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Tips to lower the cost of your ride-share trips

Now that Uber is no longer alone in the ride-sharing space, there are plenty of options to get you from "A" to "B."

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    Lyft passenger Christina Shatzen gets into a car driven by Nancy Tcheou, San Francisco, February 2016.
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Now that Uber is no longer alone in the ride-sharing space, there are plenty of options to get you from "A" to "B."

Newsflash: They were not created equal.

As such, the plethora of mobile apps for on-demand cars requires much more thought on the part of you, the consumer. Here are 13 tips the ValuePenguin staff has compiled to save you money at the press of a button.

1. Use a third-party website. Employ Up Hail or What's the Fare, to compare Uber, Lyft and other competitors serving your metro area. Like the mobile app of Uber or any other ride-share service, you can enter your pick-up and drop-off locations to view a projected cost. You can also turn on a surge price function to see how the competition stacks up when the industry leaders try to charge you "1.5x" your normal fare.

2. With that said, your mobile phone is the best predictor of costs, both money and time. It's easy to forget that. You can download Uber, Lyft and other ride-share servicing apps to your phone and, with mere presses of your index finger, discover the differences in two important factors: how long it would take your driver to pick you up, and how much it will cost to deliver you (and your friends) to your destination. Also, it's key to know that you can cancel trips on most apps before they begin, so you can lock in a Lyft driver, for example, while you wait to see if Uber's surge pricing is about to end. Call it quick price-shopping.

3. Carpool, if you can spare the time. uberPOOL and Lyft Line work to serve more of us more often by piling as many as three or four strangers into a mid-size car. If you don't mind waiting on these other passengers, who, depending on the app, may have unique pick-up and drop-off locations, you can cut your fare in half at times. Of course, you may also be doubling the amount of time that you spend in the vehicle itself. If you're not down with that, consider employing Uber's "split fare" feature, which you can use with friends to divvy up the total cost of the ride.

4. Avoid surges as often as you can. Believe it or not, there are apps out there, namely SurgeProtector and Cut the Surge, which can tell you when and how to do so, particularly when Lyft ("Primetime") and Uber ("Surge") are in effect on a Friday night or other popular time to grab a Lyft car or UberX. How do the apps work? Simply enough, they may direct you to walk a few blocks in one direction to step outside of the virtual "surge zone." SurgeProtector even taps into Uber's API to accomplish this consumer-friendly feat.

5. If there is a surge, check premium options. If you're like the average ride-share user, you're often riding a company's most basic car service option (i.e. UberX, or Lyft). But consider that as fares rise for the basic cars during busy times, those of more premium services (i.e. UberBlack, Lyft Premier) may remain static. And what was, perhaps a few minutes ago, a much higher price for them, may now be cheaper than the basic options. It's worth a look on your part. You could find yourself riding in style for less than it would cost you to jump into a standard car.

6. Keep your phone charged. If your battery is about to die on your way home or to the next stop during your day, you'll be limiting your transportation options. There's nothing worse than being stranded, for example, on a Friday night after a fun party because all that cost-comparing between apps sapped your phone's life to the point that you're left to hopelessly hail a cab.

7. Shop around for your airport trips. Cab and private car companies often offer flat fees, or can at least quote a price in advance of your trip. Uber, Lyft and the like, obviously, can quote you in real-time and sometimes offer a flat fee, depending on the car service you select, but a cab or private car may be more worth your while.

8. Pay with a credit card. In addition to getting cash-back rewards, your card may have an affiliate relationship with your ride-share provider. Uber, for one, has partnerships with three such pieces of plastic.

9. Be on the looking for booking promotions. Did you know that if you book an Uber using the Facebook Messenger app, or that the first time you do so comes with $20 in free ride credit? There are quick discounts like this to be had if you're inquisitive enough to find them.

10. Referrals. Uber, Lyft and other companies will provide you with discounts and even free ride credits when your friends use the app using your referral code. This is a quick and easy way to get cheaper trips, particularly when everyone is leaving a group outing together and needs cars to go in various directions.

11. Tip less. Of course, there's nothing wrong with rewarding a good driver with a good gratuity. But consider that being cash-less is a staple of these apps. Uber goes so far as to advise on its website that tipping is not customary. Lyft will give you the option of tipping your driver electronically just before reviewing and rating your chauffeur. If you'd like to limit your spending on ride-shares but still want to reward your driver, consider cutting down on your tips to a point that satisfies both aims.

12. Go beyond Uber and Lyft. If you live in New York City, for example, Via, Juno and Gett are newer to the scene and offering competitive promotions and prices as they look to grow their user bases. The point is this: No matter where you live, there are probably ways to get around quickly and cost-effectively — beyond the industry leaders.

13. Bike, walk, run or take public transportation instead. Ride-sharing services are all about convenience. We often use them when that trumps cost. But whether you're looking for a transportation solution for your commute or for a ride back from a staple event on your calendar, consider all of your options. Depending upon your use-case, it may make sense to use ride-share services a lot, a little, somewhere in between or not at all. Find your point of greatest value.

This story originally appeared on ValuePenguin.

The Christian Science Monitor has assembled a diverse group of the best personal finance bloggers out there. Our guest bloggers are not employed or directed by the Monitor and the views expressed are the bloggers' own, as is responsibility for the content of their blogs. To contact us about a blogger, click here. To add or view a comment on a guest blog, please go to the blogger's own site by clicking on the link in the blog description box above.

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