of action in your town or city. (Just stay safe if you do so.)
Consider Uber Pool.
Uber Pool, a shared-car option in New York City, will result in a 25 percent cheaper ride every time—but won’t always necessitate you sharing your car, especially during times when there are few other riders nearby. We’ve we’ve booked Uber Pool in New York twice; both times we snagged the discount. Neither time included a stranger in our car. Win-win. (Etiquette point: On those occasions, feel free to tip your driver a buck or two, since the ride is that much cheaper.)
No matter how drunk you are, if you see that surge symbol, pay attention.
Just a good rule of thumb, people. It can be the difference between a $50 night and a $100 one
Be sure you didn’t grab an Uber Black.
Whether it’s because a thumb can easily cause an error there’s something in the app that makes this bug appear, on one occasion we accidentally ordered an Uber Black—and weren’t alerted that we’d done so. Our driver was kind enough to let us know we’d doubled the price of our car, and he shut the meter off early. (See hack #6.)
When in doubt, email customer service.
A friend ordered a car during Mardi Gras, didn’t pay attention to the extra-long route her driver took, and ended up with a $110 tab. The one-star rating she awarded her driver caught the attention of Uber’s customer service; when she explained what happened, her rate was reduced by two-thirds.
Keep an eye on GPS.
Twice, Uber’s GPS added an extra mile to our rides, sending drivers on extra-long loops that didn’t seem related to traffic issues. Keep an eye on GPS on your own phone and make sure you’re not going out of your way.
Ask for a bigger car if you have more than four people.
Ask for a larger car if you’re traveling with a big crew. If you forget till your car arrives, you’re going to be waiting for a while.
On crazy-crowded streets, type in the name of the business.
On busy nights in places like Nashville’s Broadway, which is jammed with honky-tonk bars, type in the name of the business you’re at so your driver knows where to go. It’s easier to see its neon sign than its address—and it’s more precise than the pin you dropped.
Set your pickup spot on a street corner, if it’s safe.
It’s easier to pick someone up on a street corner, our driver reminded us. If you pick the middle of a block on a one-way street, you may have just added 10 to 15 minutes to your ride home.
Keep booze out of the car.
This should be obvious, but it’s good etiquette and keeps your driver out of trouble.
Cancel if you don’t feel safe.
Avoid cancelling rides for capricious reasons, but don’t get into a car that doesn’t feel safe—and report anything that feels suspicious or out of the bounds of legal behavior. A quick note to Uber or Lyft should keep you from having to pay for an unsafe ride. Be careful out there.