How strong is Uber’s lead over Lyft in the U.S.?

Last month, leading U.S. ride-share companies Uber and Lyft both announced plans to go public as early as the first quarter of 2019. Uber is expected to garner a valuation as high as $120 billion, making it one of the largest IPOs in U.S history, significantly higher than Lyft’s target of $15 billion. While Uber’s higher valuation is attributed to its significant international presence and leading position in the U.S., is Uber’s advantage vulnerable to its main competitor?

We wanted to better understand Uber’s edge over Lyft and how competitive dynamics between these two companies have been shifting over time. Using the credit and debit card data of millions of anonymous U.S. consumers, we analyzed Uber and Lyft’s customers’ spending behavior to gather insights into regional market share dynamics, brand loyalty and pricing dynamics.

Key Takeaways

  • Uber dominates nationwide, while Lyft performs best on the West Coast
  • Uber-only riders still control the market, but more consumers are shopping around
  • Lyft has raised prices and seen a drop in rides per user in recent quarters

Read on for data-driven insights on Uber and Lyft.


The East Coast — West Coast Divide

Today, Uber commands a healthy 70% of the national market against Lyft, though regional dynamics between these two competitors tell a more complex story. Lyft does significantly better on the West Coast, holding 42% of the market in San Francisco and 41% in Phoenix. In Houston, Miami and DC, Uber still reigns, surpassing its own national average. Our data shows New York as the only market where smaller regional players like Juno and Via have a noticeable market hold, making up a combined 8% of ride share.

Lyft Does Better Once People Try It

Uber’s first-to-market advantage has clearly helped the service from the onset, leaving Lyft to play catch up. Over the last few years, Lyft has continued to grow its presence in the U.S. and positioned itself as a formidable contender. Our data shows that once consumers start using both ride-share services, Lyft picks up considerable speed.

In 2018, Lyft held 30% of overall market share nationally against Uber. However, when we looked at consumers who had tried both Uber and Lyft at least once since 2015, Lyft’s share jumped to 43%.

Ride-Share Dis-Loyalty Trends

With so many similarities between Uber and Lyft’s ride-sharing services, we wanted to see if riders showed brand loyalty through their purchasing habits. To provide more insight into shifting customer loyalty dynamics, we analyzed people who had used both Uber and Lyft within the same quarter. We grouped Uber and Lyft customers into 3 categories and distributed quarterly revenue accordingly:

  1. Uber-only riders (Riders who exclusively used Uber in a quarter)
  2. Lyft-only riders (Riders who exclusively used Lyft in a quarter)
  3. Cross-riders (Riders who used both Uber and Lyft in a quarter)

While Uber-only riders still controlled a majority of ride-sharing revenue at 51% last quarter, we observed that the market is shifting and Lyft is growing its base of loyal, Lyft-only riders. In 4Q 2018, Lyft-only riders made up 15% of total revenue, up from 5% three years ago. Cross-riders, consumers that used both services in a quarter, now constitute more than one-third of the revenue each quarter, possibly indicating consumers are becoming less brand loyal and choosing the service that is faster, cheaper or both.

Lyft’s Price Increases

Historically, Lyft’s average price per ride has been lower than Uber’s, with our data showing the average price of a Lyft ride being less expensive than Uber’s. However, in the third quarter of 2018, our data shows the average price of a Lyft ride surpassed Uber for the first time. Lyft’s average ride reached $15.93 in 4Q 2018, 10% higher than it was a year earlier and 3% higher when compared to Uber*.

(Prices include state and local taxes)

While changing pricing dynamics haven’t been correlated with any meaningful changes in market share just yet, a shift in average rides per customer has emerged. Until 2018, Lyft was gaining on Uber’s lead in rides per customer [by quarter]. However, Lyft’s recent price increases were followed by a reversal of that trend. Lyft’s average number of rides per customer declined by 7%, from an all time high of 8.16 in 1Q 2018 to 7.59 in in 4Q 2018. In the same time period, Uber’s rides per customer continued to grow, to a three-year high of 8.75 per customer in 4Q 2018.

As the ride-sharing market matures, it is unclear if Uber will be able to maintain dominance. Innovation will be essential as Uber and Lyft continue to expand into new markets and services like e-bikes and scooters, which both companies have already done, and roll out new rewards programs. Only time will tell how these two will fare, and which ride-share giant will come out on top.

*It is important to note that price changes could be driven by a combination of topline price increases, less promotional activity, changes in product offering (Lyft vs. Lyft Line) or changes in local fees and taxes.

Methodology

Earnest data is derived from the credit, debit and bill pay activity of millions of anonymous U.S. consumers. Due to billing similarities, Uber Eats is included in Uber ride-share data until mid-2017. Due to the relative size of these businesses, we do not believe the impact is meaningful. Our proprietary methodology removes tips when possible.


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