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Need a ride? 3 ridesharing and 2 taxi apps considered

Jake Widman | Jan. 12, 2015
The time to pick a ridesharing app for your phone isn't when it's dark and cold, there aren't any cabs to be had and you realize you'd really like a ride home. The time to download one is well before you need it.

Once you arrive at your destination, you see your fare and get the option of adding a tip. The app shows some preset amounts ($1, $2, $5, for example), or you can type in something else.

And finally, you get a chance to rate the ride and provide the reason for your rating (and your driver gets to rate you).

Sidecar

Availability:10 U.S. cities/areas

Rates: Vary by driver/car, current demand

Sidecar started offering rides in early 2012 and drew attention when it offered free rides during the 2013 South by Southwest conference. Compared to Uber and Lyft, Sidecar feels like more of a "down home" (or "low rent," depending on your point of view) option. While Uber gives a sort of "let us handle everything" vibe, Sidecar involves more interaction — which I preferred, as it turned out.

You create an account with Sidecar pretty much the same way you do with the other two services: Enter your name and mobile phone number, confirm the number by replying to a text message and supply a credit card for payment. One alternative this app offers is to create an account via Facebook, though of course you still have to supply a credit card.

When you launch the app, like the others it brings up a map with your location marked. A notation at the bottom tells you how far away the nearest Sidecar is, and the app immediately asks you to enter where you are going. Once you do, the app lists a choice of rides, with photos of the drivers and their cars, descriptions of the cars, their ETA to your location and the fares. You can sort the list by driver ETA, recommended ride or price, and make your selection accordingly.

Unlike the other two, Sidecar lets you choose which driver and/or car you want to use. If you're curious, you can tap on one of the photos to see a larger photo of the car and driver as well as a statement by the driver, if they've added one — one of my choices described himself as a "funk specialist," while another said he was collecting money for his school.

If you wish, you can also switch back to the map to see the locations of the nearest rides and click on the car icons to see what kind they are and who the driver is. Some of the choices might be shared rides, while others are solo.

Like the other apps, Sidecar shows you the car approaching on the map while you're waiting.

Sidecar lets drivers set their own fare for a ride, based on algorithms — the driver who explained the process to me, for example, had established that she would charge 110% of whatever the service calculated as a base fare. For one ride that I tried, prices ranged from $11 for a 2010 Toyota Yaris, through $22 for a 2010 Lincoln town car, up to $34 for a 2007 Toyota Camry hybrid.

 

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