Taxi! 5 Free Apps for Hailing a Legit Cab

Stop waving your hand at every passing cab. Hail them with your phone instead.

The ride-sharing movement is bustling in some cities, yet still emerging in others, which is why good old yellow cabs are still the most trusted way to find a ride home at the end of a night out. Sure, Lyft's pink mustaches are a welcome sight, and taking a fancy Uber black car has its perks, but having a regular taxi app on hand is a smart move--especially since hailing a cab on New Year's Eve can be nearly impossible without planning ahead. Here are five reputable taxi apps for worry-free transportation.

Taxi Magic

Although you can find tons of apps specific to different cities, Taxi Magic (free for iOS and Android) is the most widespread--it's compatible with more than 60 major U.S. cities and their surrounding areas. Taxi Magic maintains partnerships with several major taxi fleets, and the app will locate available taxis nearby via your phone's location services.

Tab on a cab in the app's map to see which fleet it belongs to and what the driver's name is, and tap "Come get me!" to order cab service. From there, the taxi-dispatch center is notified, and a driver is sent to pick you up. You can track the arrival of your taxi, send a message to your driver with further instructions, and even save a credit card to your account to pay for your ride all through Taxi Magic. Taxi Magic charges standard cab rates, plus a convenience fee of between $1.50 and $2.

NexTaxi

NexTaxi (free for iOS and Android) serves almost as many markets as Taxi Magic: 50 cities and surrounding areas across the U.S. and Canada. And like Taxi Magic, you can order a cab through the app via a local taxi dispatch, watch the cab's route as it makes its way to your location, and then pay with a credit card through the app itself.

But what makes NexTaxi stand out is its personal profiles. You can mark frequent trips--like from your office to the grocery store, or from your usual watering hole back to your house, for example--as favorites for easy cab ordering. Or, if you don't have the exact destination address, you can search for popular landmarks and your saved contacts straight through NexTaxi. Did you leave your favorite scarf in the back of the cab? Just ping your driver through the Trip tab to recall the cab and reclaim your stuff. NexTaxi has no convenience fee: You'll be charged the cab's standard, metered rate.

Flywheel

Flywheel (free for iOS and Android) is new to the taxi app block, partnered only with cab companies in San Francisco, Los Angeles, and Seattle. But instead of working through cab dispatch centers, Flywheel communicates directly with insured, professional drivers who have signed up to work with Flywheel. They are still part of a larger cab fleet, but drivers use their own Flywheel app to track and accept incoming ride requests.

As a customer, just launch the app, plug in your trip information, and request a cab. You'll see all of the nearby Flywheel cabs on a map, and you can tap on one to request that specific cab. The driver receives a ping, accepts your ride request, and comes to get you. Like Taxi Magic and NexTaxi, you can view the cab's route in real time to track your ride's arrival. A cab ride on Flywheel costs the normal metered fare, plus a $1 service fee.

Mytaxi

Planning a trip abroad? Mytaxi (free for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone 8) could be a useful resource if you're gallivanting around Europe: It serves the Washington D.C. area as well as 40 international cities.

Launch the app to hail a cab and enter any special requests, like a wheelchair accessible cab, or a larger cab to accommodate luggage.A

Like the others, you can watch your cab approach your location via GPS in the app's map--which seems to be a standard feature of taxi apps these days. If you really like a specific driver, or if a certain cab type suits your needs best, you can mark that information as a favorite. Mytaxi charges the standard metered fare.

Hailo

Though Hailo (free for iOS and Android) isn't as widespread as some of the other taxi apps, it holds its own thanks to its detailed driver profiles, complete with a photo. Serving 16 cities across the U.S., Canada, Japan, and Europe, Hailo finds available cabs nearby and gives you estimates on pickup time and fare. Once you've requested a cab, you'll be able to track its route in real time, pay with your credit card through the app, and get an email receipt. Hailo charges standard metered rates, plus a convenience fee of $1 to $2 depending on peak or off-peak hours.

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