Mobile apps: Ultra-cheap to Uber-expensive

By J. Carlton Collins, CPA

Q. I have used Uber a few times and found that both the pricing and experience were great, until now. My most recent Uber trip from the airport was very expensive. What's going on with Uber?

A. In some cities, politicians have enacted regulations and surcharges requiring both taxicabs and Uber drivers to charge more in certain venues, such as airports. In addition, Uber's prices surge upward during peak traffic hours based on a supply-and-demand algorithm that factors in the number of available Uber drivers compared with the number of customers. (Uber claims that surge pricing is not employed during local emergencies, even if demand is higher.) Presented below are a few suggestions that may help minimize your Uber fees.

Changing Uber zones may help. Uber's pricing is calculated by zone; therefore, walking a few blocks from one Uber zone to another with less demand may result in a lower fare. You can view Uber's surge map for your current location to determine if walking a few blocks can help. An example surge map for Washington is pictured below.

There are also several "surge protector" third-party apps available that plot the direction and distance you need to walk in real time to avoid Uber's surge pricing.

Use Uber's Surge Drop tool. Uber offers a Surge Drop tool, which notifies you immediately when the surge pricing in your Uber zone ends.

Check Uber's competition. Uber has several competitors, including Lyft (lyft.com) and Curb (gocurb.com). One of these competitors may save you a few dollars, particularly during periods of price surges.

Use UberBlack. If you find yourself in need of a ride during a period of price surge and you have no choice but to pay the higher Uber fare, why not ride in style? Instead of using Uber, click the UberBlack option to have a fancier vehicle pick you up.

techqa4

About the author

J. Carlton Collins (carlton@asaresearch.com) is a technology consultant, a CPE instructor, and a JofA contributing editor.

Note: Instructions for Microsoft Office in “Technology Q&A” refer to the 2007 through 2016 versions, unless otherwise specified.

Submit a question

Do you have technology questions for this column? Or, after reading an answer, do you have a better solution? Send them to jofatech@aicpa.org. We regret being unable to individually answer all submitted questions.

NEWS

IRS sets start date for tax season

The IRS announced that tax season will start in late January and that it will issue refunds to taxpayers despite the partial shutdown of the federal government.

PODCAST

Why CPAs can’t wait on automation tools

What do accounting firms waiting on others to develop AI, automation, and data analytics tools have in common with a baseball fan sitting in a stadium filling with water at an exponential rate? The answer could determine your firm’s fate.