‘Rideshare’ transportation for kids: Which app is best — and is it safe?
Fifty-one percent of parents spend at least five hours a week driving their kids around, while a third of those clock in more than 10 hours, a 2016 survey conducted by HopSkipDrive, a kid-focused ride service, found. Two out of three working parents reported that driving their kids to after-school activities interfered with their jobs on a regular basis. Clearly, shuttling kids to and from school, sports practices and other activities is a daily struggle for many parents.
Enter in ridesharing apps designed specifically for kids — think Uber for children. The idea of a lone grade-schooler, iPhone clutched in their tiny hand, climbing into a stranger’s car after school may seem shocking at first. But kid-focused, ride-hailing apps like Kango, HopSkipDrive and Zum have put in child safety guards that mass market services lack. In fact, both Uber and Lyft prohibit ride services for unaccompanied minors. As an increasing number of busy parents are discovering, these apps can save them multiple hours each week.
If you’re thinking of trying a rideshare app for your child, here’s what you need to know.
Know the basics on rideshare safety
Recognizing the risks involved with ridesharing services — and deciding whether your child is mature enough to handle them — is an important first step in using apps like Kango, HopSkipDrive and Zum. Here are a few tips to help you get started:
Review the company’s terms of service to ensure you’re comfortable with all of its limitations and disclaimers of liability.
Read customer reviews online to get a sense of the company’s track record and other users’ experiences.
Ask the company about its policies for dealing with issues like late pickups/drop-offs, last-minute driver cancellations, accidents or other incidents that may occur on the road.
Consider giving your kid a “secret passcode” to share with their driver before getting in as an extra layer of security.
Don’t be shy about requesting a specific driver — most of the apps will do their best to accommodate you.
Talk to your children about right and wrong behavior behind the wheel, and encourage them to let you know immediately if anything seems awry.
If you do decide to use a ridesharing app for your kids, Michael Louis, a Bay Area father of two, notes that open communication with the caregivers is key.
“If it's a new person who doesn't know the kids and hence the kids do not know them either, I make it a point to sit the kids down in the morning and show them a picture of the caregiver and car they are driving — all this is found in the app,” he says.
Most of these apps are still limited to a few areas — namely around San Francisco and Los Angeles. However, plans are in the works to expand some of these services. Here are three of the top players today.
Kango is arguably one of the most flexible ridesharing apps on the market, offering both rides and child care for children of all ages (although those under 2 must be accompanied by adults for rides). They’re also the only service to accommodate same-day requests with no cutoff time.
Safety: Kango can provide car seats and boosters on request, and co-founder Sara Schaer says that safety is their No. 1 priority.
“Our drivers go through rigorous background checks, in-person interviews, employer reference checks and even fingerprinting,” says Schaer, who uses the app for her own children. “Most of our drivers and caregivers are mothers and grandmothers, so think of us like a trusted family friend. We go through all the same steps as if we were vetting an au pair or nanny for your family (or ours).”
Parents can monitor their kids’ rides in real time, and as an added line of defense, the Kango team monitors all rides as they occur.
Louis says he initially had reservations about using Kango, but it’s become an important tool in managing his family members’ busy schedules over the last four years.
“It's always a big leap for a parent to trust strangers with their kids,” he says. “The added element of a stranger with a car added even more reason to be cautious. Using the Kango app helped us become more at ease with using the service as we learned that we could communicate with the driver and track their whereabouts in real time. It also helped that we work with a fairly consistent rotation of caregivers from month to month — consistency goes a long way.”
Pricing: There is a subscription fee for booking drivers or sitters through Kango; prices vary according to the type and duration of service.
Service areas: San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles
Launched by three California moms, HopSkipDrive allows parents to schedule transportation (with at least eight hours notice) for kids ages 6 and up.
Safety: The company’s rigorously screened “CareDrivers” are fingerprinted, background checked and must have at least five years of child care experience. Every ride is monitored in real time, and the app allows parents to track their kids, as well.
Denver-based mom Demetria Palmer has successfully utilized the app with her teenage son.
“The app is in active connection with me for arrival, in the car, to location and letting him go to the front door of a location,” she says.
Pricing: There’s no membership fee or surge pricing, and users are charged by the ride. Fares are based on real-time and estimated mileage, and they vary by metro area.
Service areas: Southern California, San Francisco Bay Area and Colorado Front Range Area
Founded by three siblings whose mom sacrificed a thriving career to raise her children, Zum allows parents to book one-time or recurring rides and child care for kids aged 5 and up.
Safety: Like the other companies, Zum interviews and runs background checks on drivers. It requires drives to have at least three years of experience working with children and at least three years with a clean driving record. It also allows parents to vet drivers themselves and track their children’s rides. In addition, they offer an app just for kids to encourage safety and responsibility.
Pricing: Zum offers a fare estimator on their site — prices start at $8 per kid for carpool rides and $16 for a single ride. For those who need a little extra time, drivers can be booked for child care for up to two hours at $6 every 15 minutes.
Service areas: Southern California and the Silicon Valley
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