Report: Uber eclipses taxis for business transportation

A report by travel and expense management software provider Certify shows that ridesharing service Uber has, for the first time, eclipsed taxis for business transportation.

The Certify SpendSmart report for the second quarter of 2015 showed that Uber has become the preferred choice for business travelers, with 55 percent of all total paid car rides submitted through its expense reporting system being taken on Uber. Vehicles in the taxicab category, which includes traditional taxicabs, limousines and shuttles, accounted for 43 percent. The remaining two percent was split between Lyft and "other" ridesharing services.

In 1Q15, an average 46 percent of all total paid car rides were through Uber while paid rides using vehicles in the taxicab category accounted for 53 percent of paid rides. A year earlier, in 1Q14, taxis averaged 85 percent of paid rides.

While the shift toward ridesharing services is driven by the preferences of individual business travelers, the change should also be welcomed by company bean-counters. According to Certify’s data, using Uber is generally cheaper than other forms of hired transportation. The average ride for 2Q15 was $22.51 using Lyft, $30.03, for Uber and $34.48 for taxis.

Of the six top markets tracked by Certify, all showed increases in the use of Uber. The service is most popular in San Francisco, where use rose to 79 percent in 2Q15 from 71 percent the previous quarter. Uber use in Dallas rose from 56 percent to 60 percent and Los Angeles increased from 49 percent to 54 percent.

Business people in the south and east seem to be slower to accept the ridesharing service. While use in Atlanta, New York and Chicago continues to increase quarter over quarter, Uber use accounted for less than half the trips taken using hired vehicles. Use in Atlanta was 46 percent, while use in New York and Chicago were each at 31 percent.

Despite the growing popularity of Uber, business travelers still overwhelmingly prefer the flexibility provided by a rental car though, like taxis, rental car companies are losing share to ridesharing services.

In 2Q15, 45 percent of those paying for transportation paid for a rental car compared to 55 percent in the same quarter the previous year. Taxi rides dropped from 37 percent to 24 percent while Uber rides increased from just 8 percent to 31 percent of all paid rides.

The report also lists the hotel chains, restaurant chains, car rental companies and airlines that are most frequently expensed, the average amount of those expenses, and the ratings of the service providers.

Alaska 737 takes off from Sea-Tac Airport
Overall, Alaska Airlines (NYSE:ALK) nudged jetBlue (NYSE:JBLU) from the top spot as the airline rated best by those who filed expense reports. Alaska earned an average rating of 4.5 stars while jetBlue earned 4.4 stars, a slight declined from its 1Q15 rating. However, perhaps due to their smaller networks, they are used far less frequently than other, larger carriers. Delta Air Lines (NYSE:DAL), American Airlines (NYSE:AAL)/US Airways, United Airlines (NYSE:UAL) and Southwest (NYSE:LUV), were the airlines with the most frequent expense submissions. Business travelers expensed tickets for Delta 20.07 percent of the time, for merger partners American/US Airways a combined 19.28 percent of the time, for United 13.46 percent of the time and for Southwest 7.58 percent of the time.

Hotel chains reflect a similar disconnect. While Hyatt Hotels (NYSE:H) were rated the best with 4.4 of five possible stars, Hyatt is No. 9 on the list of hotels expensed. Other top-rated hotels include Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites and Westin Hotels with 4.3 stars each, and Marriott Hotels (NASDAQ:MAR) with 4.2 stars. However, it is Marriott that tops the list of those most frequently expensed, at 9.76 percent. As in 1Q15, the most expensed hotel is followed closely by more budget-oriented chains including Hampton Inn, Courtyard by Marriott, Hilton Garden Inn and Holiday Inn Express.

Hilton Garden Inn and Homewood Suites are brands of Hilton Worldwide (NYSE:HLT) while Weastin is a Starwood property (NYSE:HOT).

When it comes to eating while on the road, Starbucks (NASDAQ:SBUX) continues to be the most frequently expensed, followed by McDonald’s (NYSE:MCD), Subway, Panera Bread (NASDAQ:PNRA) and Dunkin’ Donuts (NASDAQ:DNKN).

Interestingly, the restaurants patronized most often do not strictly align with those travelers rated highest. While the most frequently expensed, Starbucks tied for third in the category of top-rated restaurants. Chick-Fil-A was rated best at 4.5 out of a possible 5 stars by travelers but was the ninth most expensed restaurant chain. Second-best rated Chipotle (NYSE:CMG) at 4.3 was the No. 12 most popular chain. Panera Bread at 4.2 and Dunkin’ Donuts at 4.1 were fourth and fifth most-expensed, respectively.

Starbucks is the restaurant most frequently expensed for breakfast and has 14.31 percent of expense entries for the morning meal while Subway is most expensed for lunch at 3.41 percent and McDonald’s for dinner at 1.59 percent. In all, the percentages for the top 15 most frequently visited restaurant is less than 19 percent, possibly indicating that a significant majority of business travelers eat at restaurants that are either stand-alone operations or part of very small or local chains.

Buffalo Wild Wings (NASDAQ:BWLD), which just made the list as the No. 15 most frequently expensed restaurant, returned the highest average cost, at $40.62. Jimmy John's had the second highest expense level at $38.59, followed by Panera Bread ($37.90), Applebee's ($37.61) and Chili's ($32.90). Applebee's is owned by DineEquity Inc.(NYSE:DIN), while Chili's is owned by Brinker International (NASDAQ:EAT).

When it comes to renting a car, the “most expensed” and “top rated” lists are in closer sync. National Car Rental is the most expensed but travelers’ second favorite; second most expensed Enterprise is the top rated company. Hertz (NYSE:HTZ), Avis and Budget are No. 3, 4 and 5 on the most expensed list. Hertz and Avis swap places on the top rated list, putting Avis at No. 3 and Hertz at No. 4. Budget is No. 5 on both lists. All of the rental car companies except Hertz are operated by Enterprise Holdings, which is privately held.

The Certify SpendSmart report, which is issued quarterly, tracks spending across major categories such as food, airlines, lodging and car rentals and highlights top vendors for business travelers using data from millions of business expense receipts processed using Certify.

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Photo by Carl Dombek
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