- Taxify launched in London on Tuesday as a cheaper competitor to Uber. We gave the new service a try to see how it compares, and fares were much cheaper – or even free. But there were definitely some early drawbacks, from stories of disgraced ex-Uber drivers to a very suspicious smell.
If you feel like booking a cab on Uber is getting a little expensive in London, there’s now a cheap new rival.
Taxify is an Estonian competitor which launched in the British capital on Tuesday, with a hefty 50% off fares to get people on board, plus £3 off for people who persuade friends to sign up.
The company promises to always be cheaper than Uber. Perhaps counterintuitively, it also promises to pay drivers better, taking a 10-15% commission fee versus Uber’s 20-35% commission fee.
Taxify’s app is almost identical to Uber’s in design, but looks a little less slick. Click on the app icon, and you’ll see a map showing your location and address. Clicking the small car icon at the bottom of the screen lets you request a driver.
The design can be a little confusing – it isn’t clear whether you’re meant to enter your destination or your current location on the screen. Still, anyone who has used Uber can probably get the hang of it.
Taxify has stiff competition in Uber, which has dominated London with a combination of sheer availability of drivers, reasonable prices, good service, and the convenience of not paying cash. Taxify CEO Markus Villig told Business Insider that thousands of drivers had signed up to the app, so theoretically there shouldn’t be any shortage of rides.
But what’s it actually like to use? Three Business Insider journalists gave it a go – here’s what we found, from apparently free rides to a very suspicious smell:
Chiswick to Tulse Hill, £8
After a meal in Chiswick on Monday evening, I downloaded the Taxify app, found a promo code posted by some random person on Twitter, and requested a taxi to Tulse Hill, some 9.6 miles away. It was going to cost around £11, minus the £3 from the promo code. Bargain!
A driver accepted almost immediately but there was one small problem: it was going to take him 22 minutes to arrive. That’s not “on demand,” I thought. Fortunately, the driver quickly cancelled and another came to the rescue – promising to arrive in just seven minutes.
After getting slightly lost, the new driver arrived in more like 10 minutes. But not in the car the app said he was going to be in (he was in a Toyota Prius instead of a Seat).
- Justin Sullivan/Getty Images
My girlfriend and I jumped in regardless and he asked for our postcode, despite the fact I’d already entered the address into the app when I requested the taxi. He proceeded to enter our postcode into Google Maps, claiming it was better than Taxify, and we were off.
But there was another problem. And a fairly big one at that: the whole of the back seat was slightly damp and the car had a distinct whiff of sick to it. Oh no. Has someone just been sick in here?
The driver, who was very friendly overall, said the car had just been cleaned but he didn’t elaborate and we didn’t probe. It’s perfectly possible that the car smelt a bit funny because the dirty seats had reacted badly with the cleaning products. But we were too afraid to confirm our suspicions because, well, we just didn’t want to know.
I immediately received a follow up email after the ride asking how it was from a Taxify employee. I shared this story and he offered me a £5 discount on my next ride.
Oh well, maybe I’ll take a bit of a sicky bum if it means I can ride across London for £7.90. (The same ride with Uber would have cost £19-£26, for what it’s worth.)
– Sam Shead.
Finsbury Park to Aldgate East, £0?
First things first, it’s a taxi.
Companies like Taxify can talk about how it looks after its drivers, and can compete on prices – but the end user experience is basically the same. If you’ve ever used Uber you know what I’m talking about: The app boots into a map, you request a vehicle, you hop in, and you’re off on your way.
I caught a car to our Aldgate, East London office from my flat in North London around lunch time, after working from home in the morning. The vehicle was a comfy, clean BMW, and my driver was perfectly friendly.
We did have some issues with traffic, however. I can’t blame Taxify for that – but it did underestimate how long navigating the city would take. When I ordered it, it promised it’d arrive in 3 minutes, but took closer to 8. And my journey had an estimated arrival time of 27 minutes, but took 38.
Also: The app doesn’t seem to have charged me anything, and won’t provide a receipt, which is weird but definitely not something I’m going to complain about. (There’s nothing on my bank statement either.)
My driver had previously driven for Uber, and now planned to do both 50:50. He believed the competition would be good for drivers, and said that the perception was that Uber cares more about its passengers than its drivers.
So, yes, it’s a perfectly ordinary taxi – which is exactly what you want. I’d definitely consider using it again, particularly given the current 50% off fares. And if the competition can mean a better deal for drivers (rather than driving down prices, and subsequently wages, as I worry), then I’m all for it.
– Rob Price
Aldgate East to Clerkenwell, £3.20
- Guled Ahmed/Flickr (CC)
I didn’t have any luck the first time I tried to order a cab on Taxify. I was with my boyfriend after a show at west London’s Hammersmith Apollo on Monday night. Not willing to join the crowds surging towards the tube station, we opened Taxify and tried to get a cab towards Holloway in north London.
There were no drivers around – Taxify was officially meant to launch the next day – so we opted for the 45-minute tube journey instead. (Other journalists have also reported similar issues, even after its official launch.)
I had better luck on Tuesday, ordering a cab from Business Insider’s offices in east London to a meeting in Clerkenwell, north London. Using the app was pretty similar to Uber, and it took my driver 12 minutes to arrive. He was in a Toyota Prius – the same vehicle you’ll see most Uber drivers using.
It turned out my driver, Hamza, was also an Uber driver, and I was his third Taxify passenger so far.
I wasn’t totally sure about Taxify’s vetting processes, so I used the app to share my location with my co-workers so they knew where I was. I didn’t have any reason to be suspicious, since Taxify’s CEO had told me the company had met every registered driver on its platform and that they all hold the correct licenses, but I was a woman travelling alone and it seemed sensible to take precautions on a new service.
The service was just as good as Uber, with the added bonus that Hamza told me what he thought about Taxify. He said the competition was a good thing, since the increased competition might push Uber to treat drivers better. And relying on two ride-hailing apps meant he could boost his earnings rather than waiting around for someone to summon a ride on Uber. He did find Taxify’s app slightly confusing to use, and said the company could make improvements.
One worrying early trend: he said he knew of drivers joining Taxify who had been booted from Uber’s platform for various reasons – like customer complaints or poor service. He said Uber was fairly strict about standards and sent text reminders to drivers about good behaviour. But with Taxify on the scene, he said, Uber might stop doing that to try and keep more drivers on board.
I found this slightly worrying – I don’t really want to risk a cab driver who’s been booted off Uber because of complaints.
Overall, the service felt just like Uber, but cheaper. Taxify did successfully get me from A to B – and while my ride this time was perfectly pleasant and safe, I think I’d try and travel with another passenger for any future journeys.
– Shona Ghosh