The explosion of ride-sharing services, such as Zimride, Lyft, Uber, and Ridester.com are breaking sweats among taxi drivers in the United States, Europe, and world wide. Compellingly, those sweats are also scaring away customers, as the number of complaints about taxi drivers have more than doubled in Europe between 2012 and 2013. Common complaints among the passengers? Unbearable body odor, refusing to take guide dogs, and a "general lack of professionalism" highlighted by mismatching neon track suits and mustard-stained car seats.
We love new travel trends here at Auto Europe, and we questioned if Uber's business model would help improve traveler experiences, but it's simply too soon to tell. In this article, we'll investigate whether a taxi, ride-share, or rental car is your best option for affordable, convenient travel in two different situations based on the information currently available.
Example 1: London Heathrow Airport to Your Downtown London Hotel
So, you've just arrived at London Heathrow on a trans-Atlantic flight from the United States. You're tired, grumpy, and hungry, and just want to make it to your city center hotel as conveniently and affordably as possible. Let's take a look at the options:
Taxi: The London City Government mandates a set price taxis can charge for a ride at £2.32 per kilometer, which puts a conservative estimate for a cab ride from London Heathrow to the city center (let's say Victoria Station near Buckingham Palace) at about £65, or slightly more than $100, if you arranged ahead of time. If you're looking for a last minute cab, or have more than three passengers, expect to pay anywhere between £100 - £150 after gratuity.
Ride-Share: According to Uber's website, you can get a ride from London Heathrow to a destination in the West End of Central London for as low as £37 (ride in a Prius with any joe-schmo driver), to as much as £75 for its prestige services (nicer car). So you're looking at $60 at the very least to as much as $120 to be picked up in a nicer car, not including gratuity.
Car Rental: Let's look at Auto Europe's rates for a one-day car rental acquired from London Heathrow and returning to the city center that same day.
As we can clearly see, in every situation a rental car is cheaper, for good reason. You trade the convenience of having a private driver for the freedom of having a rental car take you wherever you'd like to go. For less than half the price of a taxi, you can book an economy class car for 24 hours and do more than simply get a ride to your hotel, utilize your rental car to more conveniently explore London or to head outside the city.
Example 2: Night on the Town in Barcelona
You're in Barcelona for a romantic, 10 year wedding anniversary (or the international yarn convention with your grandmother, whatever) and you want to spend a night on the town, shopping in Barcelona's exclusive boutiques, eating at its finest restaurants, and sipping sangria at rooftop jazz clubs. You wonder... which is the least expensive way to navigate all of these sights in one night?
Taxi: All licensed taxis in Barcelona follow strict guidelines for calculating rates, including supplements for pick-up location and time, whether or not it's a holiday, and the number of passengers. If you're planning on making multiple stops on an itinerary like the one above, the most important supplements to note are waiting times (over €20 per hour), and "change fees" if you arrange ahead of time and make changes because you're running late; this is an additional €20. Let's assume you're going to want to make three stops with the same taxi over the course of three hours, starting from a Ramblas district hotel and stopping at a restaurant along the Diagonal Avenue, and then stopping near the Marina and cruise port for some shopping. If you're utilizing the same taxi that is waiting for you while you shop and eat, you're looking at about €75 (about $95, conservatively) for the evening without gratuities.
Ride-Share: According to Uber's website, in Barcelona there is a €1 base fare, plus €0,30 per minute, plus €0,75 per kilometer. If sticking with the same itinerary as above, you're looking at around €60 ($77) for the evening with the lowest class car, not including any gratuities.
Car Rental: Below are Auto Europe's rates for a one day car rental picking up and returning in Barcelona's city center for a 24 hour rental.
Once again, we can conclude that a rental car is the least expensive option for a single night's tour of Barcelona. In addition to being less expensive than both a taxi and a ride-share, a rental car in Barcelona gives travelers the freedom to explore Barcelona at their own pace, without dealing with a non-English speaking driver who may not be sympathetic to your travel plans.
It's obvious, through these examples, that a car rental is not only the least expensive means of convenient travel, but also the most enjoyable. Who wants to deal with stinky, expensive, and rude cab drivers and inexperienced, untested college students attempting to navigate a city when you could hop in a car rental and explore at your own pace? With that said, there are certainly times when it may be worth paying a few extra bucks for a taxi or ride-share as opposed to getting behind the wheel of your rental car... that day-trip you have planned to eighteen vodka distilleries? Spending an extra $100 to get back home safely may be more alluring than spending time behind bars in a crusty foreign jail.
Should you ultimately decide a rental car doesn't fit into your plans, Auto Europe offers white-glove, private chauffeur services throughout Europe. Ditch the cabbies and the college students, and hire a professional, English-speaking driver to ensure you're making the most of your limited time while exploring the world's most amazing destinations!