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

January is typically one of the lowest sales months of the year for rideshare companies Uber and Lyft, and last month’s sales were, indeed, down from December. This comes as the companies strive for profitability and confront a shifting legal landscape surrounding how they pay their drivers. Still, the battle for U.S. market share has barely moved in months.

Uber still dominates, taking in 69 percent of U.S. rideshare spending in January, while Lyft captured 30 percent of the market.

Starting in August 2017, Uber’s share of the market excludes most Uber Eats transactions, though some remain indistinguishable, especially from May to mid-August 2019. Smaller rideshare competitors claim just a fraction of the market. The “other” category includes Via and Juno, which ceased operations in November. Juno’s parent company, Gett, plans to focus on rideshare for corporate customers. Uber and Lyft are both also reportedly making inroads with corporate clients, though 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 $476 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.

In San Francisco, Lyft brought in 41 percent of January rideshare spending, making it the company’s strongest metro area by market share among the top 15 most populous.

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 this fall, 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 January, that distinction went to Lime.

Despite leading in U.S. scooter and bikeshare sales, Lime announced last month that it would be leaving four U.S. markets and eight international ones. Lime and its competitors are experiencing the annual winter slump after most saw sales grow over the summer. Lime’s sales dropped 62 percent from July to December, and Bird’s sales fell 79 percent over the same period.

Bird saw an especially large summer sales spike. One possible explanation: The company 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 federal agencies and cities across the country grapple with regulating this new form of urban transport. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission is reportedly looking into Lime. And, this fall, Los Angeles suspended Uber’s scooter permit over a data-sharing dispute, and 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 implementing strict regulations that have prompted some companies to leave the market.

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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