Which Is Cheaper, Uber or a Taxi? Here’s How the Math Works Out

With the rise of the crowdsharing economy, our transportation options have increased far beyond what we’ve hitherto relied on. Which one you use, though, depends on one question, and one question only: Is it cheaper to use Uber or a taxi? The good folks at Business Insider recently took it upon themselves to answer that very question for us, and the answer… well, it’s not as simple as it might seem. Pulling their data from both Uber itself and Taxi Fare Finder, BI used a five-mile, 10-minute trip as a sample ride to see how the math worked out. Then they arranged it all into a handy-dandy little video, because who doesn’t love a well-produced short with colorful, easy-to-understand maps? No one, that’s who.

In any event, the short answer to the initial question is this: It depends where you are. There’s a lot more at play than just location, though, including time of day and the whole supply-and-demand thing. Watch the full video below (I recommend it — it’s quite well done, indeed) — but if you’re in a place where you can’t actually watch it right now, here’s how the math breaks down. Ready for this?

Taxi Fares:

Fares for the quick sample trip tend to hover around the $14 mark, with the cheapest being in Dallas ($11.25) and the most expensive being in San Diego ($17.80).

Uber Fares:

If you ride Uber, however, you’ll mostly find prices around the $11 mark. At $17.75, New York is the most expensive fare (and the outlier of the bunch); LA, meanwhile, has the cheapest fare at $9.40.

Which Is Cheaper?

Let’s use Chicago as an example. According to the base Uber to taxi comparison, Uber is the more wallet-friendly option; taxis cost about 1.5 times the amount of an Uber ride. This is true for most cities, too, as evinced by this map:

But!... Not So Fast:

Unfortunately, it’s not just as simple as comparing the base rates. As most Uber users know, surge pricing can be a bitch — and when they reach these levels, it’s not as good of a deal as it is otherwise.

I’ll be honest: Surge pricing is what really scares me away from Uber. With horror stories like the woman who paid $106 for a 21-mile ride one direction and $443 for the same ride in the other direction, or the guy whose four-mile trip at five times surge pricing racked up $391… well, let’s just say that I’m not in a tax bracket that can afford that kind of insanity. Also, it’s worth noting that taxis in New York are cheaper even without the surge pricing — if, of course, you can get one. Although to be honest, with the subway being what it is (that is, sometimes problematic, but generally convenient), I’m not at all sure why anyone would use taxis as their primary mode of transportation. Ah well; to each his or her own, right?

Check out the full video below. Which car service would you rather use?

Images: coolmel/Flickr; Business Insider