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Point-to-point passenger services on trial

CHOICE says UberX was safe, reliable, and nine times out of 10 cheaper than taking a taxi.

24 September 2015

Consumer advocacy group CHOICE put UberX and taxi services to the test to find out which is best in terms of price and reliability and found the popular ride sharing service came out on top, with taxis on average 40% more expensive.

CHOICE conducted a total of 56 trips across Sydney – 28 UberX rides and 28 taxi rides – in pairs and at seven different times. We also compared a number of safety features such as regulatory checks, how the trip is recorded, GPS tracking and insurance.

"Our results show that ride sharing services not only provide a reliable and cost effective alternative to taxis, but also deliver much needed competition in the point-to-point passenger service market," says CHOICE Director of Campaigns and Communications Matt Levey.

"It wasn't all bad news for taxis, which showed up quicker on average, as a result of the convenience of hailing one off the street. However, when taxis were booked they tended to take longer to show up than UberX.

"There were also two times taxis didn't show up at all, pointing to the well-known issue across the industry around reliability," says Mr Levey.

"Part of the problem may be that taxi drivers are told the passenger's destination, which may make short trips less attractive. Uber drivers on the other hand aren't given your destination until they turn up.

"We also found no evidence to support NSW Taxi Council's claim that ride sharing services were 'no safer than hitch-hiking', with both services providing safe transport options.

"Obviously regulations should apply equally to taxi services and to UberX – but the point of regulating should be to protect consumers and encourage competition in the market, not to protect one particular business from its competitors.

"The current restrictions on taxi licences benefit the taxi industry and raise costs for consumers. We believe easing the restrictions would promote competition and ultimately be good for consumers," Mr Levey says.

Key findings

  • UberX was cheaper than a taxi around nine times out of 10. 
  • Taxis were 40% more expensive than UberX on average. 
  • On three occasions, UberX was an average of 6% more expensive due to surge pricing.  
  • Of the 28 UberX rides, we encountered surge pricing four times. 
  • On one occasion out of 28, there was no UberX available (the rider caught the next cheapest available option, UberTaxi). 
  • Of the 28 trips, there were two instances when the booked taxi didn't show up (this meant they hadn't arrived within 15 minutes of booking).
  • On one occasion, one of our riders waited for over an hour, with the taxi never showing up.
  • 16 out of 28 times (57%) UberX took longer to show up than taxis, largely due to the convenience of being able to hail a taxi. 
  • For the 10 out of 16 times (62.5%) taxis were booked, the taxi took longer to turn up.

How we investigated

We intentionally spread out trips across different times to try to ensure we captured surge pricing. We conducted four trips (four taxis, four UberX) at each of the following times, with a total of 56 rides (28 in a taxi and 28 in an UberX):

Midweek
  • 6am–10am/5pm–10pm
  • 10am–5pm
  • 10pm–6am
Weekend
  • 6am–midday
  • Midday–5pm
  • 5pm–midnight
  • Midnight–6am

Trips were conducted in pairs in Sydney between 27 August 2015 and 11 September 2015. Prices were compared based on the end cost to the user.

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