Hiring a taxi or shuttle service

Taxis and shuttles provide the same basic service, but they are not the same thing.

A taxi driver will charge based on the amount of time it takes to get to your destination and takes passengers to a location of their choosing. Taxis are found around airports, big events and in large cities.

Riders typically "flag" or "hail" taxis down on the streets, or they can call a company to arrange a pickup time.

Most taxis will have a pickup fee and then charge per mile, per minute of waiting time and sometimes an additional passenger fee. Tips of 15 to 20 percent are standard.

If you opt for a taxi, make sure you choose one that's properly licensed. Most cities will offer a special license to taxi drivers who conform to regulations. Taxi drivers also undergo stringent FBI background checks.

A shuttle typically charges for the ride, with the driver only able to offer set destinations at set prices, such as from the airport to a popular hotel or city center.

Oftentimes, the service will run several times per day and will have very few if any stops between the starting point and destination.

Hiring a limo or party bus

Limousines and party buses can be fun and safe options for large groups or such special occasions as a 21st birthday party, prom night, weddings and bachelor or bachelorette parties.

To ensure the best experience, be sure you are clear about all costs, including the possibility of extra charges for fuel or tips.

According to the National Limousine Association, companies typically will quote the number of permitted passengers in its vehicles. Because the number of passengers are usually based on 150 pounds, booking the maximum number of people in the limo could make for a tight and uncomfortable ride.

Most companies that provide limo services, also offer mini-coaches and stretched SUVs as options for larger groups, according to the NLA. Also, make sure you book limo companies for a long enough time for events such as proms and weddings. If there is a delay, you want to make sure you still have access to the limo.

A standard limo that sits six people costs about $65 to $100 per hour.

Party buses, meanwhile, are usually converted buses or coaches that are equipped to transport 10 or more to a party, prom or other event.

Be sure to check that the driver is properly licensed, as some states will require a commercial driver's license, often known as a chauffeur's license. Background checks may be required as well, depending on the state.

Also, be sure the company is adequately insured.

A trip with friends in a limo can make your child’s party extra special. (Photo courtesy of First Class Limousine)

Rideshare companies

Ridesharing companies, most notably Uber and Lyft, have become a popular alternative to traditional taxis in recent years.

Instead of "hailing" a taxi down, riders can use an app on their smart phones to hire a driver, who, in most cases, is a private citizen using their own car.

One of the benefits of using a ridesharing company is no cash is ever exchanged. Payments are automatically handled through the app. The app allows passengers to track their route and estimated arrival time. It also provides photos of the driver and the opportunity to rate the driver when the ride is over.

The companies have received backlash from some traditional taxi companies because Uber and Lyft are not regulated and licensed in some cities the way taxi companies are. Some local governments have since established laws and regulations in order for the companies to operate.

Renting a car

Renting a vehicle is ideal for vacations, out of town business or when your car is in the shop.

When you need to rent a vehicle, it pays to be informed. As you consider which car rental company to use, make sure you find one with a solid reputation. It's not difficult for companies to tack on extra charges, so being informed can save you money. Look into all of the details of the rental agreement, such as whether you'll pay for miles or time.

Before you pay for rental insurance, check with your existing auto insurance and with your credit card company. Either or both may offer insurance on rentals.

Car sharing is another way to temporarily access a vehicle, especially for urban dwellers. One of the main benefits is being able to share the car with others and pay for short-term usage.

Angie's List offers members local consumer reviews on car rental companies, taxi and shuttle services and other transportation providers.

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