Five tips for a quicker, cheaper Uber or Lyft on the night before Thanksgiving

Five tips for a quicker, cheaper Uber or Lyft on the night before Thanksgiving:

The Wednesday before Thanksgiving is traditionally the biggest drinking night of the year, resulting in high demand on rideshare apps such as Uber and Lyft.

To save time and money on your ride to and from the bar or to catch up with friends and family, we gathered tips from experts:

Plan to leave early — or stay late.

Uber requests in Baltimore on Thanksgiving Eve generally spike from 8 to 10 p.m., then again about 1 a.m., company spokesman Bill Gibbons said. The ensuing surge pricing entices thousands of drivers hit the streets of the city to make additional money, he said.

But surge pricing can exponentially increase the cost of a ride on around a busy holiday. Going early or waiting out the surge can make a significant difference in how long you wait for your ride and how much you pay.

"Shifting your travel time is key," said Ippei Takahashi, CEO and president of RideGuru, which offers a fare calculator and other resources for Uber and Lyft riders and drivers. "Even 15, 30 minutes makes a big difference in surges."

Compare your options.

Most Uber and Lyft users are loyal to their respective apps, but for the best price, riders should check both before calling one, Takahashi said.

"Shop around all of your options," Takahashi said. "One company might be having a surge, but not another. Do your research."

Given Uber's higher name recognition, its surges are usually more severe during peak hours than Lyft's, said Harry Campbell, a driver for both in Los Angeles who founded his blog, The Rideshare Guy, in 2014.

"When it's 2 a.m. and everyone's calling Uber, Uber might be on a 3 or 4x surge," Campbell said. "Typically it's going to be a lot lower on Lyft."

Lyft is also offering $10 off two rides as a Black Friday special to new riders across the country who use the code FRIDAY16.

Another option? Avoid surge pricing altogether by hiring a traditional ride service, such as a taxi or hired car, Takahashi said. While rideshare industry has risen as an alternative to traditional transportation companies, the old-fashioned ones generally have regulated rates, he said.

Ride with friends and split the fare.

An UberXL or a Lyft Plus, which offer larger vehicles, are more expensive, but they can each fit six people.

Depending on how many people you're traveling with, if you and your friends all take the same SUV and split the fare, it could work out to be cheaper and quicker, Campbell said.

Ride in style.

Uber Black, the company's luxury vehicle option, is about three times more expensive than UberX, the most popular option.

They surge independently, though, which means that on the busiest nights of the year it might be quicker, and perhaps just as expensive, to get an Uber Black, Campbell said.

"If there's a 3x surge on UberX, that's the price of Uber Black," he said. "If you're going to pay surge pricing, at least do it in style."

Walk a few blocks.

Reviews are mixed on this last one. The point of surge pricing in an area is to incentivize drivers to pick up riders in that area, so while walking a few blocks might lower the price of a ride, it could also mean you wait longer.

Plus, if it's late at night and you've been drinking, safety should always be a consideration.

Takahashi said he's heard success stories with this strategy on RideGuru's community forum, but he pointed out that drivers follow demand.

"Drivers are smart, they usually go where the people are," he said.

Bonus tip:

It can be easy to get in the wrong vehicle, or have yours taken by another rider, on a crowded sidewalk outside a bar at closing time on the night before Thanksgiving.

Make sure to stay at the location where you've called the ride and check the type of car and license plate number before it arrives, Takahashi said.

Otherwise, he said, "you might be paying for somebody else's Uber."

cmcampbell@baltsun.com

twitter.com/cmcampbell6

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