Ridesharing services came on the scene over the last 15 years and quickly changed the way a lot of Americans traveled. Uber and Lyft challenged the taxi industry and brought ridesharing to parts of the country where taxis had once been all but impossible to find.
These apps are constantly looking for ways to improve — to make service faster, more reliable, and cheaper. One way that Uber has reduced fares on rides is to introduce its UberPool service, which combines ride service with the idea of the carpool. You book a ride and a car picks you up and gets you to where you need to go. You will often share the ride with someone else headed in the same direction.
This allows you to split the cost of the ride, which means lower prices, but also cuts down on driving, which is good for the environment. In this article, we’ll go over how UberPool works, show you how to use it in the app, and explain the UberPool pricing model. We’ll also give you a brief introduction to Uber Express Pool, and answer some UberPool FAQs.
What Is UberPool?
UberPool is Uber’s carpooling service, which lets you save on Uber rides by splitting the trip with other riders who are heading in the same direction that you are.
UberPool was launched in August 2014 in the San Francisco Bay Area, then quickly spread across the country and internationally. The service requires a critical mass of riders for the company to make money (a carpool only works if multiple people are going in the same direction at the same time). So while Pool is available in a lot of cities, it’s rare for the service to be offered in smaller towns, even ones that do offer Uber service.
UberPool is just one of the carpool services offered by rideshare apps. Lyft Line is Lyft’s popular carpool option, while the app Via specializes in carpool rides.
How Pool Works
When it comes to UberPool, all of the routing and drop-off decisions are determined by Uber’s algorithm, which calculates which riders are going in the same direction and figures out the most efficient route to take, and the most efficient order in which to drop riders off. (Don’t worry, the app takes care of all the decision making, not the driver.)
Booking an UberPool ride doesn’t necessarily mean you’ll be sharing the car — sometimes no one is heading your way when you are riding, and you’ll get the backseat to yourself.
Sometimes a rider will already be in the car when you’re picked up. Other times you’ll be in the car with the driver for a bit, and then you’ll pick someone else up before your drop-off.
UberPool rides can often take a bit longer than traditional rides with the app, as you might have to pick up one or more passengers on the way to your destination. If they are taking shorter rides than you are, it’s also possible that they are picked up and dropped off before you get out of the car. If you’re in a serious rush, UberPool is probably not your best bet.
UberPool is a favorite for people looking to save money, as rides are considerably cheaper than UberX, Uber’s service which lets you book your own car for a trip.
If you’re ready to try UberPool, the nice thing is that the user experience isn’t all that different from booking a regular ride. That being said, there are a few key differences when it comes to taking an UberPool ride as opposed to taking a regular Uber ride. Let’s go over how to ride with UberPool:
Book Your Car
First open your Uber app. Like you’d do for a usual ride, you will enter your pick-up spot and your final destination. At the bottom of your screen, Uber will give you a few options for how you want to take your ride.
Select UberPool from that menu.
As you can see, for each ride option there’s a different fare estimate, and when it comes to UberPool, an estimated trip time. Unlike UberX or UberXL, when it comes to an UberPool ride, the guess at the trip time is just that — a guess. Uber won’t know how many pickups will happen on your ride ahead of time, so they will offer a much bigger window of time that your ride might take.
Once you’ve confirmed you want the UberPool, tap “Confirm UberPool” and it will be on its way. An important last thing to know: You can only request a Pool for up to 2 people. This is to make sure other people can ride in the car, or else you will defeat the purpose of the UberPool. If you are riding with a second person, make sure to note that when booking your ride.
Meet Your Car
The most important thing to remember: You want to beat your car to the pickup spot. The Pool service works if everyone is on time and ready to go. There’s nothing more frustrating for other riders than being on a ride, going to make another pickup, and then sitting and waiting with the driver for another rider to come out and get in the car.
UberPool cars will not wait as long as traditional Uber rides for this very reason. While on an UberX trip the driver may sit around for a few minutes and then call you to check in and see if you’re on your way, an UberPool driver will wait exactly two minutes and then will move on. You’ll likely be charged a missed ride fee, and you’ll need to book another car. So beat that ride to the spot.
Enjoy Your Ride
If you are the first passenger on an UberPool trip, relax and enjoy the ride. If an additional pickup happens, your driver will usually let you know. You might deviate slightly off your route to make a second passenger pickup, and then you’ll share the ride until it’s time for someone to get dropped off.
One thing that some new riders struggle with is the fact that sometimes a rider will get picked up after you and then dropped off before you. This happens! The Uber algorithm is figuring out the most efficient way to make a ride happen, including the drop-off order, and if someone else has a short ride, they may get picked up and dropped off before you. Knowing that ahead of time can prevent you from getting frustrated. Again, you’re saving money by splitting the ride, and sometimes that can make rides a bit longer.
Once you’ve reached your destination, hop out. That’s it. You’ll be charged by the payment method you have on file. You can also rate your ride and tip your Uber driver if you see fit.
To sum up, here are the four big things to remember:
- Plan Ahead: Rides take longer, so allow yourself extra time to get to where you need to go.
- Limit the Riders: You can only ride with up to two people in an UberPool.
- Be Patient: Expect pickups to happen along the way, and don’t get frustrated if someone else gets dropped off first, even if they were picked up after you.
- Be Waiting Outside: Beating your car to the pickup location will make the service go quicker, and is very considerate to the other people on the ride.
How UberPool Pricing Works
The low price is the main attraction of taking UberPool, along with saving on gas and rides by splitting car service. Prices for UberPool rides can be as much as 70% less than UberX rides, though it varies according to a high number of factors.
The Rideshare Guy went on an expedition to figure out how UberPool’s pricing works, but without access to the Uber fare calculator algorithm, it’s really just a guess as to how the price of every trip is calculated.
He identified several factors in the price of an UberPool:
- Trip mileage
- Estimated time of trip, including traffic
- Time of day
- Direction the trip is headed
But he also noted that sometimes trips can cost different amounts based on the likelihood another rider is found on the way.
From the article:
“When the morning comes, between 7AM and 9AM, prices will change again to match the likelihood of getting matched up. Those prices will drop to reflect a lot of people heading into the center of the city on their commute. Commute hours are when UberPool and Lyft Line are cheapest as a result of the predictably high volume and more people opting for these shared services.”
Basically: UberPool will be cheaper than UberX, sometimes a lot more so. But the exact price of trips factors in a lot of variables, making it almost impossible to predict ahead of time.
For more info on how Uber pricing works, read our article on the Uber Fare Estimator.
Uber Express Pool
A new introduction to the Uber lineup is Uber Express Pool, which is an even cheaper option than UberPool and tries to take advantage of common routes during commutes.
Uber Express Pool almost functions like public transit. (It has been criticized for this, but for cities with unreliable bus service, it can be an attractive alternative ride option.)
The way it works: You enter your location and where you want to go. Uber takes a moment to run some calculations, find a group of riders heading where you’re going, then sends you a pick-up spot and drop-off spot. These spots will be close to your exact location and where you want to go, but you may have to walk a few blocks to get to your pick-up spot.
The bonus is that the ride will almost certainly be quicker than a traditional UberPool. By having riders head to the same main route, Uber allows its drivers to stay on one or two main roads, efficiently picking up and dropping off riders on the way to their destination.
Cities With Uber Express Pool
Uber Express Pool was launched in 2018 in Boston, San Francisco, Miami, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver, and Washington, D.C., with plans to add more cities in 2019. Uber Express Pool is only available during certain times of the day for certain riders, so check the bottom of your app when booking a trip to see if it’s available for your ride.
Frequently Asked Questions
We’ve gone over what UberPool is and how to book a ride with the app. We’ve also given you a brief primer on Uber Pool Express. Let’s answer some UberPool FAQs.
1. How much longer does UberPool take?
It all depends on the ride and how many pick-ups happen. When you book your ride, Uber will try to estimate how much longer the trip will take, but you need to be flexible with your timing whenever you take an UberPool. Some trips will only be delayed a minute or two by an extra drop-off, or won’t be interrupted at all. Others will take a 10-minute trip and turn it into a 20-minute trip. You won’t know until other riders are booked on your ride.
2. Can I change my destination once I’m on my ride?
Unfortunately no. While on traditional Uber rides you can change your final destination en route, with UberPool your destination cannot be changed once your trip starts. For the algorithm to work and ensure efficient pick-ups and drop-offs, it needs to know where everyone is going. Changing that up will only throw a wrench in the system.
3. How many people can ride in an UberPool?
You can take UberPool with one other person, and luggage should be limited. If you have more than one other person with you, or a lot of luggage, it’s smarter to book an UberX or UberXL.
Save on Rides With UberPool
UberPool lets you share rides with other Uber riders and save a bit of money in the process. If you are flexible with timing on your trip and not in a huge rush, UberPool can be an effective way to save money and do your small part to cut down on the number of drives happening in your city.