When does it make sense to hire a car service?
In today’s age of modern conveniences, hiring a car service seems antiquated unless you’re using a smartphone linked to a ride-sharing service. When all it takes are a few clicks to get a car to pull up in front of your door, is picking up the phone and making a reservation still viable? What about the cost? Aren’t professional drivers available by app? We’ll address these issues in detail so you can make an informed decision.
When It Comes to Car Service - Safety First!
Today, we can order pizzas, schedule a haircut, and buy a new major appliance all from our smartphones. Many of these products and services come from trusted brands we’ve come to know over the years. It’s hard to beat the comfort and convenience of having nearly everything at your front door in two days or less, or depending on the service, just a few minutes!
Ordering a car to pick you up from popular ridesharing apps like Uber or Lyft is a daily way of life for millions of people. In ten minutes or less, you can frequently have a driver ready to take you and your loved ones to your scheduled destination. You are told the drivers have been screened by rideshare companies, and therefore provide a perfectly safe and economical experience for passengers.
Unfortunately, when it comes to public safety, ridesharing services don’t live up to the same standards as regulated car service providers. In New Jersey, limousine drivers are required to undergo fingerprinting as part of their background checks. A fingerprint is deemed the gold standard of safety and is used to screen individuals across various industries. Because fingerprint screening is deemed onerous, biased, and unreliable by rideshare companies, they have been against it. The Washington Post and other newspapers around the country have written extensively on this topic, and their reporters speculate the reluctance could be because fingerprinting drivers would further bolster the case for rideshare drivers being classified as employees versus independent contractors.
Fair labor practices aside, having a driver who you can have confidence in should be a basic expectation for every passenger. When any of us are in the backseat of a vehicle, we are literally a captive audience. Because background checks for rideshare companies are not as thorough as those in the limousine and car service industry, a CNN investigation discovered 103 Uber drivers have been accused of sexual assault or rape in the last four years.
In 2017, the state of Massachusetts passed new, stricter background check requirements for rideshare drivers. As a result of the new standards, more than 1 out of 10 drivers failed this screening. The most common reason for rejection were drivers who had a previously suspended license; 1500 drivers were rejected for violent crime charges, and 51 drivers were identified sex offenders. The most shocking part of this entire story is these folks had passed previous background checks administered by Uber and Lyft.
The result of these lapses in basic safety standards has led to rideshare companies getting fined thousands of dollars. As reported in the Denver Post, Lyft was fined $448,750 in 2017 for using drivers with serious felonies. This fine was reduced by 50% after Lyft admitted liability and paid within ten days.
Challenges with passenger safety for rideshare companies are likely to continue until they decide to adopt the same standards as professional car service providers. In the meantime, Uber has decided to try and leverage technology to fill the gap. For example, they have introduced an emergency contact button on their app which can call 911, or let trusted contacts know your location by GPS positioning should either drivers or passengers feel threatened or unsafe. Professional car service companies have no need for “panic buttons” because of the legal standards for our industry. In addition, many providers exceed these thresholds and implement drug testing, driver safety training, defensive driver course, and many more extras to insure a safe and pleasant experience.
Not All Companies Are Created Equal
Passengers are in need of transportation for a variety of occasions ranging from airport transfers, nights out on the town, to weddings and more. Depending on where you need to go, or the impression you need to make, hiring a car service might be the best choice.
It is not easy to deliver great client experiences on a regular basis. There are always a host of variables that transportation providers need to address and overcome so the client experience is consistently first-rate. One of the key components to reliable service is the driver or chauffeur responsible for delivering the experience and representing the company.
Rideshare companies provide transportation services by acting as a matchmakinng service and pairing drivers who are willing to provide transportation with passengers who are seeking transportation. They have broad guidelines for the type of vehicles they accept, even broader rules for driver appearance and etiquette, and passengers are encouraged to rate drivers as the means of quality control.
The matchmaking nature of rideshare companies and the broad vehicle and driver guidelines results in a wide range of client experiences. Their inherent structure is the result of a goal of providing transportation anywhere at any time in only a matter of minutes. If on demand service is an important need, rideshare companies do this very well. The trade-off for on demand service is other factors like a clean and comfortable car and a knowledgeable and professional driver is secondary. This makes the client experience similar to the popular movie Forrest Gump where the lead character played by Tom Hanks turns to his mother and says, “Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re going to get.”
The consequences of relaxed policies and standards at rideshare companies can manifest themselves in ways passengers never considered. For example, in New Jersey, it is very common for passengers to travel to New York City. Unlike chauffeurs for car service companies, drivers for rideshare services do not know where passengers are headed until the ride commences nor are they obligated to provide service to the rider. This means the driver can turn down the request for any reason. In this example, since rideshare drivers who are based in New Jersey are legally prohibited from providing service to passengers located in New York, many of them will refuse to transport New Jersey passengers to New York City. This inconvenience is further compounded by the fact that passengers only learn about this after the driver has arrived. Passengers now have to order another vehicle and hope the second driver is agreeable to providing the service. In examples like this, the comfort and convenience of ordering a service right from your phone has turned into wasted time and frustration.
Another instance where hiring a car service makes sense is when the passenger has special requests or needs. Alternatives like rideshare services are designed to handle predictable, straightforward trips and have limited ability to incorporate special circumstances. Many of these requests present themselves when passengers are traveling to or from the airport. For example, if a passenger needs assistance with retrieving and loading their luggage, or is unfamiliar with the area and would like help getting to their vehicle, having meet and greet service can be helpful. Meet and greet service is when the chauffeur parks the vehicle and meets a passenger inside the terminal. This extra touch helps create a smooth, welcoming arrival and allows the chauffeur to assist with luggage, escorting someone to the car, and any other needs before departure. Unfortunately, alternatives like taxis and rideshare companies don’t provide this service.
What Kind of Experience Are You After?
The decision of whether or not to hire a car service company ultimately depends on the experience you'd like to have. When you hire a professional car service, you can feel confident knowing a highly experienced chauffeur will arrive on time. They will be in uniform and have a clean and comfortable car. The chauffeur will know where you are headed and the best route to take. If you have to load luggage or need a little help getting into or out of the car, your chauffeur will take care of everything for you. Life can be unpredictable at times, so if a passenger needs to make an unplanned stop, car services can handle this and other needs without issue.
The extra benefits and service offered by car service companies are part of the overall cost. Compared to rideshare companies, ordering a car service can be much more expensive. Rideshare companies have provided millions of rides to passengers daily without incident. Many of these rides happen later at night after passengers have left a party, or consumed alcohol. In these instances, driving oneself would not only be foolish and dangerous, but potentially catastrophic. Ordering an Uber or Lyft in these conditions is a much better choice.
Despite our best efforts, some of us are just poor planners. Sometimes our numerous responsibilities get in the way of our plans. Regardless of the reason, it's always a good idea to budget at least a couple of hours of notice when ordering a car service. For those of us who can't plan ahead, the on-demand nature of rideshare companies can be a much better option.
Finally, If you're on a strict budget and can live with the level of service and uncertainty, ordering service from a rideshare company might make sense. Compared to car service, a typical rideshare trip frequently costs less than half the price. These savings can make a big difference over time.
Both rideshare and car service companies meet the needs of millions of passengers every day. While the business models for each operator are very different, they provide vital transportation services for the public. The key to making the best choice is understanding the differences between each one so consumers can make the best choice for themselves.