For a while now, rideshare services like Uber and Lyft have been mounting an impressive challenge to car rental companies, but since COVID came along some travelers have returned to rental cars (there’s a perception that they’re far more safe).

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detail of cars in a line

Some companies even explicitly prohibit their employees from Ubering or Lyfting on their business trips out of an abundance of caution. Since the jury is still out on which is “better,” we thought it might be a good time to explore the pros and cons of each type of ride.

Safety First

Let’s get this out of the way first. Since renting a car eliminates all but the most limited exposure to contact with a stranger, it’s arguably the safest transportation option. In addition, the major rental companies have widely implemented new enhanced cleaning and safety policies like Hertz’s “Gold Standard Clean” and Enterprise’s “Complete Clean Pledge”.

With any of the large car rental vendors, you can expect your car to be clean and thoroughly disinfected, including high touch surfaces like keys, seat belts, door handles, and cup-holders. Most are also allowing paperless rental agreements and contactless drop-off (where you just drop the car off and leave and get your receipt later via email).

When ridesharing, you’ll be sitting in a car with the driver (both of you wearing masks, which are required), but the specifics of how the driver cleans their vehicle is left largely up to them.

Uber very forcefully states “No Mask, No Ride”. Not only are riders required to wear a face covering, but they also require drivers to take a selfie of themselves to prove that they have one, too. Lyft also requires masks for both parties and both companies strongly suggest opening the windows for ventilation.

Where’s the Best Value?

Ridesharing allows you to pay only for the trips you need, there’s no need to pay for insurance or gas or any of the extra costs you can expect with a car rental. In addition, there’s no liability. In the unlikely event of an accident, as a passenger in a rideshare you assume none of that burden. On balance, we have to give the edge to ridesharing for value.

Convenience is Key

It all depends on the kind of traveler you are and the situation you’re in to determine which type of transportation is more convenient for you. For example, die-hard car renters can hop in the car and go, go, go without the need to wait for their driver or worry over finding them. If you’re traveling in a larger group and are concerned about keeping everyone together, a car rental might also be preferred.

Travelers who prefer a rideshare don’t want to have to worry about parking a car on city streets or paying for a parking garage at your hotel (a fee that can be daunting). You may also love the freedom of calling a car after you’ve had a few drinks and know you have a safe and sober ride. In addition, if you’re in a foreign country you might not want the stress of navigating unfamiliar streets and roads on your own. A local rideshare eliminates that problem.

For information on the pros and cons of hotels vs. Airbnb properties, check out our blog on the topic!

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