Uber vs. Lyft: who will lead in 2021?

uber vs lyft

It’s 2012.

The taxi line is a mile long. 

I’m exhausted. The last 8 hours were spent in heels—walking Chicago’s McCormick Center. I’ve talked way too much, and it’s freezing. This is trade show season. And, I’m one of 80,000+ attendees, wrapped in wool, waiting for a ride. Back then, conferences were still in-person events.

“Hurry up,” says my colleague, Royce. “I got a car.” 

It feels like a miracle.

On that cold day, I’d never heard of rideshares before. But, as we skip past a swarm of people, the word becomes music to my ears. Greeted by warm air, I open the door. And sit down—finally. 

Fast forward to 2020.

A lot’s changed. I’ve had two kids. Plus, there’s a global pandemic right now…but, hey, rideshares are still in demand. People need to go places—even if it’s just to find a tiny roll of toilet paper. 

So, let’s take a look at what they expect when it comes to rideshares.

#1: Make it safe.

In general, 86% say it’s safe to rideshare. 

These are people we observed leaving Uber or Lyft in the last month. So, their experience is still fresh. Okay, you say, but we’re in the middle of a pandemic. Their opinions may change on safety.

In general, 86% say it’s safe to rideshare. 

Not really. 

Actually, 71% are comfortable ridesharing right now—in the middle of COVID. 


Well, 54% trust their driver to take precautions. Another 52% wear gloves and masks. Still others say that their drivers often have partitions that make them feel more comfortable. And for the 29% who aren’t comfortable riding in COVID, 68% say they just don’t want to share a car right now.

Making consumers feel safe—goes a long way right now.

So, for your own brand, think WWMD: what would Maslow do? The man built a blueprint for customer experience. Right after physiological needs, that means creating safety. Your customers need to feel safe. Not just with masks and sanitizer. They want to see what you do as a brand. 

#2: Make it memorable.

People will pay for a good experience.


Even in the midst of a pandemic. Let’s take a look at Uber. They’ve done a great job of making your experience memorable. They lead in driver quality, ride findability, availability and safety.

Which rideshare service performs the best in each of the following areas?

In fact, 92% would recommend Uber to others. 

That’s a strong net promoter score. Now, what’s causing people to feel that way? You may recall that in 2017, Uber hit a few speed bumps. But, it looks like they’ve come out on top. 

People will forgive a lot for a great experience.

Like pricing. Uber’s not the cheapest—it’s per minute cost is $.05 higher than Lyft. But, 65% say that Uber has the best passenger experience. So, even though only 56% say they have the best price, Uber ends up on top.

Maybe that’s why 76% use Uber most often. 

Which rideshare service do you use most often?

Funny how that works. Price isn’t everything. Experience is.


Well, from this subset, 44% say it’s easier to find a car when they need one. Like my experience in 2012, helping someone out of bind can be quite impressionable. And, they’re loyal too. 47% say that Uber Ride Pass—their subscription model is better than the competition’s Lyft Pink.

But, don’t feel bad for Lyft. 

With 82% likely to recommend the pink brand, they’re still picking up plenty of drivers. Why? Well, for those who use Lyft more, 57% say it’s because their price is better. 

For me?

Lyft now has my heart after a late-night airport ride last year. I had two screaming children. It was 1:30 am after a rough red-eye. Yuck. I couldn’t find an Uber and desperately downloaded Lyft’s app. Five minutes later, my ride arrived—bringing my sanity back with it. 

Clearly, there are benefits to both apps.

#3: Make it innovative.

Now, it’s a race to the finish line.

It’ll be interesting to see who gets through the challenges of 2020 best. But, there’s more to it. This is also a chance for both providers to innovate, and consumers are ready for that ride.

Ever get tired of small talk?

Many riders do. In fact. 46% would pay $.50, or more, for a “chatless” version of Uber or Lyft. And a full 39% say that they’d actually prefer to have a quiet driver. In the spirit of creating the best customer experience, this may be a chance for Uber or Lyft to do a quick little innovation. 

There’s more.

You may not want a driverless ride, but many do—and Uber & Lyft are both ready for them. Most riders, 65%, will take a driverless Uber or Lyft if it’s available. So, while both brands work hard to earn market share—the race to driverless rides will be an important race to follow.

This is your time too. Whether you’re a restaurant trying food apps, or a grocery chain needing to double online shopping—2021 is your time to shine. This year has taught us how to be resilient. And it’s created an even playing field. So, get ready for the new year. You’re in the driver’s seat. 

Need help with research? Send us an email.

By Avani Patel

Reviewed by Theresa Bui

Posted on December 16th, 2020

Learn more about OmniTraffic® Data

Explore More Posts

Stay in Touch

Stay up to date on consumer trends by opting into our newsletter.