Uber vs. Lyft: Who’s tops in the battle of U.S. rideshare companies

Uber and Lyft have made recent headlines for the new services they’ve announced—rental cars for Lyft, and group meal orders and ski transit for Uber. Uber also released a report revealing the serious safety incidents reported on the platform. As noted, these incidents include traffic fatalities, fatal physical assaults, and sexual assaults. (Lyft says it will follow suit.) But despite the media spotlights, the battle for U.S. market share has barely moved in months.

Uber still dominates, taking in 70 percent of U.S. rideshare spending in November, while Lyft captured 29 percent of the market.

Starting in August 2017, Uber’s share of the market excludes most Uber Eats transactions, though some were also indistinguishable from May-August 2019. Smaller rideshare competitors claim just a fraction of the market. The “other” category includes Via and Juno, which operated only in New York and announced its closure in November. Juno’s parent company, Gett, plans to focus on rideshare for corporate customers. (Second Measure’s analysis excludes business spending.)

In addition to market share, Uber wins out on rider engagement. Riders who use both Uber and Lyft typically spend more on rideshare each year than riders who are loyal to a single service. And, on average, these riders who hail cars on both services spend more with Uber than Lyft. In the past year, the average rider of both Uber & Lyft spent $477 with Uber, 56 percent more than was spent on Lyft.

Market still expanding; companies shine in different regions

Although the market share race hasn’t moved more than 3 percentage points in the past year, the overall market is still expanding. The West Coast is one of Lyft’s strongest regions, but there are also several areas where it’s popular in the Midwest and Southwest. Lyft could also see an uptick in the New York metro area in November thanks to a new partnership with Gett, announced in tandem with Juno’s closure.

In San Francisco, Lyft brought in 38 percent of November rideshare spending, making it the company’s strongest metro area by market share among the top 15 most populous.

As Uber and Lyft battle for regional market share, cities and states are adopting legislation that affects them. In September, California’s governor signed a law requiring “gig economy” companies, including ride-hailing, meal and grocery delivery services, to classify their workers as employees instead of contractors. The companies are helping fund a campaign for a ballot proposition that would exempt them from California’s law, but New Jersey legislators have now taken up a similar bill. The state is also seeking $640 million from Uber in taxes and penalties for what it says was misclassification of workers. And cities—most recently Seattle—are levying taxes of their own.

Uber among top U.S. meal delivery companies

Uber has established itself as more than a rideshare company. Its successful foray into food delivery has surprised its own CEO. Uber Eats is perpetually in the top three U.S meal delivery companies by sales, and that market continues to expand.

Many brands vying for scooter and bike sales

Uber and Lyft have also segued into scooters and bikeshare with mixed success. Lyft launched a scooter fleet in September 2018, but last month it announced it was pulling scooters out of six U.S. cities due to lack of riders. Uber, which owns Jump Bikes and Scooters, has also pulled them from some metro areas. And neither ride-hailing company leads the race for U.S. scooter spending. In November, that distinction went to Lime.

The two leading U.S. scooter companies, Lime and Bird, both saw sales grow over the summer. They are now experiencing the annual winter sales slump. Bird had an especially large 73-percent sales spike from May to July, followed by a 37-percent drop from July to September.

One possible explanation for this spike: Bird now requires riders to pre-load funds into its app before it will allow them to ride. Tourists and other summer customers may have stocked their accounts early in the season and ridden those balances for a few months. (Lime also offers the option of pre-payment through Lime Wallet, but it doesn’t require it as Bird does.)

It’s been a busy few months for Bird, which raised $275 million in new funding in October and launched a kids’ scooter, Birdie, in November. The company also announced the acquisition of Scoot in June, though Bird’s own scooter sales were nearly 40 times Scoot’s that month, so the acquisition is likely not responsible for Bird’s summer sales jump.

The legal landscape for scooters is perpetually shifting as cities across the country grapple with regulating this new form of urban transport. Los Angeles suspended Uber’s scooter permit last month over a data-sharing dispute. In September, Bird and Lime temporarily pulled their scooters out of downtown Phoenix over parking issues after just four days of operation there. Other cities are concluding pilot programs, seeking public feedback, and ruling on issues of scooter safety.

However, Lime, Jump, Scoot, and Spin received some good news when San Francisco awarded them operating permits after a year-long pilot program. The companies deployed 2,500 scooters in the city in October.

Remembering rough roads traversed

Uber has always worn the U.S. ridesharing crown, but one of the most pivotal years for the company was 2017. That January, the #DeleteUber hashtag went viral, and Uber’s market share dropped 5 percentage points in a single week, the start of what would become a rocky time.

Former CEO Travis Kalanick resigned in June 2017 following other publicized issues, including questions surrounding the company’s culture. A new CEO and 2018 brand overhaul have since helped Uber elevate its image, and the market-share fluctuation has calmed.

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