Already past taxis, ridesharing is gaining on rental cars - report

A report by travel and expense management software provider Certify shows that ridesharing, which tied taxis for business transportation in 1Q15 and passed them in the second quarter is now gaining on rental cars as the most popular form of business transportation.

The Certify SpendSmart report for the third quarter of 2015 showed that ridesharing continued the steady increase it has shown over the prior six quarters and accounted for 34 percent of all paid rides. The taxicab category - which includes traditional taxicabs, limousines and shuttles, accounted for 22 percent, while rental cars were still the most popular at 44 percent.

However, the 44 percent figure represents a significant decline from 1Q14, when 55 percent of paid rides were in rental cars. At that time, taxis accounted for 37 percent and ridesharing a mere eight percent, according to data provided to TheTravelPro by Certify.

In San Francisco, ridesharing accounted for the overwhelming majority of paid rides, as 82 percent. Rental cars in the City by the Bay were second, at 12 percent and taxis accounted for only six percent of paid rides. In Boston, considered another bellwether city, ridesharing eclipsed rental cars for the first time during the third quarter. Business travelers in Bean Town expensed rideshares 45 percent of the time compared to 32 percent for taxi rides and 23 percent for rental cars.

Certify data showed that companies with fewer than 200 employees accounted for 30 percent of transactions with ridesharing company Uber. Rides on competing rideshare provider Lyft have also continued to increase.

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 ridesharing services is generally cheaper than other forms of hired transportation. The average ride for 3Q15 was $23.94 using Lyft, $27.61 for Uber – a decrease from more than $30 in 2Q15 – and $35.28 for taxis.

The five top markets for ridesharing growth tracked by Certify showed that, between the second and third quarters, ridesharing grew 74 percent in Boston, 32 percent in Atlanta, 29 percent in Los Angeles, 28 percent in New York and 26 percent in Dallas.

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.

Overall, Alaska Airlines (NYSE:ALK) retained 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 (NYSE:JBLU) from earned 4.4 stars. Both airlines’ ratings were unchanged from their 2Q15 numbers. 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 21.12 percent of the time, for merger partners American/US Airways a combined 20.15 percent of the time, for United 13.79 percent of the time and for Southwest 11.35 percent of the time.

Hotel chains reflect a similar disconnect. While Hyatt Hotels (NYSE:H) were rated the best with 4.3 of five possible stars, Hyatt is No. 9 on the list of hotels expensed. Other top-rated hotels include Courtyard by Marriott, Hilton Garden Inn, Homewood Suites and Westin Hotels with 4.2 stars each. Marriott Hotels (NASDAQ:MAR), which was number five on the 2Q15 list, dropped off the third-quarter list. However, it is Marriott that tops the list of those most frequently expensed, at 9.39 percent. As in both the first and second quarters, the most expensed hotel is followed closely by more budget-oriented chains including Hampton Inn, Courtyard by Marriott, Holiday Inn Express and Hilton Garden Inn.

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 4.4 out of a possible 5 stars by travelers but was the seventh most expensed restaurant chain. Second-best rated Chipotle (NYSE:CMG) at 4.3 was the No. 10 most popular chain. Olive Garden, Starbucks and Texas Roadhouse tied for third with 4.2 stars, but neither Olive Garden nor Texas Roadhouse was among the top 15 most expensed restaurants.

Starbucks is the restaurant most frequently expensed for breakfast and has 14.86 percent of expense entries for the morning meal while McDonald’s replaced Subway as the most expensed for lunch at 3.67 percent. McDonald’s was also most expensed for dinner at 1.85 percent. In all, the percentages for the top 15 most frequently visited restaurant is slightly more than 20 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 was the No. 15 most frequently expensed restaurant, returned the highest average cost, at $41.98. Jimmy John's had the second highest expense level at $38.62, followed by Panera Bread ($37.80), Applebee's ($35.06) and Chili's ($33.93). 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. In the third quarter, National Car Rental was the most expensed and the travelers’ favorite. Enterprise and Avis, which tied for the second-favorite companies, were the third and fourth most-expensed companies, respectively. Hertz (NYSE:HTZ) and Budget are No. 4 and 5 in the ratings, though Hertz was second most-expensed while Budget was fifth most expensed. 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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Infographic provided by Certify
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