Review: Fancy New Philly Car Service Uber

The car service Uber arrived in Philly earlier this month, after deployments in more refined places like Paris and San Francisco, and I’ve basically jettisoned Philadelphia’s broken-down, stinky and badly piloted taxicabs in favor of the town cars and SUVs offered by Uber. Strictly speaking, Uber is not actually a car service. It is an app for iPhone and Android phones that taps into a city’s pre-existing network of professional drivers. I know what you’re thinking: Philly has a pre-existing network of professional drivers? C’mon. No, really.

You download the free Uber app and register your phone number and credit card information. When you need a car, the app pinpoints your location and indicates how many minutes away the nearest driver is. Once you hit the green SET PICKUP LOCATION button, said driver is automatically dispatched. Just before your car arrives, you’ll get a message from Uber with your driver’s photo, name and plate number. You know, just in case you’re not sure what shiny chauffeured town car idling on Sansom street at one in the morning is yours.

Once the uniformed driver has taken you to your destination, there’s nothing to do but get out of the car, because billing is automatic, and gratuity is included in the rates. No more arguing with a cab driver outraged with your inability to carry cash. Uber quickly sends you an e-receipt, along with an opportunity to rate your driver. If you give a low rating, a pop-up asks for more feedback, and a real live person known as an Uber Community Manager will follow up.

Naturally, Uber is not as cheap as a cab, and since the minimum fee is $15 (remember, that includes gratuity), it’s not ideal for super-short hauls. But for medium or longer-distance rides, prices are close enough that given the added value Uber brings, it’s a no brainer. For example, a cab ride to my home from Center City is normally about $25, including tip and depending on traffic. That same ride in a brand-new, black town car with tinted windows, leather seats and a built-in hanger for my suit jacket cost me $30, and the driver helped me with my bags and made sure I made it into the house OK. An airport run is a flat $60, and the company says that a ride from Center City to a Phillies game in South Philadelphia will set you back about $26 on the meter.

Out of four rides I’ve taken so far, only one was lackluster, and Uber was quick to respond to my complaint in a satisfactory way, which amounted to a $10 credit for a future ride. I’m sure that they’ve still got some kinks to work out—and ultimately, the app is really only as good as the drivers on the street—but it’s not exactly hard to be light years better than Philly’s cab system, and Uber is just that.

  • Anacleto Bristol

    …App works well, but beware of posts offering FREE rides. The codes do work BUT there’s a $10 max credit per each promo code use (i.e. No full free ride on 1st ride). The code “UberCOMPS” worked just fine. This is an Awesome alternative to regular NYC cabs. (Cons: No running meter or cost estimator).

  • manny

    amazing service, its better, faster, and more convenient than taking a cab and at the same time you don’t have to rent a limo or town car for then tire night line you use to have to.

    SAVE $10 DOLLARS ON YOUR FIRST RIDE!!

    uber.com/invite/ubertencredit

  • Carman

    I drive a cab and had two S.Philly airports on Thursday morning. One paid cash $30 for $25 ride and the second had credit for $26 and gave me $33. Uber is another unregulated business operating in a regulated industry with lawsuits across the US. They doubled their fees during Hurricane Sandy. Drivers complain fees vary.

  • Carman

    When I get a computer job in the cab and I don’t know where it is and or how to approach the street I touch the address and GPS guides me to the location likewise for the destination. The current cab company I work for programs the jobs for proximity to the driver so he is close. Many people are insecure with strangers, cab drivers, picking them up and want the comfort of a familiar driver. However, each cab driver must undergo a Police Record check and a Driver License Check which can take months for the Police check if they are from another country oversees, which the PPA warns drivers to apply months ahead of time. Each cab company maintains valid drivers and I have seen limo drives apply at the PPA. However, I am unfamiliar with limo driver rules. I have seen many limos while driving in Philly without proper limo plates from the Tri-State area thereby operating illegally. By condoning Ubers operation you are circumventing regulations. If you are seeking perfection in this industry then you have to eliminate the human element. Uber is no more a valid limo service than Pay-Pal is a bank.

  • Carman
  • Francesco Cippiani

    When common people can’t afford Uber, try:

    Phorego – The new kid on the block, is available on 3 continents, in 5 languages for PCs, Tablets and Smartphones. Allow public to share rides, allows businesses, universities and

    communities to create their own rideshare groups with carpooling/vanpooling features. No fees.

  • Ubersaver

    Go to uber.com/invite/uberridesavings or type in uberridesavings in the promo box for $10 off your first ride!

  • Jonty Si

    I concur with Carman. Uber’s pricing is way more than it should be – they fill a gap for a certain market, sure, but you can do better with an independent car service or transportation company (like http://philadelphiacarservice.net ). Also, these guys are a silicon valley startup. When you use a local company, you’re supporting local entrepreneurs, not California’s startup economy.

  • PhillyC

    Uber is offering $20 for your first ride after signing up with promo code UBERPHL20!