Best carpool and ride-share sites

Photo by Carlos Goulao

Photo by Carlos Goulao

You’re headed to see Grandma in Buffalo and you don’t feel like ponying up for jetBlue, Amtrak or even Greyhound (tsk tsk). How about virtual hitch-hiking? More people are ride-sharing these days with the help of sites designed to connect travelers—both long-distance road-trippers and daily commuters—with willing drivers.

Ridester is your best bet for one-time journeys and adventures. It’s simple: In exchange for a gas fee determined by the driver, you get to hitch a ride.  Once you join on the site, you can search for your destination, see a list of drivers going there and view the basics like gender, age range and vehicle type. You can even avoid any unpleasant surprises by checking out “vehicle cleanliness” and “music preference” (you may save yourself from two hours of Yanni). Once you’ve found your match, call or email your companion and arrange the details. In case your driver backs out, Ridester guarantees a full refund of your arranged fee.

eRideshare is a place to post yourself as a driver or seek out other drivers. They get props for their international posts and their large database, but the service ends there. Profiles aren’t detailed, so it’s up to you to take initiative and pursue any matching routes. The site is divided into four sections: daily carpools, cross-country travel, errands/appointments and schools/events/religious. As with Ridester, registration is free.

More geared towards daily commuters, CommuterLink is a non-profit organization sponsored by the New York State Department of Transportation. With an established site that’s easy to navigate, CommuterLink is for carpools, vanpools (where you and a bunch of other riders hire a van and driver) and even for finding cycling partners. You enter your location and available days and you get back a list of suitable mates from the database.  A major perk of their system is the “Guaranteed Ride Home” policy: In case a pooler ditches you, CommuterLink will reimburse your cab fare or train ticket.

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