Since it's available in more areas and thus more convenient, both drivers and riders tend to use Uber by default. However, Lyft has much higher driver satisfaction rates, higher driver average and median earnings, and greater customer loyalty among those who primarily drive for and ride with that service -- Lyft also has a more positive public brand perception than Uber. In areas where both services are available, those factors can push riders to choose Lyft over Uber. Read on for my full rundown of this information!
While the US rideshare market is more than just Uber and Lyft, the vast majority of the sources I found only deal with head-to-head comparisons of those two companies. These two are the far-and-away leaders of the market, so my comparison of driver and rider preferences is focused on them. Many of the sources I found also dip into market share, and the two issues are somewhat related, but I tried to focus as much as I could on the reasons that both drivers and passengers might choose one service over the other.
Drivers in a survey run by HyreCar reported preferring Lyft to Uber, even though they often got more Uber passengers than Lyft (meaning more earnings from Uber). And while Uber's onboarding process at the time was smoother than Lyft's, some drivers expressed more appreciation of the personalized, involved onboarding for Lyft. Lyft also has a general reputation for being friendlier to drivers, which Uber doesn't necessarily have.
Lyft also (as of July 2017) had higher average and median per-month driver earnings than Uber -- Lyft drivers averaged $377/month with a median of $210, while Uber drivers averaged $364 with a median of just $155. Another survey also put Lyft's driver earnings higher, at over $17 an hour as opposed to roughly $15 with Uber. Part of that discrepancy is likely due to the fact that Lyft drivers could earn tips at the time, while Uber drivers couldn't -- Uber's introduction of tipping may have tipped the scales back in their favor, but I couldn't find a more recent survey to confirm that fact.
Among drivers that primarily drive for one or the other company, Lyft has much higher satisfaction ratings -- in another survey, over 75% of Lyft drivers reported satisfaction with their experience, while only 49.4% of Uber drivers polled were satisfied with their experience. However, 75% of the drivers polled in that survey were primarily Uber drivers, and among all drivers polled, 46% preferred to drive for Uber against 41% who preferred Lyft. Ultimately, drivers tend to use the app that gets them more rides in less time -- Uber has far greater market penetration at this point, so the cycle reinforces itself as more riders sign up and create demand for more drivers.
Like drivers, passengers tend to prefer the app that offers them more convenient rides -- convenience is an even greater determinant of preference than price according to a McKinsey report. In general, that's Uber -- since they have much greater market penetration, rides are more available and thus more convenient in more geographies. Beyond that, though, both rideshare services are generally comparable -- they have similar speediness, pricing, and app functionality -- so in areas where customers have a choice, rider preference comes down to personal reasons and brand perception.
In those areas, Lyft generally wins out. Lyft is perceived as a much friendlier, more approachable brand (and was perceived as such even before Uber's series of scandals throughout 2017). Uber's brand perception has traditionally been more upscale and business-focused, compared to the "image of community and friendliness" associated with Lyft. Uber's brand image has also taken a hit when it comes to rider safety -- Who's Driving You, a website that lists dangerous or fatal incidents with rideshare drivers, lists far more events involving Uber drivers than Lyft drivers.
Lyft also has higher loyalty among customers that use the service -- an Ipsos survey found that 78% of all Lyft passengers would recommend the service to a friend, and 97% of recent (within 6 months) Lyft passengers would recommend it. Lyft also beat Uber in The Brand Keys' customer loyalty study, meaning previous Lyft customers were more likely to be repeat users of the service in the future.
Both drivers and passengers ultimately prefer the app that gets them a ride the quickest -- in most cases, that's Uber. However, drivers who primarily drive for Lyft have higher earning potential and much higher satisfaction rates compared to those who primarily drive for Uber. Passengers also have higher loyalty to and more positive brand perception of Lyft compared to Uber, whose image has been tainted by safety issues and scandals in recent history.