Ambulance vs. Uber

Would you take an Uber to the hospital? Faced with the high cost of an ambulance ride, some Americans, particularly those without insurance, are turning to ride-sharing apps in the event of a medical emergency.

When someone experiences a serious medical issue, like chest pains or breathing troubles, getting to the hospital is imperative. How quickly someone seeks care can literally be a matter of life or death, and the minutes between the emergency and treatment are critical. During a medical emergency, an ambulance is an incredibly effective way to quickly seek treatment, and medical personnel onboard can begin to administer life-saving treatment on the way to the ER, if necessary. But while they have many advantages, an ambulance ride is very expensive.

High Costs for Quick Transport

According to Safety and Emergency Services in Pinellas County, the cost for an ambulance ride with advanced life support costs up to $725.59. For a critical care transport, the cost rises to $1,043.25. Even for a non-emergency ride with basic functions, it still costs $621.00 to take an ambulance to the hospital. Regardless of if the treatment is critical, advanced, or basic, there is also an additional cost of $13.79 per mile. In other cities, an ambulance can cost upwards of $1,000.

If an ambulance ride saves a loved one, this might seem like a small price to pay. But for many people, especially if they don’t have insurance to help cover the costs, these prices are unbearable. This is why many people put off calling 911 during a medical emergency, or try to find an alternate. In recent years, people have turned to ride-sharing apps like Uber and Lyft.

According to a report by NPR, the practice of choosing Uber over an ambulance is more popular than you might think. In a study of ambulance rates in 776 cities across the United States, the ambulance usage rate dropped by around 7% in cities with Uber, Lyft, or other ride-sharing services. The study suggests that if a cheaper option is available, more people are likely to use it. This is similar to how many patients choose to visit an urgent clinic for treatment, rather than rushing to the ER.

The Pros and Cons of Uber

Taking an Uber instead of an ambulance has its benefits. It’s cheaper, of course, and gives people more freedom in choosing the hospital they are taken too. It also frees up necessary space in ambulances. For example, if someone with minor abdominal pain takes an Uber, it frees up ambulance space for someone who needs more rapid attention. It gives injured or ill people another option when they are unable to drive themselves, but do not necessarily need an ambulance.

However, taking an Uber to the hospital can lead to some complications. For one, a driver could refuse to take a patient to the hospital. A driver might refuse a patient if they are bleeding or vomiting, out of fear of damaging their car. Or they simply might not want the responsibility of transporting a sick or injured person. Additionally, Uber drivers have to obey all traffic laws, unlike ambulances, who can speed or go through lights when necessary. In an Uber, it is likely going to take longer to get to the hospital, which is dangerous during an emergency.

When to Take an Ambulance

During a medical emergency, an ambulance to the ER is always going to be the best choice. This is particularly true for people who are experiencing:

  • Severe chest pain
  • Severe abdominal pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Paralysis
  • Internal bleeding
  • High fevers
  • Vaginal bleeding during pregnancy
  • Repeated vomiting
  • Poisoning
  • Severe head injuries
  • Allergic reactions
  • Unconsciousness

For a minor ailment or injury, a ride-share vehicle remains an option for anyone looking to avoid high costs. But they should be aware that the driver could refuse to take them, and that it will take longer to receive treatment.

During a true medical emergency, taking an ambulance can be costly . . . but when it saves a life, it can be worth it.


The attorneys at Perenich, Caulfield, Avril & Noyes represent those involved in car accidents, motorcycle accidents, bicycle accidents, pedestrian accidents, and other types of personal injury matters. Our firm is one of the oldest personal injury law firms in Tampa Bay. There are no attorneys’ fees or costs unless we prevail for you. Call our office 24 hours a day at 727-796-8282 or simply click here to schedule a free case consultation.

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