Car wars: Uber strikes back

Ready to share your Uber? Next step in Uber’s Australian mission, announced this week, is the launch of UberPool in Sydney, a service that has operated in the US since 2014, and the UK since 2015. If you believe the publicity it could halve the cost of a typical UberX journey here. In the US, riders are saving around 20 percent, though it varies according to time of day.

UberPool riders will enjoy cheaper fares temporarily, subsidised by Uber as part of launch promotions (get in early and take advantage). But eventually the fares will rise and they’ll introduce surge charging.

Further downsides are that it’s in a limited area initially, and it’s less convenient for users because you have to walk further and wait longer for a ride. Plus there’s the weird factor of having to share your journey with a (potentially smelly, anti-social or drunk) stranger. And the Uber algorithm makes it hard to work out how much you’ll actually save, if the US market is anything to go by.

 

Ride-share rivals

Uber’s definitely saved us money so far. This Deloitte report confirms that even taking into account surge pricing (which can go as high as x4 at peak times), we’re saving almost 20 percent over regular cabs. Not surprisingly, competitors have popped up like mushrooms.

Local version GoCatch launched in 2011; you can book taxis and private drivers through their app and it doesn’t charge surge pricing during peak periods, so that’s where you could save over Uber.

Europe’s Taxify arrived in Sydney in December and Melbourne in January. There was an initial discount of 50 percent on rides; and there are still discounts to be had (see promo coupons at Finder). Otherwise the pricing is similar to Uber.

HOP in Sydney’s eastern suburbs uses Hertz cars and is reported to be 40 percent cheaper than taxis; and in Perth and Sydney the Indian ride-share company Ola has been offering discounts to try and smash Uber, but their pricing structure isn’t clear.

Best advice is to shop around for deals and promotions.

A prescription for saving 

At last – some real relief from the other symptoms of being sick – meeting your medical bills. If you suffer from conditions including high blood pressure, depression, digestive disorders and certain types of cancer, you could save up to 40 percent on your scripts. That means more than 300 drugs could be up to $5 cheaper every time you fill your script. The price reductions are part of the Federal Government’s “price disclosure” policy.

Another health tip: in its Private Health Insurance Report Card 2018 the AMA has done a comparison of benefit amounts paid out by health insurers using examples across a number of common procedures. They found HCF offers the highest payouts, with Bupa second highest, and NIB giving the lowest payouts.

The AMA warns that cheaper health insurance means the gap is bigger, i.e. more out-of-pocket expenses.

Apartment prices buck the trend

After all the hype about bubbles bursting – Sydney apartments actually went up 3 percent in the first quarter of the year – with the inner west and East going up more than 11 percent. House prices, though, are going down by 3 percent. The data comes from Dr Andrew Wilson of propertyupdate.com.au.

Ceasefire in the chicken wars

Also reported this week: Coles and Woollies have finally stopped trying to out-compete each other on price, and have both put whole roast chickens up by a dollar – a 12 percent increase.

Good news for the supermarkets’ earnings but not so great for bargain shoppers as it signals oncoming price rises across the board.