New drivers often ask me, “What is the best navigation system for Uber?”, or “What is the best navigation system for Lyft?” Even if you’ve lived somewhere your whole life, there are going to be parts of the city that are unfamiliar. There are also other benefits to using a nav system, such as finding alternate routes, knowing how long the trip will take or where the speed and red light cameras are.
The best navigation systems for Uber, Lyft and other rideshare or delivery services
While there are other navigation systems (covered at the bottom), the vast majority of drivers use Google Maps, Waze or the in-app Uber navigation. If you’re on Lyft, your choices are Waze or Google Maps. Lyft does not have an internal turn-by-turn navigation system. All three systems offer turn-by-turn directions, trip time estimates, voice directions, and will reroute you if you make a wrong turn. None of these systems are perfect and there is no substitute for knowing your way around, but here the pros and cons of each system.
Uber in-app Navigation
Uber’s first few tries at in-app turn-by-turn navigation were failures. The suggested routes were often terrible, and the traffic and time estimates were way off. A few weeks ago, they started rolling out a new in-app navigation system, and it’s a vast improvement. While not perfect, a number of drivers who would switch over to Google Maps or Waze on every trip, are now staying within the Uber app more often.
- Uncluttered interface
- Decent time estimates (within 3-5 minutes)
- Lane assistance
- Route suggestions are better, but could still use some work
- Traffic estimates are still hit and miss.
Waze was a startup that Google bought in 2013. It uses traffic data from municipal sources, as well as data crowd sourced from people using the app. Because of the crowdsourced data, it usually gives better traffic and time estimates during rush hour than either Google Maps or the Uber navigation. It is the navigation app of choice for most experienced drivers. These drivers usually don’t use the app for directions, but for the traffic and time estimates. The app also tells you if you are over the speed limit, and where accidents, speed traps, potholes, and red light cameras are.
- Best time estimates (accurate to within 0-3 minutes usually)
- Good traffic estimates (better during rush hours)
- Speed limit, obstacle and speed trap warnings
- Default view is zoomed in too close
- Routing is generally good, but sometimes the app will tell you to get off the highway for one exit, then get back on, in order to save time. Odd feature since it rarely saves time.
- No lane assistance
Google Maps is the oldest of the navigation apps and probably familiar to most users. It’s fast, reliable, and has a good interface.
- Uncluttered interface
- Decent time estimates
- Lane assistance
- Traffic and time estimates are not usually as good as Waze
- Lacks the additional Waze features such as pothole and speed trap warnings
Which nav system should I use for Lyft or Uber?
If you are just starting out driving for Uber or Lyft, I would recommend using Google Maps at first. The only reason Google Maps gets the nod over Waze for beginners is lane assistance and the default zoom level. If you aren’t very familiar with your city, knowing which lane to be in can be enormously helpful. Also, if you have to make a turn, followed by another turn right after, it’s easier to see that on Google Maps than on Waze (because Waze is zoomed in too far). Once you are more familiar with your area, give Waze, or the internal Uber navigation, a try. At the end of day, the three apps are pretty close in terms of capability, and the choice comes down to driver preference.
Other navigation systems that almost no drivers use.
Sygic, Navmii, and Apple Maps are three other navigation options. You can also buy a separate navigation hardware system from Garmin or another company. However, very few drivers choose any of these options.
The main reason is that none of them intergrate with the Uber or Lyft system. So, if you want to use them, you have to switch out of the Uber or Lyft app and manually type in the address. With the recommended apps, it’s automatic, or you hit the “navigate” button from within the Uber or Lyft app. Also, the Sygic, Navmii and Apple Maps apps are inferior to Waze, Google Maps and the internal Uber navigation in almost every way. They are slow (except for Apple), give poor routing information and have terrible interfaces. Using any of these apps is an almost surefire way to get a rating below five stars.
Why do the navigation systems want me to go down alleys (the navigation alley issue)?
Anyone who’s used any of these navigation systems for a while are probably wondering why they love to send drivers down alleys. Here’s the answer. The original gps direction systems were built for delivery vehicles. Delivery vehicles often want to go to the alley, because deliveries generally happen in the alley. All of the navigation apps you use today still use some of the data from those legacy systems. That’s why the navigation apps send you down alleys. Unfortunately, none of the apps have developed a fix for this yet.