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15 Easy Ways to Improve Your Ride-Hailing Experience

Apps such as Lyft, Uber can be cheaper than a cab and allow others to track your journey


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Photo Collage: AARP; (Source: Getty Images (3))

If you live in an urban or suburban area, ride-hailing services can be a convenient option for getting around.

And, like with a taxi, drivers are available on demand, or you can book a trip in advance. If you haven’t used Lyft or Uber — or lesser-known apps such as Curb, Wingz and Ztrip — here’s how they work: Open the app on your smartphone and type in your destination to see how much a trip will cost. In many instances, it may be less than calling a cab.

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When you reach your destination, you don’t give the driver cash or your credit card. Your credit card is already charged through the app, and you’re immediately emailed a receipt.

To save money, you might opt to pick up another passenger along your ride. That’s why these transportation services often are referred to as ride-sharing apps.

Video: App-Based Ride Services

But you already knew this. Before the pandemic, about a quarter of adults 50 and older told Pew Research Center researchers that they had used Lyft or Uber. This is still the most recent information available, but it was a 17 percentage point increase from three years before. So even more older adults are likely to have experienced the service now as people travel more across town or head to the airport for a trip out of town.

You can arrange for a friend to join you, taking that person with you, stopping along the way, or giving a door-to-door ride without you — handy if you’re a caregiver. Here are ways to ensure that you have the smoothest experience, no matter how you use the apps.

Before you ride, prepare

1. Start looking early. If getting to a place such as the airport or a doctor’s office by a specific time is important, Conor Ferguson, Uber’s mobility communications manager, suggests opening the app a little earlier than you need it.

“Wait times can vary during times of peak demand, [so] open the Uber app 20 minutes before you want to ride to gauge arrival times,” he says. “This will help ensure you get where you want to go on time.” 

Learn online

Senior Planet from AARP has occasional online classes on using ride-hailing apps.

1. Go to the Senior Planet classes page.

2. Type ride hailing in the 🔍 Search for classes box.

3. Click on the red Find Classes button.

Don’t be discouraged if you don’t see a class offered. Check back in a few weeks, look for a location near you under the In-Person Classes drop-down menu, or call the Senior Planet Hotline number listed on the page to request the topic.

2. Or book days in advance. Both Lyft and Uber allow you to reserve a ride weeks before that trip to the eye doctor or a flight to see the grandkids.

A driver might not always accept immediately, but you’ll be notified in advance if a service can’t find a driver for you. Lyft allows you to lock in your pickup time and fare up to 30 days ahead. Uber’s window is from two hours to 90 days and includes an estimated charge.

3. Maybe wait a bit. If you’re not in too much of a rush and you see that rates are a little higher than normal, check again in a few minutes. Both Uber and Lyft use demand pricing, so prices go up when more people want the services.

4. Share the ride. You can use carpooling options, called UberX Share for Uber; Lyft no longer has the service. You also can choose to split a fare with someone such as a friend. Selecting more than one drop-off spot in the app is easy.

5. Consider a membership if you ride a lot. Both Lyft and Uber offer memberships, called Lyft Pink and Uber One, which start at $9.99 a month. Both plans have members-only pricing on rides.

Lyft adds free priority pickups, 5 percent off standard and larger vehicle rides, a year of Grubhub+ with no delivery fees and up to 45 minutes of bike or scooter rental a month. Uber offers free food deliveries via Uber Eats, up to 10 percent discounts on some Uber Eats delivery and pickup orders, and a 5 percent discount on other rides. 

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6. Be ready to roll. Along with seeing the vehicle’s whereabouts, you’ll be notified when the driver is at your location.

If something comes up and you need an extra minute or two, you can always call or message the driver through the app. Messages are read aloud to drivers through the car’s dashboard display for safety’s sake.

7. Check your pickup location on the app. Sometimes your phone’s GPS location data is off a little, and you may need to move the pushpin on the map to confirm your exact location.

This is sometimes an issue at airport pick-up spots. When in doubt, contact the driver, because neither of you wants the driver to have trouble finding your precise location.

When your ride arrives

8. Verify your vehicle. Double-check your ride with the details in the app, such as the license plate, vehicle make and model, and driver’s photo.

9. Need help? Ask. If you have luggage or equipment, such as a walker, and need assistance to stow it, politely ask the driver, who can help place items in the trunk.

10. Look for traffic hazards. Before you open the car door to get in and when you get out, check to make sure no vehicles or cyclists are coming quickly.

And don’t slam the car door when you get in or out. Remember, Uber and Lyft drivers use their own vehicle.

While on your ride

11. Let others see your progress. You can share your trip information from the app with a caregiver, a friend you’re meeting or a loved one. This enables them to see your location on a map, along with your estimated time of arrival and details about your driver and the vehicle in which you’re riding. 

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12. Save snacking for later. Think about how you would want others to act if you were in the driver’s seat. Don’t drink, eat or smoke. Avoid profanity or talking loudly on a phone call.

13. Stay safe. In the app, you can always report a safety issue such as a lack of working seat belts or an incident or accident.

Both Lyft and Uber also let you discretely contact 911 from within the app. With Lyft, a member from ADT will then contact law enforcement to share your location details. You won’t be contacted via phone unless requested.

Through Uber, you can connect directly with 911 by tapping the Emergency button, which shows your real-time location — both on a map and as an address. In select cities, your location and trip details will be automatically sent to a 911 dispatcher.

14. Rate with awareness. Not loving your Uber experience? Your Lyft driver not the most pleasant?

As you pull out your phone to tap two stars instead of five, remember one thing: They’re rating you, too. This two-way feedback is a key difference between a ride-hailing service and taxicabs.

15. Tip for good service. The driver gets to keep all of it.

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