How to Stay Safe From Coronavirus in an Uber, Lyft, or Rental Car

How to Stay Safe From Coronavirus in an Uber, Lyft, or Rental Car

Industry experts reveal what is being done to keep riders healthy and offer tips on how to protect yourself.

At this stage of the coronavirus pandemic, anyone who doesn’t have an essential reason to leave the house should be staying home. But what if you still need to travel and don’t have a car of your own? Your options are limited: It may be difficult to keep your distance on public transit, which could also be operating at reduced frequencies, and not everyone can use rental bikes or scooters.

Ride-hailing services, such as Uber and Lyft, may seem like good alternatives. Along with taxis, they continue to operate where local authorities allow. Those who have a driver’s license and a place to park have even more options, because rental cars and shared vehicles are still available—and may be more affordable than ever.
But shared vehicles present unique risks when it comes to protecting riders and drivers.

Scientists say that the novel coronavirus is most likely to spread as a result of close contact, such as being directly coughed on or sneezed on by someone with the virus, or being within 6 feet of an infected person for 10 to 15 minutes or longer. And not all carriers of the virus exhibit symptoms. This makes traveling in a car with someone else riskier than traveling alone. The virus can survive on surfaces for hours or even days, too, so it’s important that vehicles used at various times by multiple people are kept clean.

CR spoke with experts in the ride-sharing, taxi, and rental car industries and found out what sort of precautions they’re taking. For example, some cab companies told us they’re investing in heavy-duty cleaning equipment, and car-sharing services are introducing contactless pickup.

There also are additional steps you can take to minimize your own risks, such as requesting or looking for a taxi or other chauffeured car with a partition between the driver and passengers, instead of a typical Uber or Lyft that doesn’t have one. Or you could rent a car that you can thoroughly clean yourself, provided you have a place to park. And, of course, anyone leaving the house should follow new recommendations for wearing a mask, no matter their method of transportation.

Uber, Lyft, and Ride-Hailing Services

Although Uber and Lyft continue to operate in most areas, the companies have discontinued rides shared between passengers who do not know each other, such as UberPool and Lyft Line. Individuals and families can still call a car from the Uber or Lyft apps, but that doesn’t mean they should.

“Honestly, I would recommend that people do not take Uber and Lyft right now,” says Harry Campbell, founder and CEO of The Rideshare Guy, a blog and podcast dedicated to ride-hailing services.

Campbell says that because the responsibility to clean cars is left up to individual drivers, riders may not know how well the car they’re taking has been cleaned. “Some drivers are doing a great job, but others are not,” he told CR.

Lyft told CR that it is instructing its drivers to open windows during trips to increase air circulation, to ask passengers to sit in the rear seat, and to use disinfecting wipes to clean frequently touched surfaces. When it comes to that last recommendation, drivers are largely responsible for paying for these supplies on their own, Campbell says, and they are dealing with the same supply shortages as the rest of us.

On its website, Lyft says that it is providing cleaning supplies to drivers through its service centers, but when we looked into the availability of these supplies, CR found that no service centers in the state of New York are currently offering cleaning products, and that similar situations exist in other states.

“We are monitoring the COVID-19 situation closely, and taking action based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control,” Lyft spokesperson Dana Davis told CR in a written statement. “Our focus is on keeping our riders, drivers, and team members safe. We have an internal task force dedicated solely to this issue and will continue to take action as needed.”

Uber did not respond to CR’s requests for comment, but Andrew Macdonald, the company’s senior vice president for global rides and platform operations, said in a tweet that Uber had acquired 30,000 bottles of disinfectant that it was sending directly to drivers. Macdonald said that not every driver would be able to get a bottle, and that the priority was to supply “the most active drivers in a few cities,” including New York.

Even more important than the cleanliness of the cars used for Uber and Lyft is the health of the people who drive them, says Campbell, the founder of The Rideshare Guy.

“The CDC recommendation is to stay 6 feet away from someone, but when someone gets into the back of your car, it’s pretty much impossible to follow that rule,” he says.

And if a driver gets sick, there’s a chance he or she can spread it to passengers, and vice versa. Currently, Uber and Lyft have started providing financial relief to drivers who are unable to work due to a COVID-19 diagnosis or quarantine order, but the virus can also be transmitted by those who aren’t showing symptoms of the disease.

Because drivers get paid only for the trips they take, drivers who may suspect they’ve been exposed to COVID-19 but who still feel healthy or aren’t displaying symptoms might choose to continue working, Campbell says.

“You’re supposed to stay home from work. But as a driver, if you do that, you don’t get paid,” he says. “None of these drivers are out there maliciously trying to spread this, but they’re faced with a lot of tough choices.”


For the most part, traditional taxis may have a slight advantage over Lyft and Uber, but cleaning processes and precautions may differ depending on choices made by local cab companies. You may want to call their dispatch to ask about any specific protocols put in place before you take a ride.

Taxis tend to be serviced out of large fleet garages. It’s easier for big companies to buy cleaning supplies in bulk than for individual drivers, who must rely on grocery stores and other retailers.

That’s the case at WHC Worldwide, a major fleet operator that owns taxi companies across the U.S. WHC CEO Bill George told CR that it has been able to purchase cleaning and protective equipment, which it is providing to its drivers. The company is taking other steps, as well. “We have purchased commercial vehicle foggers for each of our locations and trained staff to fog each car daily,” he says. These devices spray disinfectant throughout a vehicle’s interior for deep cleaning.

Unlike Uber and Lyft vehicles, many taxis also have partitions installed between the driver and passenger, which may prevent the spread of infection through coughs and sneezes. George says his company has outfitted even more cars with such equipment.

Car-Sharing: Zipcar, Getaround, and Turo

Car-sharing services largely follow two models: Short-term services like Zipcar own and maintain the cars in their fleets much like a traditional rental car company, but they offer hourly rental options and distribute cars throughout cities rather than storing them at a central location. Peer-to-peer services, such as Turo and Getaround, allow car owners to rent their private vehicles for a fee. Many of these cars can be rented for long periods of time and often don’t require person-to-person contact when picked up.

Though these services don’t include drivers, any shared form of transportation can be risky during a pandemic, says Neil Abrams, a consultant who has worked with car rental and car-sharing companies for more than 40 years.

“The controls over the cleaning and the maintenance aren’t quite as rigorous or disciplined as you would have in, say, an airport rental location,” Abrams says. “Some of it is based on the honor system—that is, that the prior driver of a car is responsible for cleaning it.”

On its website, Zipcar says it is unable to professionally clean cars between each booking but that vehicles are “regularly and rigorously cleaned using our sanitizing procedures.” Getaround and Turo each have instructions for how vehicle owners can clean their own vehicles.

“We have asked renters to bring wipes and sanitizer with them during their trips, and have asked owners to clean their cars between trips as well as before and after personal use,” Getaround spokeswoman Meg Murray told CR.

All three services offer cars with contactless pickup options, so drivers never have to meet another person to exchange keys. These services also have waived some of the fees and penalties for cancellations and rebooking, and they have protocols in place to take cars out of service that have come into contact with someone with COVID-19.

If possible, renting one of these cars for an extended period of time allows you to clean it thoroughly before you use it, so you’re aware of how well it’s been cleaned the next time you drive. Zipcar says it has changed its rental terms and conditions in order to accommodate increased demand for longer-term rentals.

“In urban environments, we are seeing more demand for the exclusive use of a vehicle for the week or even the month,” says Zipcar president Tracey Zhen. “To meet this demand, we are expanding our Dedicated Zipcar offering, which provides members longer-term, exclusive use of the same vehicle Monday through Friday.”

CR recommends that when you get into a shared car, you should at a minimum wipe down the handle, steering wheel, and gear shift. Try not to touch your face when driving, and sanitize your hands when you leave the car.

Traditional Rental Cars

Abrams says that with the decrease in air travel, traditional rental car business has plummeted during the pandemic. As a result, many car rental locations have closed temporarily.

But those locations that remain open can offer bargains for drivers in need of a car. “They are going to be giving the consumer much more favorable rates,” Abrams says. For example, most rental car companies have waived extra fees that are usually charged to drivers under the age of 25 and are dropping the cost of one-way and monthly rentals.

Hertz is offering free, month-long rentals to healthcare workers in New York City who have a valid driver’s license and medical ID, an email address with healthcare domain, and who join Hertz’s loyalty program.

Although all the major car rental companies say they have instituted additional cleaning protocols, Abrams says renters should still advocate for themselves.

“The first thing a consumer should ask is ‘What are you doing to protect my safety?’” Abrams told CR. He also recommends that renters take their own precautions before driving a car someone else has used—even if they’ve been assured that it’s been professionally cleaned. “I would bring my sanitizer. I would bring my gloves,” he says. “I would make sure that I’m the second line of defense when renting a vehicle.”

CR recommends opening the windows when you first drive the vehicle to air it out, along with wiping down its interior and cleaning your own hands before and after driving.

Long-term renters who can afford a monthly rental fee and who have a place to park can sanitize their car without worrying that someone else has not cleaned it as thoroughly. But, Abrams says, there’s one drawback to a traditional car rental: There might not be a place to pick one up near where you live.

“There are a lot fewer Avis locations than, say, Zipcar locations,” he says. (The Avis Budget Group is Zipcar’s corporate parent.) “It’s a very personal thing about who you trust. Zipcar offers more flexibility, but Avis may provide more confidence.”
If possible, Abrams says the best solution to getting around during this pandemic might not involve a car at all. “I’d find a pair of sneakers and just walk,” he says.

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Pensacola Yellow Cab bought out and replaced by ride-hailing/taxi hybrid zTrip

Pensacola Yellow Cab bought out and replaced by ride-hailing/taxi hybrid zTrip

If you’ve noticed fewer and fewer yellow taxis in the streets, it’s because Yellow Cab is no longer in Pensacola, having been bought out by the ride-hailing/taxi hybrid company zTrip in September.

zTrip-branded silver vans and sedans have replaced the big, yellow cabs in Pensacola as part of the Kansas City-based transportation company’s expansion into 19 cities across the U.S. since forming in 2015.

You can hail zTrips from the street just like you could a cab, but you can also request or schedule rides on their mobile app, and book rides on the company’s website with an account.

The Kansas City-based zTrip transportation company bought out Yellow Cab in September 2018.
The Kansas City-based zTrip transportation company bought out Yellow Cab in September 2018. (Photo: Courtesy of zTrip)

“We believe we’re a better alternative,” zTrip CEO Bill George said in a phone interview with the News Journal Thursday, comparing his company to Uber and Lyft. “We have all the things people love about the new services, as well as all the things that were beneficial on a taxi cab.”

One of zTrip’s marketing slogans, appearing prominently on the zTrip Pensacola’s Facebook page, is the question, “Not feeling that whole surge pricing thing?”

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Prices never surge on zTrip under any circumstances, George said. He mentioned the “favorite driver” option as another perk unique to his company that sets zTrip apart from Uber and Lyft.

“So you can use the app and say, ‘OK, my favorite driver is nine minutes away, and the closest driver is three minutes away, so you make a decision,” George said.

zTrip payments can be made either by credit card through the app, credit card in the vehicle or cash. zTrip also offers direct charge accounts. George said an average 10-minute trip on an ordinary day may cost a couple dollars more with zTrip as opposed to Uber and Lyft, but he believes that balances out with the absence of surge prices.

zTrip inherited a fleet of 80 drivers during the buyout and retained nearly all of them, letting go just a handful with repeatedly negative customer service records. Since the change in September, zTrip has increased its fleet by 20 drivers and is looking to add about 10 per month going forward, according to zTrip Director of Marketing Natalie Parra.

zTrip is active in upper-mid sized cities like Pittsburgh, Baltimore, Jacksonville and Kansas City. George said market research proved Pensacola to be a great business target.

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“I love the market,” George said. “You’ve got a good mix, in terms of demographic, all across the board, from retirees to college students. The town itself has been very welcoming, we’ve had great experiences with Escambia County. In my opinion, it’s a hidden gem.”

zTrip drivers are heavily vetted by the company to include fingerprint and criminal background checks. Beyond that, George said zTrip drivers spend “hours” with management so the company knows what kind of people are getting behind the wheels of their vehicles.

zTrip’s mobile app is pictured to illustrate its layout and design.
zTrip’s mobile app is pictured to illustrate its layout and design. (Photo: Courtesy of zTrip)

“You see people’s profiles online sometimes, and it’s a lot different when you see them in person,” George said. “So it’s a different type of service.”

George mentioned zTrip as a safe option for parents choosing to have their kids picked up after school.

“With our service, you can meet our driver ahead of time, get their direct cell phone number and say, ‘OK, you’re going to pick my son up and Monday, Wednesday and Friday at this time,'” George said. “So you’re not asking your child to figure out which driver each time to create, maybe, a dangerous situation. With ours, they know the driver, the driver’s met the parents and the driver can be tracked on the app or called directly.”

zTrip is licensed to serve Santa Rosa County as well, George said.

You can apply to drive with the company on its national website under the “Drive with zTrip tab.”

The company is working on a localized recruiting website and said it does currently need drivers. For now, those interested are encouraged to send a message to zTrip on their Pensacola Facebook page or visit them to apply in person at their 3434 North Dr. Martin Luther King Jr Drive location.

Jake Newby can be reached at or 850-435-8538.

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ABQ taxi business bought by company looking to compete with Uber, Lyft

ABQ taxi business bought by company looking to compete with Uber, Lyft

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Albuquerque’s oldest cab company is making a big change to try to take back some of the business that’s shifted to ride-sharing services over the last few years.

The old “Yellow-Checker Cab” company was recently bought out by a new owner that’s renamed the taxi business “zTrip.”

The new owners are positioning themselves as a so-called “better choice” by combing elements of traditional taxicab services with those of ride-share services.

“We like to bill ourselves as the perfect hybrid between a rideshare vehicle and a taxi cab,” said Bill George, President and CEO of zTrip.

Over the last few months, George’s company has been buying up old taxi businesses across the U.S., including Yellow-Checker Cab in Albuquerque. So far, zTrip is now in 19 U.S. cities across states like Colorado, Texas, Kansas and Florida.

“We saw what the fleets were in Albuquerque,” said George. “There was a lack of an investment, there was a lack of investment in technology in the vehicles.”

An old fleet of cars is just one of the reasons some people say they’ve turned away from traditional cab services in recent years.

“They’re a little sketchy, smelly,” Albuquerque resident Jennifer told KRQE News 13 Wednesday when asked about her thoughts on old cab services.

Others have complained about the comfort and price of old cabs.

“It’s just charging you while you’re at a red light, so the meters going up,” said Jessica of old-style cab service.

Meanwhile, ride-sharing services like Uber and Lyft have taken off in popularity in the metro area. Those services hire local drivers to use their own private cars to give rides. With Uber and Lyft, customers can only get a ride through their use of a smartphone app.

CEO Bill George says zTrip is different than ride sharing.

“We want to be a better choice from the safety aspect, from the insurance aspect,” said George.

The company says it screens and hires all zTrip drivers. The company also owns the entire fleet of cars used for rides, including handicap accessible vehicles.

To compete with on-demand ride-sharing services, George says zTrip also has an app that works just like Uber or Lyft’s. George says their pricing is comparable too, with no surge pricing as is commonly seen with ride-sharing services.

People can also call zTrip directly to book a ride, or hail a driver from the side of the street.

“Here’s what a taxicab does really well, here’s what a rideshare does really well, what if we bridged that gap and put both of them together?” said George.

Albuquerque is zTrip’s first service area in New Mexico, but the company says it’s still looking to expand.

By: Chris McKee
Posted: Dec 13, 2018 10:25 PM MST
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ZTrip acquires Yellow Cab license

ZTrip acquires Yellow Cab license

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A new taxi service named zTrip has acquired Yellow Cab’s New Mexico license.

According to a news release from zTrip, the company has launched a fleet of 20 sedans and 20 minivans in Albuquerque.

Bill George, CEO of WHC Worldwide/zTrip, said five more wheelchair accessible vehicles will be available in the next year.

“Albuquerque’s size was a big factor in our decision to move here,” George said in a phone interview. “We saw the market and felt it was under served.”

George said zTrip is a hybrid between a taxi and ride share service, with the safety of having a licensed, insured driver.

“We also offer a set fare that doesn’t change at 2 a.m. or 2 p.m., good weather or bad,” he said.

The zTrip app service allows immediate or future bookings, with the option of picking the driver. Cutomers can pay with cash, credit card or through the app.

George declined to say how much zTrip paid for Yellow Cab.

Wednesday, December 12th, 2018 at 4:09pm
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Albuquerque’s Iconic Yellow Cab Sold – zTrip Launches New Taxi Fleet

Albuquerque’s Iconic Yellow Cab Sold – zTrip Launches New Taxi Fleet

Albuquerque, NM, December 07, 2018 –(– Albuquerque’s Iconic Yellow Cab Sold – zTrip Launches New Taxi Fleet. zTrip announces fleet launch in Albuquerque – providing the safety of a taxi with the ease of on-demand service.

zTrip, a new innovative taxi service, has acquired Yellow Cab’s New Mexico taxicab operating authority. zTrip will launch with a new fleet of 40 sedans and minivans in the Albuquerque market today.

“Our mission is to use mobility to enhance the lives of our customers, driver partners and employees,” said Bill George, President of zTrip. zTrip combines the trust and safety of a taxi service, with the ease and speed of an on-demand car service, providing benefits not available from any other competing “Car Hailing” service in the area. Albuquerque’s residents and visitors now have a safe and comfortable alternative to traditional taxicabs and the new rideshare apps.

“We are excited to introduce zTrip to the Albuquerque market. zTrip was designed to combine the best features of the new e-hailing transportation services, along with the safety and security of licensed and inspected taxicabs. We are committed to providing every traveler with a new level of personal transportation service,” said George.

zTrip stands out from the competition, providing features like:

· The zTrip app allows you to book trips for now or later.
· No surge pricing: The same low price every time, whether it’s 2 p.m. or 2 a.m.
· Professional and licensed drivers with full fingerprint background checks: You don’t have to worry about who is driving you home.
· 24/7 live customer service: You can talk to a live support team member anytime
· zTrip also provides hotels, hospitals, bars, restaurants and other high-volume users with a “zTrip Butler” that allows customers to summon a cab with the press of a single button.

In January 2019 zTrip will also launch an ADA option for a wheelchair taxi service at the same low price. “This is a real game changer for the disabled community in the Albuquerque area,” said, George. “We are proud to be the only “ride app” to include wheelchair transportation in its service offerings.

Additional features of zTrip include:

· Choose if you want to pay cash or credit card or through the app – No other service provides this flexibility.
· Freedom to choose your favorite driver – Get reliable service the first time, and every time
· Choose different vehicle types. Sedan or Van

To celebrate zTrip’s launch in Albuquerque, new users can download the promo code ABQzTrip for $10 in zTrip ride credits through December 31st. Download the zTrip app in the Apple iTunes or Google Play stores.

About zTrip
zTrip launched in 2016 and is now available in 19 U.S. cities with a fleet of more than 3,500 vehicles. WHC Worldwide is the zTrip affiliate in Colorado, Florida, Nebraska, and New Mexico.

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