Taxi fares

December 22nd, 2012 at 8:11 am by David Farrar

Carla Penman at Stuff reports:

The most expensive cab company in can charge as much as a quarter more for a ride than the cheapest operators.

Yes, that is called competition.

And fares in the capital are twice as much as those in the regulated market of Melbourne, Australia.

Is it?

Prices for a simple 10-minute, 3.9-kilometre trip from Cuba St to Hobson St in Thorndon, at the same time of night, on the same route, in light traffic, ranged from $15.40 in a Kiwi Cab, to $18.40 in a Green Cab, to $20.20 in Combined – a massive 24 per cent difference. This included callout and eftpos charges.

It’s certainly easy to get a cab in Wellington. The city seems to be awash with taxis. On any given day, especially along Courtenay Place, dozens of cabs are lined up waiting for customers.

There are 11 companies chasing different kinds of customers.

Yet strangely, despite all this competition, prices are still around double what you’d pay in Melbourne – where taxi fares are regulated.

Okay, let us look at this Melbourne fare website. A 4 km, 10 min journey would be:

  • Booking Fee $2.00
  • Flagfall $3.00
  • Kms 4 x $1.62 = $6.48
  • Wait 6 x $33.96/60 = $3.40

That is a total of Au$14.88 or NZ$18.80, and that presumably the EFTPOS fee which was included in NZ and not known in Australia.

Each cab has to display its company’s charges both inside and outside the vehicle. Companies tell their drivers to have their meter set to charge a certain amount, depending on the time and distance travelled – this is called the tariff.

The meters are checked by New Zealand Land Transport, to ensure they are charging at the advertised rate.

That should mean the customer can quickly calculate the cheapest cab on the rank, right?

In theory, yes.

But it’s not easy for the average customer to figure out the total fare from the baffling array of charges listed.

For example, there’s the call-out fee, the flagfall (starting rate), the tariff (the price per kilometre travelled), a fee for using eftpos and waiting time per minute.

If you manage to add all those up, you then need to try to calculate the total fare by estimating the distance to be travelled and multiplying it by the tariff – and that’s just too much for most customers. Either they don’t bother and just grab the most available cab, or even if they do calculate it according to the rates, it’s not a reliable guess – because it depends on the route the driver takes, and the amount of congestion.

First of all many customers do not want the cheapest cab on the ramp. We have a market where you can choose cheap and nasty or more expensive and reliable. I will always choose a Combined cab over any other cab, for several reasons:

  • Their drivers speak English
  • Their drivers know where most roads are
  • Their cabs don’t tend to stink of food
  • They always have eftpos and take taxicard

But I do agree prices are hard to calculate. What I think would make a difference is having the NZ Transport Agency listing the tariff schedules for all taxi firms in each city on a website. I’d love to be able to compare the prices of Combined and Green Cabs (who aren’t too bad) so I know in advance the approx cost of each.

With most customers simply unable to figure out the likely fare, Combined Taxis has been able to quietly increase its fees, relying on its market dominance to keep customers rolling in.

This sounds like the normal competitors whining. Combined do well, because they provide the best service in my opinion. I also know a lot of women who will only use Combined because they feel safest with them.

Green Cabs Wellington manager Toni Shuker says people choose Combined Taxis because they have more vehicles available.

No, I choose them because of the good service I get from them.

29 Responses to “Taxi fares”

  1. MT_Tinman (4,388 comments) says:

    Tarrifs pay a very small part in people choosing a cab company.

    Most people choose a car because it’s there (or it’ll get there promptly) and the driver is usually knowledgeable and helpful.

    Cleanliness is also a large factor in repeat business.

    Of course while in ChCh intelligent and good looking people choose BST cab 276, getting thoughtful and insightful conversation from the devastatingly handsome driver as a bonus.

    I read the column earlier and dismissed it as typical slime crap, a gap-filler with little research and no intelligent comment.

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  2. TM (103 comments) says:

    Different prices for different standards. It is a non-story.

    What I do find a bit cheeky is Combined Taxis getting exclusive use of the first taxi rank at Wellington Airport. There are no signs indicating the layout of the taxis and many tourists wouldn’t even know there is a second cheaper taxi rank behind. Choice is good, but it needs to be properly informed.

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  3. Lee C (2,987 comments) says:

    Nice clean cab versus sharing a ride with ethnic minorities and potential rapists – there’s no competition as far as I can see

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  4. pacman (33 comments) says:

    I have always thought that it would easy to include three typical trips below the actual tariff chart. A 2km, 10km, 20km trip cost so comparisons are easier.

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  5. Dean Papa (788 comments) says:

    why would you keep a taxi waiting for 6 min?

    [DPF:Traffic lights]

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  6. ross69 (3,651 comments) says:

    > We have a market where you can choose cheap and nasty or more expensive and reliable.

    Oh so cheap = nasty, expensive = reliable. Presumably, that applies to employers and the level of wages they pay. Low wages = nasty, unreliable employer?

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  7. krazykiwi (8,228 comments) says:

    A uniform extra is the $7 that the WIAL grave-robbers charge for WLG airport pickups.

    I think there are too many taxi’s in Wellington. 12 years ago I started communiting regularly Wlg->Akl->Wlg each week. Back then a peak-hour taxi would wait on the Wlg airport rank for about 20-30 mins before getting to the front of the queue and securing a fare. These days it’s 90-120 mins. There are seas of cabs lined up waiting morning and night. That’s poor utilisation of capital (the car) and capability (the driver). That drivers are prepared to invest all that downtime for a fare of unknown size means it must be economically better than radio or hail work.

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  8. PaulL (6,054 comments) says:

    In Australia the eftpos/credit card fee is very large – cabcharge is a rort. I understand the ACCC are investigating them and looking to force a reduction in their charges. I’m trying to recall the history, but they essentially have a monopoly, and all the banks play along, which is the bit that ACCC are investigating.

    A $14.88 fare would attract $1.50 for cabcharge, giving a total of $16.52.

    I’m also interested in your wait-time. I presume it was part of the calculation that was used for the NZ end of the comparison?

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  9. PaulL (6,054 comments) says:

    And I do wonder at the NZ end – they got a cab from Cuba St, but they paid a callout charge? Surely you’d get a cab off a rank in Cuba St?

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  10. gazzmaniac (2,842 comments) says:

    ross69 – possibly the employer might consider that about the candidates for the job he offers them.

    krazykiwi – the taxi driver doesn’t have to sit at the airport waiting for a fare.

    For those who are interested, the cost of hiring a car (Tariff 1) in Queensland are $2.90 for flagfall and $2.14 per km, with only flagfall changing with time of day. There is a 15% cabcharge fee if you use eftpos or credit card.
    It’s regulated and therefore the same for each company, and if you get in a maxi they’re meant to charge you the same as a car until there are 5 passengers (and you have to watch them).

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  11. Dean Papa (788 comments) says:

    6 minutes seems a long time for DPF to spend doing his hair!

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  12. Simon Lyall (110 comments) says:

    Melbourne? I suspect that was a very bad comparison, since I’ve heard lots of complaints from people there about the quality of Taxis there. I give you:

    * The State of Victoria [ Taxi Industry Inquiry]

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  13. MD (64 comments) says:

    Their drivers speak English
    Their drivers know where most roads are
    They always have eftpos

    I used to catch any cab around town, but repeated experiences with drivers who don’t know the way and don’t speak english led me to only use Combined or Corporate Cabs.
    The beauty of a free market is that another company could provide a good service and be cheaper and then gain the business and put price pressure on the current market leaders.

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  14. elscorcho (172 comments) says:

    In Auckland, I always catch Co-Op home

    It may APPEAR to be expensive, but it’s actually cheaper because (a) they don’t fuck you around by driving at 35kmh and (b) they take the most direct route

    A taxi home with Co-Op is $35, with any of the cheaper shitty firms it’s often $40+
    And Co-Op is cleaner, safer, and more polite.

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  15. Fentex (3,294 comments) says:

    Perhaps I demonstrate my unfamiliarity with using Taxis, but why are a booking fee and wait added into the calculation for what I thought was supposed to be walking up to a cab on a rank?

    That AUD 5.40 makes quite a piece of the total, should it be there in a comparison with a story I thought reported on taking a cab from a rank?

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  16. dime (12,984 comments) says:

    I find taxis too expensive in NZ.

    the aussie system is bullshit though. each cab owner has to buy a number plate. about 200k a pop. insane.

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  17. Rob Hosking (64 comments) says:

    There’s a fourth reason for choosing combined or one of the better ones (the Green cabs are pretty good, I’ve found): you don’t get a blank look when you ask for a GST receipt.

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  18. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:

    Use Corporate Cabs only, for the same reasons listed in DPF’s comment.

    Rule of thumb in Auckland Wellington if the driver has a beard walk on by, if the cab is 18 years old and a 1200cc motor walk on by. If the drivers photo bears no resemblance to the driver walk on by as it will be Abdul is third cousin driving the night shift.
    Of all deregulation done in New Zealand in the last 30 years opening cabs up to any vehicle that has a motor has been the worst decision .

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  19. liarbors a joke (1,069 comments) says:

    chc airport to my house…7 minutes and 38 bucks.

    Bangkok airport to my usual hotel…40 minutes and 12 bucks.

    We get stiffed over here.

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  20. gazzmaniac (2,842 comments) says:

    Do you really expect a cab driver in New Zealand to accept $16 per hour, which has to pay for the use of the vehicle and fuel before the driver gets a cut?

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  21. liarbors a joke (1,069 comments) says:

    7 minutes and 38 bucks. Dont you think that’s excessive ? Even from the terminal to my work place which is at the airport and only a 2 minute drive costs $13 .

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  22. Pauleastbay (5,035 comments) says:


    thats 325 an hour when hes on the roll, even in a shit hole like chch he should be able to pull a grand a day over 10 12 hours

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  23. liarbors a joke (1,069 comments) says:

    With a comment like that you just have to be an aucklander…what is it about you walk around as if ya shit doesn’t stink. I can assure you, without does.

    You’re a funny lot.

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  24. PaulL (6,054 comments) says:

    Deregulation is one of the best things that’s happened in the taxi industry. When there were limited numbers of taxis (as in Melbourne), we had a handful of owners who owned the plates. Those owners took a huge slice of profit, the drivers still got paid crap. Now that anyone can be a driver, the drivers are still paid generally crap, but the customer is the one getting the benefit.

    In Aus you often can’t get a taxi when you want one – they’re doing a shift change, or it’s raining so it’s busy. That very rarely happens in NZ.

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  25. Left Right and Centre (4,387 comments) says:

    Being a peasant, I don’t use taxis *ever*.

    Taxis make me nervous… they are *fucking* pricey (relative to peasant income). Their meters make me very nervous. Ouch ouch OUCH!!

    I was in town recently (not spending one single dollar BTW) and I’m sure I saw a chick negotiating a fare to LH from CP. Would you take me there for $40? That’s capitalism… heh!!

    On those rare occasions that I have used a taxi… I’ve walked along looking for a driver I like the look of… like… they might be a kiwi or have a braincell.

    Laughing at DPF requirements… ‘they speak English’… so true, so true. You couldn’t have a good old chinwag with your average taxi driver. Not many are actually… aah.. kiwis? With anything to talk about? Yeah?

    Way too many taxis. It doesn’t bring the cost down at all either. Half of them are of questionable character. Why don’t I just say weirdo wankers… that’s what I really want to put.

    Bad taxi story #1: I take my own two wheels to town. I meet fairly toasted woman. She takes taxi to her place where I’m to meet her. Bottomline: By the time I find the place, she’s been fucking the driver in her house. That was a Kiwicab… hahahaha… too funny.

    Bad taxi story #2: Going back to 2005. As a nice thing, thought I’d take then g/f in a flash Corporate cab with leather seats (that was on the back of the rank anyway) to her place in CBD. We stop so I can get cash from ATM. I return. No cab. I start walking thinking ???? I find cab… he’s taken g/f home and come back for me… WHAT THE FUCKING FUCK?????? He ruined the whole thing… told him I’d walk back… certainly didn’t pay him anything… you’ve got to be having me on. What a dick.

    I’ve always wondered why the Green Cab drivers are damn near all Somalians?

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  26. Steve (North Shore) (4,953 comments) says:

    A little off topic but I do have an issue with Taxis. It is not the cost, it is the service.
    Email sent to Michael O’Brien.

    Dear North Shore Taxis,

    On Friday 7th Dec I had an appointment at North Shore Hospital at am.

    I pre booked a Cab on Thursday 6th for a pick up at 7.15 am Friday from 10 Houston Pl, Glenfield.

    0129 is the number I was given.

    On Friday 7th Dec at 7.15 am I was waiting for the Cab and it was not there.

    At 7.30 I called North Shore Taxis and informed “we are extremely busy”

    At 7.45 am I called again and informed we are busy

    At 8.00 I called again, informed North Shore Taxis that my appointment was at 8.00 am and I was still waiting in the rain. I asked how long and was told we do not know we are busy will it be before lunchtime? I do not know, we are busy

    By now I am late so I call again at 8.15 am; this is ONE HOUR after a booking that was made on Thursday evening. At 8.15 am the North Shore Operator tells me that the pickup instructions only go out 5 – 10 minutes before the pickup time in pre bookings, it is done electronically.

    At 8.30 am I call again and the Taxi comes around the corner. I ask the driver Sam (159) what time the message came out for my 7.15 am pick up. He said 7 minutes ago, 8.23 am

    Now lets look at some timing here, I pre booked 12 hours earlier and the driver gets the message over 13 hours later? What the fuck is going on here?.

    This is a please explain request before I go public about the incompetence and negative response from North Shore Taxis.

    New Zealanders are far too complacent and you cant fix something if nobody complains.

    As I said above PLEASE EXPLAIN why this happened, why did I bother to pre book when I was fobbed off for over one hour past the pick up time?

    I presumed a booking would take precedence over Friday morning calls. Obviously I was wrong. If you have to be somewhere at a certain time, the North Shore Taxis is not a good Company to call.

    His reply:

    On Friday 7th December you ordered a North Shore taxi for 0715 the dispatch started at 0705 was unable to find a North Shore taxi that was empty at that time. The system continued to attempt to dispatch the job then changed the order to be able to dispatch to any available car on the system at 7:10. The nearest car free at the time was 13.5km away. The system kept trying to dispatch the order. As you may be aware during the time frame you needed the taxi it is an extremely busy time and traffic conditions are horrific. The system found Sam and sent him to you I understand that he told you he got the order 8 minutes before he got here , this would be true as we refresh the order periodically so that the order seems not too old to the drivers. This normally helps with the dispatch of orders in extremely busy times.

    Every attempt is made to send taxis at the due times but the service is still essentially a supply & demand service and if no cars are available at the dispatch time the system will keep trying until a car is sent. We apologise that in your case this took so long to be able to be done.

    Thank You

    Michael James O’Brien

    Compliance Officer

    Auckland Co-operative Taxi Society Ltd.

    DDI 3591570

    Mobile 0272889681


    1 1/2 hours late for a pre booked pickup? Mike O’Bien is a fucking moron

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  27. Left Right and Centre (4,387 comments) says:

    Well you know now what to do next, don’t you Steve (North Shore)?

    You don’t pre-book and you call six cab companies and whoever gets your fare first is the bloody winner.

    Two can play at ‘being an arsehole’ pal. And you’ll get to your destination on time. Good on ya Steve!!

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  28. John Sefton (4 comments) says:

    Here in NSW I find a trip of about 4 or 5km is about $15-$17Au. We have only one co-op to choose from in this city and the system is heavily regulated. I note that the Victorian Govt has been looking at deregulating the taxi industry, so holding Melbourne up as a regulation success story isn’t the brightest thing one might do.

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  29. slijmbal (1,270 comments) says:

    It seems many do not get that de-regulation can actually put the price of something up.

    A plate or regulated license system limits supply and sets prices. The outcome of this is that there are less taxis but the income per taxi is pretty much pre-determined. The limited supply meant taxi drivers probably got paid more in the past but there were lots less of them. The plate system also tends to reward plate owners rather than the drivers though any sensible driver owns the plate himself. My father and brother used to share a taxi in the UK that had the plate system. Once my father paid off the costs of the plate they had a pretty good income based on long hours and a surprising amount of danger but try and get a taxi in that city.

    Once it got de-regulated the barrier to entry drops so much that any man and his dog can become a taxi driver. We have lots of taxis but they get less fares and so the charges actually tend to go up to make an affordable wage for the taxis. So we’re, in effect, paying extra for it being now easier to get a taxi. Furthermore, if you talk the drivers who have been in the business for a while they tell you about the fly-by-night taxi companies where the effective entry costs are sweet FA.

    The Mrs does not drive and so takes taxis all the time. She had a bunch of bad experiences with specific taxi companies. She now has a list of drivers she contacts directly. They look after her and it seems like those in the business who do well build a repeat client list and work for very specific taxi companies and speak english and actually seem to know the streets of Auckland. One even took her to hospital after she had a seizure in the cab and refused to receive payment for it.

    I also often take taxis travelling, to and from airports and the like. Ozzie taxi drivers are pretty, bloody awful in Sydney, less so in Melbourne and quite OK in Perth in my experience. I’ve had plenty of cases where they decide they don’t want the fare and don’t turn up etc in Sydney. I no longer pre-book there – they so often don’t turn up – it’s just easier to find a hotel with a rank. The Sydney drivers, pre-GPS, used to deliberately take the scenic route almost as a matter of course. I just refused to pay the meter fare when they did that. Shouting at them seemed to help. Made me feel better. I normally find the wait for taxis at Ozzie airports to be a lot longer than the wait at NZ ones.

    It does seem that the level of knowledge and ability and the quality of the vehicle for a taxi driver to get a license and join a company is non existent. If we then consider it is a service where it can have women late at night in a potentially vulnerable position it does imply that a taxi driver qualification that actually meant something is appropriate. Properly enforced.

    On pick up costs at the airports – Wellington taxis pay the airport a fortune for the right to be in the best position and pick up fares at the airport. Blame the monopolies that are airports.

    Could be worse though. A taxi in Mozambique can be recognised by some level of green paint that has at some time been on some part of the car. There is no meter and the costs are based on a mixture of quality of car (working seat belts cost extra) and how naive the taxi driver thinks you are. Pre-negotiation is a must and choose a bigger car in case he crashes – more chance of living through it.

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