Rental Car vs Uber In Oahu, Hawaii – Which Better & Cheaper?

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Oahu is an incredibly small island at just under 600 square miles. This leaves many first-time visitors to Oahu (at one point ourselves included) wondering whether a rental car is a worthwhile hassle and expense, or whether rideshare services such as Uber & Lyft is a better and cheaper alternative.

While the initial expense of renting a car in Oahu 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.

That being said the flexibility that comes with rental cars makes them the best option for those looking to spend multiple days exploring the island of Oahu. However, if you’re only looking to travel from the airport to your resort, then Uber is likely going to be the better option.

During our most recent visit to Oahu, we used a combination of both rideshare services and a rental car for the best of both worlds. We took an Uber from the airport to our hotel in Waikiki, and then an Uber to the nearby Walmart and back to stock up on supplies.

However, after spending some time settling in and exploring Waikiki for a couple of days, we went ahead and hired a car for four days so we could have the flexibility to explore the wider island at our own pace.

How Much Does A Rental Car Cost In Oahu?

The cost of a Hawaii vacation has increased dramatically in recent years, and car hire on the island of Oahu is no different. An economy car (basic 3 / 5 door) is currently around $80 per day with Hertz. However, this price can vary significantly depending on the;

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

For that reason, during our most recent trip to Oahu, we opted to use Turo, a peer-to-peer car rental platform. Think of it as Airbnb, but for cars.

Renting the car cost $41 per day ($164 in total). However, the additional taxes and the highest insurance available on the platform (Premier Protection) brought the total out to $337.47. The equivalent of $84.36 a day.

Sadly, the costs of renting a car didn’t end there as we still had to cover;

  • Parking
  • Gas
  • Cleaning

Thankfully, our condo rental included parking. Otherwise, for those staying in Waikiki, you’re looking at between $35 and $55 per day depending on the hotel.

Roadside parking is available in Waikiki (which in select locations is free). However, it’s rare to find an available space in the heart of the neighbourhood and instead, you may find yourself walking miles from your car back to your hotel or condo.

Being a remote island, the price of gas in Oahu is also higher than you’ll find in most mainland US cities. Thankfully, we managed to explore the whole island over multiple days on just one tank which cost $40.41 to refill.

Finally, since we spent a lot of time at the beach during our trip, we needed to clean the car up before returning it.

In this case, we spent $4 and 20 minutes using the vacuum at the Texaco gas station on Kapahulu Ave (just opposite the Ala Wai golf course) before returning the car.

This was a popular spot, as such if you do plan to return a rental car before lunch then I’d recommend allowing some time for queueing as well as cleaning.

As a result, we spent a total of $381.88 renting a car for four days while in Oahu ($95.47 per day).

However, do keep in mind that this was driving one of the cheapest cars we could find and paying nothing for parking since the cost was included with our vacation rental.

Without these two key cost-saving methods, I estimate the total cost of our rental car could have easily been closer to $180 per day instead.

How Much Does An Uber Cost In Oahu?

Rideshare services Uber and Lyft operate in Oahu. Both of these 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

One real-life example of this is our journey to and from our accommodation in Waikiki to Daniel K. Inouye International Airport.

While the drop-off and pick-up locations and subsequently the distance between the two locations were the same. The day, the time of day and the service used meant that the amount we paid was different.

Make sure you get to Daniel K. Inouye International Airport with plenty of time by scheduling your rideshare in advance. That way you won’t have to wait around for a driver.

With Lyft, going from Daniel K. Inouye International Airport to Waikiki Banyan we paid $29.90 before tip, while with Uber going from our hotel, the Waikiki Banyan to the Daniel K. Inouye International Airport we paid $24.51 before tip.

Note that with Lyft we had a $5.00 credit which reduced the overall price we paid.

While with Uber we paid for an Uber One subscription ($9.99) throughout our trip (which spanned both Los Angeles and Hawaii over a period of three weeks) which reduced the overall price we paid on this journey by $1.22.

Get $15 off your first Lyft ride by using code: CORA86601

However, having never driven in the United States previously (we’re from the UK and subsequently drive on the left-hand side of the road in manual cars – with a stick shift) the cost wasn’t what put us off choosing Ubers and Lyfts for getting around.

Instead, the major factor in opting for a (scary) rental car over rideshare services when exploring Oahu was the limited car availability outside of Honolulu and the lack of flexibility.

Notice how in the screenshot below, we’re looking to travel from Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore down to Waikiki and the results state ‘limited availability’.

However, on the same platform at the same time if we were to look to travel from Waikiki to Turtle Bay Resort on the North Shore the availability is significantly higher and subsequently, the cost of the journey is roughly 50% cheaper.

This is because the majority of rideshare drivers for both Uber and Lyft chose to stay in Honolulu due to a high portion of tourists and subsequently a higher number of rides.

With additional limited public transport, the likelihood of us potentially being stuck on the North Shore and unable to travel between locations or back down to our hotel in Waikiki made hiring a car the obvious choice.

How & When To Choose A Rental Car Or Uber?

Subsequently, given everything we experienced, we believe that Uber is the best choice for those looking to travel around the Honolulu area. The availability of cars is high 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.

However, if you’re looking to travel outside of the Honolulu area, up to the North Shore and around the rest of Oahu (which we would highly encourage) then a rental car is going to be the better and cheaper option.

That being said, had my wife Helen and I been travelling as a couple then we would have probably opted for a tour around the North Shore instead of a rental car. While a tour of the North Shore only covers the major sights of the island and is on a fixed schedule, it would have been cheaper overall and removed the fear of driving abroad for the first time.

However, since we were travelling with our one-year-old little boy, it made more sense for us to bring along our travel car seat, pay the extra for the rental car and drive around the island at our own pace instead.


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