How Much Would You Pay to Avoid the Most Tedious Drive in Southern California?

The German brand Blacklane has an idea for how to make the 100-mile trip slightly more seamless

September 19, 2023 6:14 am
B&W photo of a car driving on a street
Blacklane has positioned itself as a “global chauffeur service" with an on-call chauffer-hauling option

Getting from LA to Palm Springs should be easy, or at least easier — but for visitors, or Los Angelenos somehow getting by without a car, the 100(ish)-mile trip is deeply annoying. It’s possible to take a train, if you don’t mind an overnight trip with an impressive three transfers. It’s possible to take a bus. It’s possible to Uber, or Lyft, or car share, or bicycle, but few people who’ve done so have done so willingly, or happily. 

For special occasions, opting for a car service like Blacklane could be the move. Based out of Berlin but now operating all over the world, Blacklane has positioned itself as a “global chauffeur service,” and their on-call chauffeur-hailing option is basically a higher-end version of Uber and Lyft. The best part? These drivers never attempt to tell you their life story or whine about the path you’ve chosen for the trip. Instead, in addition to a welcome sense of professional remove, you’ll find additional amenities standard with every ride: complimentary wi-fi in the vehicle, water, tissues, sanitizer and chargers for your Android or iPhone. 

If you’re flying into LA, getting scooped up from the airport by a chauffeur in a private black car can also be clutch, as they stand at baggage claim holding a sign with your name and walk you back to the vehicle, while assisting with luggage as needed. One of my first experiences with Blacklane was an airport transfer, flying up to SFO and then getting into a Blacklane car for a trip to Napa. I didn’t realize the drive would be almost twice as long as the flight, so having the high-end amenities and luxury vehicle was a relief. 

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The car service also comes with a meet and greet even when you’re not at the airport, as in the driver physically gets out of the car and greets you, talks with you and helps load luggage, and then assists you into the car. This is pretty standard stuff with any town car service, but notably not present with most Uber X-level offering these days — it’s a nice touch if you’re trying to impress someone or to make a trip stand out. All Blacklane airport or train station pickups come with one hour of free waiting time, which can be very important for travel delays. (Other rides offer 15 minutes of wait time at no additional charge.) There’s also free cancellation for up to an hour before airport rides, and up to 24 hours before for other rides. 

Blacklane recently added another rail of service: city-to-city routes. A few of those newly launched in California include Los Angeles to Las Vegas, San Diego, Anaheim, Santa Barbara and Palm Springs. Curious about how the intercity journey might compare to the airport transfer, I booked a round-trip car service from my apartment in Los Feliz to the Villa Royale hotel in the desert. Booking the ride is fairly intuitive for anyone who has experience using Uber: There’s an app (and a website portal, if that’s your thing) where you enter your pick-up address, along with detailed instructions if necessary, and your drop-off location, and your payment method. One added bonus for Blacklane: All tip and tax is included in the preset price.

For the trip to Palm Springs, a standard “Business Class” black car and driver (with a Mercedes Benz E class or similar) was $410, and a larger “Business van or SUV” (a Mercedes Benz V Class or similar) was $470. There was one other option for “First Class,” which noted a Mercedes Benz S class or similar, but it was another $30 to $40, and unless you really care about what type of Mercedes you’re in, it didn’t seem relevant. There were no additional amenities here aside from car type. We opted for the larger vehicle and requested an SUV instead of a van, which we got both on the way there and back. Spending close to $1,000 on transportation for two is extravagant, but the SUV technically holds up to five, so the service seems especially relevant for groups. 

In Palm Springs, we made sure to choose a hotel that was within walking distance of a lot of other amenities since we wouldn’t have wheels on the ground. Villa Royale is the epitome of accessible luxury, which is a nice balance if you splurged on the car but still want to stay somewhere nice. With a boutique feel, an awesome on-site restaurant in Del Rey and a whopping three(!) pools on the grounds, there’s little reason to leave at all. With one- and two-bedroom suite options, or plenty of king and queen rooms, it’s an adults-only oasis that has been a mainstay for years for good reason.

I usually drive on trips like this, and I’ve never thought it impacted my stress level much, but I was so much less tired when we arrived at the hotel, and when we got home, that it did make a difference. Like Uber, Blacklane doesn’t own their fleet, but contracts drivers with local car service companies, so there can be slight differences based between trips, but the quality of the service and the smooth and professional feel of the ride was the same both ways. For a special occasion, to save energy, or to get more work done (or shut-eye, or quality time) during the ride, splurging on Blacklane is definitely worth the price.

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