Uber vs. Lyft: Which ride-hailing service should you choose?

You're on vacation, at a conference, being responsible after a night out or don't have a car, and need to get a ride. If you're like me, you have two apps on your phone for this very purpose: Uber and Lyft. But how do you choose which ride-hailing service to use at any given time?

Uber and Lyft are ride-hailing apps that operate in largely the same way: Open the app, type in the address you want to go to, select the type of ride you want to take (single, shared, or upgraded to a luxury car) and see the cost, and confirm. You'll be able to see where your driver is and when they're going to arrive. But there are a few differences between the two services in terms of pricing, safety features, subscription options and rewards.

Here's what you need to know about each service before you choose which one to use.

Read more: How to save money with Uber and Lyft

The bottom line (and how to get the best price)

Most of the time, the experience of using Lyft and Uber is largely the same -- perhaps in part because, anecdotally, most drivers I ride with say they work for both platforms, and have both Lyft and Uber decals on their dashboard. Indeed, a 2019 survey of 1,000 Uber and Lyft drivers from The Rideshare Guy found that nearly 84% of drivers said they work for more than one service.

Pricing tends to be pretty similar for both Lyft and Uber, but fluctuate based on demand and traffic. If the lowest price is what you're looking for, the best way to make sure you get the best deal is to open both apps on your phone, type in your destination, and see which price is lower at that time.

The services have different levels of activity in different areas, so the best option for you may also depend on where you live and how many drivers are typically available. If you're traveling outside of the US or Canada, only Uber is available. If you're a US-based frequent rider, Lyft's new Pink subscription service may be the best option to help you save some money.

Read more: These posh ride-sharing startups aim to leave Uber and Lyft in the dust

Both Uber and Lyft are taking positive steps when it comes to preventing sexual assault and other crimes, though there is always a risk when you enter a car with a stranger, whether they have undergone a background check or not. Both companies have also acknowledged that the vast majority of the millions of rides taken each day end without incident.

In terms of driver satisfaction, The Rideshare Guy survey mentioned above found that in 2019, 48% of Uber-only drivers said they were satisfied with their experience driving for Uber (down 10% from 2018), while 52% of Lyft-only drivers said the same.

Personally, I usually default to Lyft -- though this is largely a leftover effect from 2017, around the time I joined, when Uber was facing internal turbulence. But with many changes to the company since then, if there aren't many Lyft cars around or the price seems high, I switch over to Uber. I also typically use Uber to schedule early morning rides in advance, because it's slightly less intuitive to do so on Lyft. But I haven't noticed any major differences in service between the two.