Ride-Hailing Use on the Rise, Says Pew Study

  • Liz Kim has written about automobiles, both as a journalist and as a marketer, for 20 years. She enjoys giving advice about them to friends and family who want to make the most of their hard-earned dollars, and incorporates her experience as a mother and savvy consumer in everything she writes.

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I don’t know about you, but until recently, I was ride-hail service novice. I’d heard a lot about Uber and Lyft, but last year, I downloaded Lyft onto my phone and used it for the first time, finally joining the growing ranks of those who utilize such services.

Apparently, I had company. According to Pew research, in 2015, 15% of the populace used ride-hail services. In the three years since, that number more than doubled to 36%. For people under the age of 29, the number is even greater, with a slight majority (51%) having used ride-hailing services.

The fact that I was able to ignore ride-hailing for so long largely has to do with my lifestyle. I’m a suburban mom, and our family has two cars. Nights out that involve drinking and driving really aren’t a part of my routine, and when we travel beyond driving distance, we usually rent a car. A recent family trip to Europe involved planes, trains, automobiles, ferries, and plenty of walking – but not Uber or Lyft.

Really, I saw no use for using up valuable storage space on my phone. But, in 2018, on successive trips to big cities on the East Coast and San Francisco, I felt like I had to use ride-hail apps, in addition to using traditional taxis. Cabs can be hard to find just when you need one, and Uber and Lyft don’t have as many regulations regarding where they can pick up.

Both services were convenient and easy to use, and it was lovely not having to take my wallet out and fumble for change, or wait for a credit card machine to do its thing, at the end of my ride. There were a few hiccups that sometimes detracted from a peaceful, uneventful ride (which is the best that one can say about loading yourself and your kids into a car with a total stranger), but for the most part, interactions with Lyft and Uber drivers were positive.

If You’re Well-off and Well-read, You’re Probably Using Uber and Lyft

Lyft driver picking up a passenger
Ride-hail service use is increasing across a variety of demographic groups but is mainly by people who are well-off and well-educated. (Lyft)

Let’s dig into the stats from the latest Pew study, shall we? The organization found that those whose annual income is $75,000 and higher are much more likely to use the apps (53% to 24%) than those making under $30,000. Those numbers are echoed in the number of college grads vs. those with or without a high school degree (55% vs. 20%).

But the starkest difference in the adoption of this technology has to do with where you live. The study states that 45% of urban and 41% of suburban residents have used ride-hail apps, compared to 19% of residents living in rural areas.

As there are fewer public transit options in the countryside compared to the city, there may be potential for ride-hail growth to service those living in rural areas. Lyft is attempting to expand in this area, stating that they now serve customers in 94% of the country.

Another Tech Service Becomes an Indispensable Part of Our Lives

In 2015, when the Pew study was first undertaken, 33% of respondents said they never heard of ride-hail services. Only three years later, a mere 3% said they don’t know about Uber or Lyft.

Ride-hail services have come so far and so fast. Yes, there are bound to be a few bumps with such stratospheric growth, but people who use the service seem to like it enough to use it again. Most are like me; 67% of ride-hail users call a car less than once a month, and only 2% use them every day, while 10% use them once a week.

I don’t have immediate travel plans, but I also haven’t deleted the Lyft app from my phone because I know I will use it again.

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About the Author

  • Liz Kim has written about automobiles, both as a journalist and as a marketer, for 20 years. She enjoys giving advice about them to friends and family who want to make the most of their hard-earned dollars, and incorporates her experience as a mother and savvy consumer in everything she writes.

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