Rental Car vs Uber In Miami – Which Is Better & Cheaper?

The city of Miami offers a diverse range of neighbourhoods and attractions for visitors to explore. This leaves many, at one point ourselves included, wondering whether hiring a car is a worthwhile expense.

While the initial expense of renting a car in Miami has increased dramatically in recent years, it’s not the only cost you’ll need to consider. Additional expenses such as parking and gas also contribute to significantly high total rental costs.

While renting a car in Miami offers flexibility, we found that the total cost would be significantly higher when compared to using a rideshare service such as Uber and Lyft.

Instead, based on our personal experience, we’d only recommend a rental car to those who plan to explore outside of Miami or those with a large family who would need a larger vehicle such as an Uber XL.

For example, we didn’t hire a car while in Miami and instead used Uber and Lyft. However, we did choose to get a rental car after our cruise to drive one-way from Miami up to Orlando as it was the cheapest and easiest way of travelling between the two locations.

How Much Does A Rental Car Cost In Miami?

The cost of renting a car in Miami has increased significantly in recent years. An economy car (basic 3 / 5 door) is currently around $50 per day with a reputable company such as Hertz. However, this price can vary significantly depending on the;

  • The duration of hire
  • Insurance required
  • Drivers age
  • Pick-up location
  • Time of year

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However, the cost of the rental itself isn’t the only expense you’ll need to think about. Instead, you’ll also want to consider;

  • Parking at accommodation
  • Parking at attractions
  • Tolls
  • Gas
  • Cleaning

In highly populated areas such as South Beach, Brickell and Downtown you’ll find that parking is a rare commodity and therefore priced as high as $35 or even $40 per day for self-parking.

If you plan to explore a lot of Miami and the surrounding areas during your trip, then the high cost vs. the flexibility may be a worthwhile trade-off.

However, for us personally, the high costs combined with the hassle of finding a parking spot close to popular tourist attractions such as Little Havana and Wynwood Walls resulted in us opting to use rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft instead of renting a car during our three-night trip to Miami – and this is not a decision we regret.

However, we did choose to hire a car to drive from Miami to Orlando after our cruise. This resulted in us getting an Uber from the cruise port, picking up the car from the car rental centre at Miami International Airport (MIA) and then driving the 3.5 hours north, dropping off our bags at the hotel and then returning the car to Orlando International Airport (MCO) later that evening before getting an Uber back to our hotel.

While this was a hassle, it was still, in our opinion easier than flying (with a toddler) and cheaper too (given that we had two checked bags).

If you plan to spend most of your time in Miami relaxing at the hotel pool or on the beach. Then it’s likely going to work out cheaper for you to use rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft. However, if you have a large family, or young kids or plan to do a lot of exploring in the regions around Miami then hiring a car may be a worthwhile investment.

If you think that hiring a car is going to be right for you, then I’d highly suggest researching your accommodation options thoroughly and looking for somewhere that offers either complimentary parking or parking at a reduced cost.

When it comes to how much to budget for a rental car in Miami, I’d average around $90 per day all in. Of course, if you’re going for a Minivan, an SUV or a sports car then expect that price to be higher. Meanwhile, if you’re able to stay in a place with complimentary parking then expect that price to be slightly lower.

Given that the Car Rental Center at Maimi International Airport is separate from the airport terminals. I’d recommend arriving at Miami Airport at least 3.5 hours before domestic flights and 4.5 hours before international flights to give yourself plenty of time to drop the car off and take the MIA Mover over to the terminal.

How Much Does An Uber Cost In Miami?

Rideshare services Uber and Lyft operate in Miami and cars are readily available on both platforms in abundance. Both of these companies operate on a dynamic pricing model which means that the price of a journey will vary depending on the demand on the platform, and the traffic in real-time.

However, the traffic and demand for rideshare services isn’t the only thing that will see the estimated cost of your journey fluctuate. Some other costs to consider are;

  • Size of the vehicle required
  • Type of vehicle required
  • Distance & duration of the journey
  • Tolls & fees
  • Tip

As a result, you’ll often find a disparity in the price between Uber and Lyft for the same journey at the same time. For this reason, I highly suggest having both apps downloaded and set up on your phone so you can switch between the two to compare pricing.

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When it comes to the average cost of popular journeys, here’s roughly how much you’ll be looking to pay based on a vehicle that seats four people.

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During our three-night trip to Miami, we spent $123.17 on a total of 10 Uber and Lyft journeys including tips at an average of 18% with the most expensive journey being from Miami International Airport (MIA) to our hotel, Loews Miami Beach in South Beach which was a total of $27.52.

This means that on average we spent $41 per day on rideshare services. Which is less than half of what the average car hire would have been for the same duration.

If you don’t want to hire a car while in Miami then I recommend giving extra consideration as to where you’ll stay while in the city. This will help you to avoid spending a lot of time waiting and sitting in rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft travelling between different places.

Giving extra thought to your location should also help from having to use your Miami spending money on rideshare services since you’ll be able to walk to places.

How & When To Choose A Rental Car Or Uber?

Subsequently, given everything we’ve both researched and experienced during our trip to Miami, we believe that rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft will work out cheaper overall for most tourists.

The availability of cars on these rideshare platforms is high and therefore you likely won’t be waiting long, and there’s no need to think about those extra expenses (or hassles) such as parking that you’d experience with a rental car.

Once you’re in a neighbourhood, such as South Beach, Downtown or Little Havana for example the area is relatively walkable and therefore the only time you’re going to need transport is to get between these locations and others such as the airport and cruise terminals.

Selected hotels offer shuttle buses to the Port of Miami which is ideal for those spending either a night or a couple of nights in Miami before a cruise.

However, if you’re looking to explore outside of Miami then it’s likely renting a car may work out cheaper and provide you with more flexibility. In that case, if you’re looking to save money we’d recommend booking accommodation that offers either complimentary parking or reduced rate parking.

Keep in mind that carpooling services such as Uber and Lyft do not offer car seats for babies and toddlers, while car hire companies often charge extra. As such I recommend bringing a car seat of your own. Personally, we’ve found the best travel car seat to be the Maxi-Cosi Nomad since it’s compact and comes with its own travel bag.

However, the Maxi-Cosi Nomad is only suitable for children around 12 months or older (the exact age will depend on the weight and height of the child. For babies under 12 months, we’d recommend the Doona which is a pushchair that converts into a car seat.

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