# Thursday, 26 March 2015

A number of friends and colleagues had recommended Uber and insisted it was better than taxi services. So I decided to try Uber for a few weeks while I was traveling out of state (Florida, Texas, and Colorado) these past few weeks.

My first ride took place because I was stranded in downtown Miami about 2 miles from my hotel. I was carrying a suitcase and a laptop bag and no taxis passed by. So I downloaded the Uber app to my phone and I requested an Uber pickup. Of course, as soon as I submitted the request 3 taxis appeared out of nowhere.

Here are my impressions after 3 weeks of using Uber.

The good.

The Uber app is very simple to use. Just click "Request driver" and set your pickup location. Your phone's GPS should determine where you are right now and set a default location. When a driver responds to your pickup request, the app displays an estimated time of arrival and texts you when the driver is arriving. The driver receives your phone number, so he may even call you if he cannot find you.

Every driver I rode with was courteous and some were interesting conversationalists.

Every driver drove a nice car. They were all late-model vehicles and they were all very clean.

Uber charges my credit card through its system. This means that I never have to worry if the driver accepts credit cards.

Uber automatically emails me a receipt. This is convenient because most of my travel is for business purposes.

Calling a driver is very easy. Outside of a major city's downtown area, it's usually necessary to make a phone call in order to request a taxi. The app is much simpler than a phone call.

Every driver spoke and understood English. If you've ridden a cab in a large city, you know that not all cab drivers speak English well enough to understand your instructions.

Most of the time UberX is cheaper than a taxi.

The Uber app offers multiple services - UberX, UberXL, Black Car, SUV - in case you want a larger or nicer car. Uber is not allowed at some airports, so the app allows you to call a taxi instead.

The Bad

Most of the time, the arrival estimates were optimistic. I only requested in a big city and each time, the estimate was less than 10 minutes - often less than 5. But about half the time, it took them at least twice that time to arrive. Only once did a driver arrive early.

When I opened the Uber app at my Chicago apartment, it notified me that, due to high demand, prices would be 1.3 times the normal rate. But just before I got into the car, I received a text message informing me that the price would be 2.3 times the normal rate. By then, it was too late to make alternate plans.

On my Windows Phone, the Uber app crashed. A lot.

One morning in Dallas, I requested an Uber and the driver went to the wrong place. He insisted he was at "the address I texted him"; but of course I had not texted him any information - I simply used the app. He had no idea how to get to my hotel and I was running late so I told him to cancel my request. When he charged me anyway, I gave him a 1-star rating. Uber later refunded the money (it was only about $5) and I replaced the low rating.

I received a very high bill when traveling from Midway airport to a location in suburban Chicago. Apparently, Chicago taxis charge 50% extra when traveling from the city to the suburbs. This was not Uber's charge, but it came as a surprise when I received the bill.

For taxis, Uber automatically adds a 20% tip by default. Although you can change this, I didn't learn of it until I was charged.

Lessons Learned

Always double-check the pickup location because they app can be wrong. This can be difficult to do if you are in a strange city, but look for nearby street signs and other landmarks to verify you are standing at the pickup location.

Prices are different for each service. UberX tends to be the cheapest. At the bottom of the app screen is the option to select from the available services (not all are always available). I wasn't aware of this and once selected the more-expensive Black Car service.

If possible, get a quote in advance. The Uber app allows this for most services. If the app won't give you a quote, ask the driver for an estimate. Don't be surprised.

Log into http://uber.com and verify all the options on the Profile and Payment screens.

My verdict

Overall, I had a good experience with Uber. I can avoid many of the problems i experienced now that I understand the system better. I think I will continue to use Uber in the future.

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