How Uber, Ola and Zoomy compare on cost, safety and fairness

Booking a ride?  How Uber, Ola and Zoomy compare on cost, safety and fairness.
Booking a ride? How Uber, Ola and Zoomy compare on cost, safety and fairness. Photo credit: Getty.

How people choose to commute is changing as people tap into the ease and convenience of booking, tracking and paying for rides via their smartphone.

From costs as little as $1.20 per km, is it worth filling up the tank and forking out for parking? 

Mobile apps for rideshare companies Uber, Ola and New Zealand-owned Zoomy enable riders to compare prices quickly and easily.  But while convenience and cost are the key drivers of this change, rider safety and fairness to drivers go a long way too.

Newshub contacted Uber, Ola and Zoomy to compare how they stack up on all fronts. 

The cost of the same ride can vary

On Tuesday, 8 October 2019 (during school holidays), a 4.3km ride in Auckland with UberX, from Mt Eden to Westfield St Lukes cost me $11.55 ($10.76 excluding the waiting fee of 79c).

Based on Tuesday's check of estimated rates using the same pick-up and drop-off points but a different day and time, at 2.25pm, Uber's estimate is $9.30 - $1.46 cheaper than two weeks' ago. 

While Uber was unable to confirm whether the estimate provided in the app accurately reflects the full cost, the Uber website confirms that demand may temporarily push up prices. 

Upfront fares are calculated based on the expected time and distance of the trip, local traffic and the current number of riders and drivers. 

Where there aren't enough drivers on the road, prices increase and the Uber website confirms that riders are informed of "surge prices", with the option to pay extra or wait until demand subsides.

As any waiting fees are incurred after the trip starts, they're part of the final fare. It's also important to consider the company's minimum fare when comparing prices upfront.

Set fare components:

  • Uber X: booking fee (55c), base fare $1.30, rate per km: $1.35, wait fee (+2min): 60c, minimum fare: $6.50, cancel fee: $10
  • Ola: booking fee (48c), base fare $1.30, rate per km: $1.35, wait fee (+2min): 60c, minimum fare: $5.81, cancel fee: $10
  • Zoomy (Auck cost): booking fee (50c), base fare $1.20, rate per km: $1.30, wait fee (+2min): 60c, minimum fare: $5.50, cancel fee: $10.

The fare data suggests that with a cheaper base fare, lower rate per km and lower minimum fare, Zoomy comes out on top as the most cost-effective overall, bearing in mind that the total cost can be influenced by day and time, and any promotional discounts applied.

Using discounts to get the best deal 

Current discount codes can make a big difference to the cost and riders are encouraged to use them.

On Tuesday, the Ola app offers 40 percent off for 10 rides (maximum discount $8) and 20 percent off rides to and from the airport.  Riders who refer a friend to Uber receive $5 off their next ride, while Zoomy riders have the option to earn discounts by sharing a unique promo code.    

As riders have the opportunity to earn discounts to reduce the cost, comparing prices, checking and applying discounts will get the best deal on the day.

Safety precautions

Cost aside, riders want to know that they will reach the destination safely.  Although most people have risked hopping into a taxi, checking the driver's credentials on the dash and hoping for the best, rider companies are upping the ante on rider safety.

Booking through an app allows trips to be tracked, providing transparency around which car riders get into - and who the driver is.  Additionally, Uber and Ola provide safety features, such as an emergency button and emergency contacts.

As a first precaution, Brian Dewil, country manager for Ola said that riders should check they're getting into the right car.

"The driver profile [in the app] records car colour, type and license plate, so [riders] can identify the right vehicle," Dewil said.

As with Uber, through the Ola app, riders have access to an emergency button backed by a response team and riders can share trip details with family and friends.

"The 'share details' button allows [riders] to send details of their ride to family and friends so they can track [the] ride in real-time. 

"[Riders] can also opt in to alert selected emergency contacts when the emergency button is pressed," Dewil added.

James Fisk, chief executive at Zoomy confirmed that like Uber and Ola, trip details on Zoomy can be shared with family and friends, including an ETA for the destination.  

The Zoomy app doesn't include an emergency button and if riders feel unsafe, they are encouraged to call 111.

Rules are in place across all three companies on age of vehicles: UberX and Zoomy vehicles must be 10 years' old or less, while Ola confirmed their limit on age of vehicle is 9 years.  

Top tips for nervous riders:

  • Using the details provided on the app, check the car before getting in
  • Share ride details with family/friends at the expected destination
  • Opt-in to alert emergency contacts
  • Use the app emergency button if needed, or call 111.

Fisk said that Zoomy works closely with the NZTA on a complaints register and puts prospective drivers through a squeaky clean test, checking recent driver history for any traffic offences as part of the on-boarding process.

The fairer deal for drivers

The three companies vary on the commission rate they take from their drivers.  Zoomy takes the lowest cut of 15 percent (including GST).

Dewil said that by choosing Ola over it's largest competitor, riders are automatically giving more to the driver.

"We offer all drivers a standard commission rate of 18 percent, which means drivers retain 82 percent of the total fare. The more they drive, the more they earn.

"Riders are automatically paying the driver [7-]10 percent more than if riding with our largest competitor," Dewil confirmed.

An Uber spokesperson said that how much it's drivers are paid directly correlates to how much work they do - and drivers have full transparency.   

"The service fee is 25 percent for GST-registered driver-partners [28 percent for non-GST registered], the spokesperson confirmed.

The first Uber ride was booked in San Francisco in 2010 and launched internationally the following year, followed by Uber Eats in 2015. In addition to the three main centres, Uber currently operates in Hamilton, Tauranga, Dunedin and Queenstown.

Founded in India in the same year, with operations in Australia and the UK, Ola purports to offer fairer conditions for drivers by taking a lower commission cut.  The company launched in New Zealand last year and rides are available in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch.

NZ-owned Zoomy started in November 2013, priding itself on working within the local communities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch, providing discounts for certain events. A new round-up and donate feature allows socially-conscious riders to contribute to NZ charities.  

As more people are opting to leave the car at home in favour of a door-to-door service, with trackable rides and electronic payment, the way people commute is changing.  Safety features, such as driver details, trackable rides and emergency features all provide greater confidence while helping to reduce congestion and incidence of drunk driving offences.

While on paper, Kiwi-owned Zoomy is the cheapest and fairest ride, current location, demand, discounts, choice of vehicle and safety features included within the app will help riders choose the best ride on the day.