Alto is a new rideshare company similar to Uber and Lyft, but it’s only in select markets right now. Los Angeles is one of those markets, so I was excited to check out the service on a recent trip.
Here are some of the main differences between Alto and other ride sharing companies:
Drivers are full-time employees of Alto
There is an emphasis on sanitization and cleaning between rides
Riders have the ability to customize the ride by selecting the “vibe” (music, volume, etc) and there is a “do not disturb” option if riders don’t want to interact with the driver
Membership or single-ride user
Signing up for Alto was easy; there are essentially two options – sign up for the membership or forgo the membership and use it for one-off rides.
The membership gives you these benefits:
- Member-only discounts
- Full fleet access and the ability to schedule rides in advance
- Rides and promotions available to members only
- Access to exclusive events
- Ability to cancel the membership at any time
Since I don’t live in a market where Alto operates, I didn’t think the membership made sense for me. But in order to schedule an airport pick up in advance, I had to be a member. The first month of membership is free, so I signed up for the membership a week before my trip to LA and canceled it when I arrived back home to avoid the $12.95 per month member charge.
Scheduling my ride
Scheduling my ride ahead of time in the app was easy. It was a very similar experience to Uber or Lyft. One of the benefits of using Alto at the airport is that they can pick you up at the curb. This is a major benefit at LAX, which typically requires rideshare users to take a shuttle or 10 minute walk to the pick up area.
It was very convenient to be picked up right outside of baggage claim.
I landed early, so I called my driver through the app to let him know I was ready to be picked up. About 10 minutes later, he arrived at the curb. Through the app I was able to see that my driver was vaccinated, and I was also able to seethe license plate of the Buick Enclave SUV he would be picking me up in. This is also where you can change the vibe for your trip, which I changed from “Yeehaw” to “Quest.” I wanted to talk to the driver, so I toggled the DND feature off.
Once inside the car, there was a passenger divider which, in my opinion, took away from the luxury experience the company promotes. There were several chargers and bottled water available. To give you a better sense of what “Quest” vibes are, the song “Same Ol’ Mistakes” by Rihanna was playing in the car when I got in.
Other than the to-be-expected traffic in LA, it was a smooth and safe ride.
Alto was a nice alternative for a ride sharing service, but I found it to be really expensive. While waiting for my driver, I planned out the same trip in my Uber app and Alto was the same cost as a Black SUV. An Uber Black would have been less expensive than Alto. And an UberX was one third of the cost of Alto.
If I went with Uber Black for a similar price, it’s hard to predict what kind of car I would have gotten but generally speaking they are premium cars. And, they are almost always more luxurious than a Buick Enclave… and most of the time Uber Black drivers are also professional drivers.
I appreciated the fact that the company hires drivers as full-time employees and that they emphasize cleaning during COVID, but I can’t justify the cost over using Uber and Lyft.