2017 Volvo XC90 SUV.
2017 Volvo XC90 SUV. Image obtained with thanks from Volvo.

Black cabs are a British institution. As synonymous with our little island as tea, eccentric aristocrats, and flat caps. They can be found in every city, but are most famous as part of the standard London experience.

But they now face some serious competition, especially from Uber. Founded in 2009, the innovative app-based service has expanded into 60 countries and 445 cities. Completing around one million journeys per day, its eight million users make around $11 billion worth of bookings.

So how does it compare? Let’s pit Uber against its rivals and see who comes out on top…


According to official statistics, Uber’s claim that it costs less than black cabs is fully supported by the figures. A one-mile journey in one of the company’s cars is likely to be around one and a half times cheaper than the alternative, which equates to some pretty significant savings. This means that rather than spending £9 for a trip that lasts just 13 minutes, you could pay just £5.70 and pocket the remainder for later.

However, Uber does implement a system known as ‘surge pricing’. This pushes up fares at periods of high demand, whereas the good old black cab imposes a flat fee to keep things fair. This is why cost of an Uber can explode in the most horrifying way imaginable during rushes (sometimes hundreds of dollars per ride). So, if you’re travelling at a time when taxis are especially popular, you might want to go for the more traditional option. 


Uber also offers users optimum convenience. With finding a car as simple as pulling the app up on your phone to discover who’s nearby and when they can be with you, it not only gives you the opportunity to book easily, but also to instantly pay by card and save yourself the hassle of messing around with money. This is one area where black cabs just can’t compete.


Of course, travelling in an Uber isn’t quite the same as the proper black cab experience. If you want a driver who really knows their stuff, and an unofficial tour of the capital included in your fee, the old-fashioned taxi service is inarguably your best bet.


Lastly, let’s take a look at accessibility. Statistics show that there are 78,000 public hire taxis in England and Wales, with a generous 58 percent of them being wheelchair accessible. Of the 153,000 private vehicles, including Ubers, the figure is less impressive – just two percent, despite the fact that companies like Cab Direct do have them available.

Our conclusion? Although Uber is undoubtedly invaluable when you’re short on time and low on money, the black cab experience is still the greatest in a number of scenarios.