The Winter months. It’s wet, it’s miserable and you might be having a few drinks with friends, family or colleagues. It also means you’ll find yourself getting taxis more regularly. It’s also why I’ve been seeing quite a few people online giving out about FreeNow (formerly Hailo, formerly MyTaxi). The problem is FreeNow has added a “technology fee” for their services. The good news is that FreeNow doesn’t have a monopoly on the taxi market. Here are your options. Spoiler alert – Bolt is the best FreeNow alternative if that’s all you want to know.
What is a Technology Fee?
Just a few lines explaining the problem and then I’ll get to the alternatives. FreeNow describes the technology fee as a fee “implemented to allow FREE NOW to invest in technology improvements that will allow us to extend our product offering for passengers”. I have to admit, that’s a lovely way of wording, “our business model was a bit awful and now we’re scrambling to harvest more cash from our customers”.
The problem here is disruption. Disruption is a good thing overall, but FreeNow is hitting the same issues Spotify did. How do you keep the service suppliers (musicians and taxi drivers) paid a fair rate, at a customer-friendly price while also taking a cut for your own business (Spotify and FreeNow).
Well, you can’t. Spotify doesn’t pay artists enough and FreeNow has added a technology fee. They know gouging any more money from taxi drivers is the fastest route to failure.
So FreeNow has turned to you, the customer. It’s now your job to pay more money because FreeNow had a terrible business model. Unfortunately for FreeNow, this seems to be the scenic route towards failure. People are not happy and understandably so. While it’s not a massive sum of money, it is one more straw to break the camel’s back. And that’s all people need to seek out FreeNow alternatives.
Let’s get into it.
Get to Know Your Taxi Driver
Honestly, this is the best alternative to any taxi app. If you get a taxi driver that you really like, take their card or save their details. Use them every time you need to get a taxi. If you’re in rural Ireland, this will work even better. Loyalty pays. No technology fee for you and no commission for the taxi apps.
Now, what to look for in loyalty? Well, it takes a lot of work to find a great taxi driver you can trust. I recommend asking around to see if anyone else knows a great taxi service you can adopt. Personally, card machine is a must. If they ever deny this, by the way, remind them it’s a legal requirement to take card. If they try to insist or bring you to an ATM, tell them it’s card or no money – and be ready to call the Gardaí.
That’s the ugly side of stepping away from the apps, but while this does happen quite a bit, remember the majority of taxi drivers are sound out. But if you do want the comfort and security of an intermediary app…
Right now, Bolt is the best FreeNow alternative in Ireland. Bolt is an Estonian mobility company that dabbles in lots of other transport services too. In Ireland, taxis are their big focus. They operate in Bray, Cork, Dublin, Dún Laoghaire, Kilkenny, Sligo and Wexford. Bolt has proven popular with both passengers and drivers. For passengers, there’s no technology fee and there’s an increasing number of drivers moving from FreeNow to Bolt.
This is down to the commission Bolt charges. They ask for a smaller slice of the pie from drivers, taking 13% from the total fare versus FreeNow’s 15%.
Whether you’ve been left stranded with an empty FreeNow map screen or felt overcharged for a trip to the airport, Bolt is the best taxi app to download and give a go of.
One important note though. I’ve used Bolt in other countries too, like Portugal. Getting from Lisbon Airport to the city centre was so cheap – it cost less than €10. But in other European countries, Bolt operates as ride-sharing where you’re not getting an actual taxi. In Ireland, you can only get an actual taxi via the Bolt app.
Again, when you look at Uber, you have to remember it’s very different to other countries. You cannot ride-share with Uber in Ireland. You can only book a trip with registered taxi drivers. The Uber app handles the booking and the payments.
Uber is a lot more secretive about their commissions. I did some digging and struggled to find anything in terms of detail on the fees charged to drivers.
Personally, while I’d be using Bolt before any other app, for the time being at least, I’d have Uber downloaded and ready to go just in case. Whenever I do use Uber, I tend to double-check even FreeNow to make sure I’m getting the best rate.
Various Local Taxi Apps
Other taxi apps are emerging into the Irish market too. For example, if you’re in Dubin try out Lynk. In Cork, go for Satellite Taxis. A quick Google or asking other people in the locality will let you know of a general booking service or a private taxi driver with a really good app. Back home in Kilkenny, I’ve used Martin Butler’s Kilkenny Taxis app a few times and it worked a treat.
The most important thing for your immediate future is to just spend a few minutes thinking about which taxi app you want to use. If you’ve found yourself waiting for 20 minutes just to find a driver on FreeNow, it could be because they’re all on Bolt.