When planning your Orlando vacation, one of the first things you’ll want to decide on is how you’re going to get around. The most popular options are; driving your own vehicle (if you came to Orlando as part of a road trip), renting a car, or using a ride-sharing service such as Uber or Lyft.
If you’re an international traveller or travelling across multiple state lines to visit Florida then driving your own vehicle isn’t likely to be feasible, which means you’ll either need to decide between getting a rental car or relying on ride-sharing services.
A rental car is a great choice if you’re looking to explore beaches and theme parks outside of Orlando. However, Uber or Lyft may be more economical if you’re staying within Orlando and just heading to the theme parks, shopping malls and grocery stores in the city.
For the past ten years, we’ve always used a combination of ride-sharing services and hotels with complimentary transport to the nearby theme parks when visiting Orlando. However, now that we travel with a baby / toddler, the convenience of a hire car is greater, despite the fact that it’s significantly more expensive.
The cost of renting a car in Orlando as well as the associated expenses such as parking, gas and tolls has increased dramatically over the past three to five years. As such, if you did hire a car on previous trips to Orlando, I encourage you not to base your decision on that and instead to re-do the math based on the current cost, as the results may very well surprise you.
How Much Does A Rental Car Cost In Orlando?
A rental car in Orlando typically costs between $30 and $225 per day (with an average of $50 per day) depending on a variety of factors including;
- Hire car company
- Type of car
- Duration of rental
- Age of primary driver
- Pick up & drop off location
- Pick up & drop off date
Given the broad price range, it’s very important to compare different car hire companies and the cars they have available.
However, doing this manually is time-consuming and very difficult given the broad range of options you can choose from. Thankfully the price comparison website Discover Cars makes this process a lot easier.
Best Place To Rent A Car In Orlando
Discover Cars compares car rental deals from more than 500 partners so that you can choose which is best for your trip.
Sadly, however, the cost of the rental car itself is just one factor you’ll need to consider as you’ll still need to pay for;
The cost of tolls can be reduced significantly with the Florida Visitor Toll Pass. However, the cost of parking is slightly more complex and significantly more expensive.
High parking charges primarily occur in two locations; theme parks and hotels. The cost of self-parking at Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World is $25 per day for example. As such if you spend two days at Universal Studios and five days at Walt Disney World then you’ll spend $175 on parking.
However, these aren’t the only parking costs you may have to think about since many hotels and resorts in Orlando also charge a parking fee per night which typically ranges between $10 and $30 for self-parking depending on the hotel.
Parking at Airbnbs and Vrbos in Florida is often free which combined with added facilities such as a kitchen, laundry room as well as bedroom(s) and living space makes for an argument as to whether a vacation rental is better than a hotel when travelling to Orlando.
During our most recent trip to Orlando (July 2023) we hired a car for 7 nights and it cost us a total of $655.01 which is broken down as follows;
- Car Hire: $421.40
- 5 Days Theme Park Parking: $125
- Hotel Parking: $70
- Gas: $23.31
- Tolls: $15.30
This made the total average cost of hiring a car while in Orlando $93.57 per night. Of course, this could have been reduced by staying in an Orlando hotel with free parking or getting a smaller more low-spec car.
However, it could also have been significantly higher, if I’d visited the theme parks more, opted for valet parking, or not refilled the hire car with gas myself prior to drop off.
How Much Does An Uber / Lyft Cost In Orlando?
Ride-sharing services such as Uber and Lyft work on a dynamic pricing model. Subsequently, the cost of a journey will vary depending on demand, despite the journey being exactly the same in distance / duration.
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
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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Of course, these prices are one-way and do not include tips. Therefore, as an example, a return journey from Orlando International Airport (MCO) to Walt Disney World will be in the region of $100, while a return trip from Kissimmee to Walt Disney World will be around $50.
If you don’t want to hire a car while in Orlando, then hopefully this table illustrates the importance of giving extra consideration as to where you stay while on vacation as this will stop you from spending time and money waiting and sitting in rideshare services travelling between different places.
For example, if you’re planning on spending the majority of your vacation at the Universal Orlando theme park then it’s worth staying in one of the several hotels on International Drive or even in an on-site hotel.
Meanwhile, if you’re going to spend $30 a day travelling to / from Universal Orlando but the cost of staying on-site is only $40 extra, then the $10 difference makes the convenience and other extra benefits of staying on-site well worth it.
How & When To Choose A Rental Car or Uber In Orlando
There are a variety of circumstances that you’ll want to consider when deciding whether it is better to Uber or rent a car in Orlando.
I’ve done my best to put together some of the most common circumstances as well as some of the circumstances we’ve faced when making this decision. However, if you’re still unsure then feel free to leave a comment.
If You’re A Large Family / Group (5+ People)
If you’re travelling to Orlando as a group of five or more people then you’re going to need an UberXL or a LyftXL when ordering a rideshare. These cars accommodate up to six people with the journey costing $10 more on average when compared to the standard vehicle.
Subsequently, the cost of a return journey from Orlando International Airport (MCO) to Universal Orlando will be in the region of $130 rather than the average of $100, while the return cost of travelling from Kissimmee to Walt Disney World will be in the region of $75 rather than the estimated $50.
However, if you’re a family or group of five then you can all fit in a standard hire car – provided you don’t have a lot of luggage. In that case, the difference in price between car hire in Orlando and ride-share services is going to be significantly smaller.
If you’re a family or group of six then you’ll still fit in an UberXL or LyftXL. However, when it comes to car hire you’ll need a minivan which will cost extra and in that case, rideshare services are often cheaper.
Meanwhile, if you’re a family or group of seven or more then you’ll need two or more rideshare vehicles and in that case, I’d recommend hiring a minivan as not only would two rideshare vehicles be more expensive, but it would also be a logistical nightmare.
If You’re Staying On-Site At Either Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando
If you are staying on-site at Universal Orlando or Walt Disney World during your vacation then you’ll more than likely be spending the majority of your vacation at that resort’s theme parks.
One of the many benefits of staying on-site is that you’re provided with complimentary transportation to the resort’s theme parks.
So by staying in a Walt Disney World hotel, you’ll be able to get complimentary transport to Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Animal Kingdom and Hollywood Studios as well as Disney Springs, Typhoon Lagoon and Blizzard Beach.
Meanwhile, by staying in a Universal Orlando hotel you’ll be able to get complimentary transport to CityWalk from where you can travel to Universal Studios Florida and Islands of Adventure as well as Volcano Bay.
Aside from the on-site hotels, there are several hotels within walking distance of Universal Orlando and multiple hotels with a free shuttle to Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World which can help to reduce the need for a hire car even further.
When staying on-site at Walt Disney World or Universal Orlando it’s highly unlikely that you’ll regularly (more than once a day) be taking transport off-site to other theme parks, grocery stores or shopping malls.
Subsequently, the car will end up parked outside your hotel for the majority of your vacation and you’ll be charged at least $18 plus tax per night for the pleasure.
In my experience, it’s therefore, more economical and convenient to book rideshare services from these hotels as and when you need one. This includes if and when you need to travel from Walt Disney World to Universal Orlando.
If You Need A Child’s Car Seat
Ride-sharing company Uber operates a programme in Orlando that allows you to book a vehicle with a car seat. However, these car seats are only suitable for children over the age of two and typically cost an additional $15 per journey.
While this doesn’t stop children under the age of two from going in an Uber, it does mean that you’ll need to bring your own car seat with you to comply with Florida laws.
Speaking from experience, this can be a logistical nightmare – especially at theme parks since most car seats suitable for babies are often too big to store in any of the lockers.
Travelling to Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando with a baby is possible and doesn’t have to be overwhelming. However, I would recommend a little extra planning and preparation.
As such if you’re travelling with a baby we’d recommend hiring a car in Orlando as this will allow you to leave the car seat in the vehicle and transfer the baby into a stroller or baby carrier.
If You Plan To Take Day Trips To The Coast
If you plan to take day a trip from Orlando to the coast, to other cities or to attractions such as Kennedy Space Center, Legoland and Busch Gardens then a hire car is going to be the more economical choice and provide you with a lot of flexibility.
The cost of travelling to one of the beaches near Orlando is roughly $180 in a standard rideshare vehicle or $250 in XL which is at least double the cost of the $93.57 we paid on average per night for hiring a car during our most recent trip to Orlando (July 2023).
Of course, you don’t have to hire a car for the entire duration of your vacation. During our most recent visit to Orlando (July 2023) we only hired a car for one of the two weeks, as we spent the first week on-site at the Universal Orlando Resort.
You can collect a hire car from one of several resorts in the Orlando area. However, while this is convenient you’ll find the best availability if you agree to pick up and drop off at one of the nearby airports – Orlando International (MCO) in particular since it’s the largest.
If you plan to return your rental car at the airport then be sure to arrive at Orlando Airport with additional time for any paperwork and to walk from the rental car garage across to the terminal.
More availability also typically means cheaper prices. Therefore in my case, it was significantly cheaper (over $200) to get an Uber from our hotel at Universal Orlando to Orlando International to collect the car than it was to simply pick up a car from our hotel at Universal Orlando.
If you don’t want a hire car but would still like to visit one of the nearby beaches then I recommend booking this day trip to Clearwater which comes with transfers and optional extras.
If Theme Parks Don’t Make Up A Large Portion Of Your Orlando Vacation
If theme parks don’t make up a large portion of your Orlando vacation then the overall cost of hiring a car is going to be significantly cheaper since parking at these theme parks is so expensive.
For example, we spent $655.01 in total on our hire car for 7 nights while in Orlando (July 2023). However, if you remove the $125 spent on 5 days parking at Walt Disney World and Universal Orlando then that total would have been $530.01.
Of course, this is still likely to be a large portion of your Orlando spending money. However, it’s unlikely you’re not going to spend anything on any form of transport while in Orlando.
Therefore, in this case, you’ll really need to understand what you’re planning to do while in Orlando, and then decide whether the flexibility and convenience of a hire car is right for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
Have you still got questions about whether you should use Uber or Lyft or even hire a car in Orlando? Here are some of the most frequently asked questions visitors have.
Why Is Car Hire So Expensive In Orlando?
Car hire has always been more expensive in Orlando when compared to other cities in the United States. This is because Orlando is a major tourist destination where unlike cities such as New York City and Chicago public transport is incredibly limited.
Therefore demand for hire cars is significantly higher, which leads to hire car companies being able to charge higher prices.
How To Get Around In Orlando Without A Hire Car
Public transport in Orlando especially in the more tourist areas is incredibly limited. This leads to car journeys that would take 40 minutes taking 1 hour and 40 minutes on a bus.
As a result, the best way to get around Orlando without a hire car is by using rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft.
What Car Rentals Are In Orlando Airport?
On the ground floor of Orlando International Airport (MCO), you’ll find several major car hire companies including;
There are also several car rental agencies that advertise as having pick-up from Orlando Airport. However, instead, they provide a complimentary shuttle service to their rental office at a nearby location.
If your car hire company is located on-site at Orlando International Airport then you’ll be able to get the details for your vehicle at the rental desk on the ground floor and then collect the vehicle from the parking garage which is clearly signposted.
What’s The Best Car Rental In Orlando Airport?
The best car rental company in Orlando Airport is Enterprise. I’ve tried Budget, and I’ve tried FOX and in both cases, I’ve been extremely disappointed. However, with Enterprise I’ve never had a problem.
When searching on Discover Cars you’ll likely find that Enterprise is more expensive when compared to some of the other car hire companies. However, the wait time at pick-up, the customer service and the quality of their cars are far superior.
Best Place To Rent A Car In Orlando
Discover Cars compares car rental deals from more than 500 partners so that you can choose which is best for your trip.
With FOX, I was aggressively upsold to the point where I had to contact Discover Cars (who I booked the car with) and had to ask to change companies as they refused to allow me to pick the vehicle up without spending an additional $250 on insurance that I had already paid for with Discover Cars.
Meanwhile, with Budget I was given a car that had heavily worn brake discs that needed replacing and an engine light that kept going on and off. In that case, I had to return the car back to the airport and change vehicles. Then when dropping off my car I was told everything was fine only to be hit with a $110 bill.
Budget said I’d not filled the vehicle up with gas to the correct levels, however, I’d kept the receipt, filled up at the 7/11 just outside of the airport (2 miles away) and taken a photo of the dashboard with a timestamp before leaving the vehicle.
I’ve hired cars in both Miami and Hawaii without issues. However, in Orlando, as you can see I’ve had several rather big issues. While Discover Cars does give reviews for each car rental company they are for the company overall and not in a specific location.
In the case of Orlando, I think the demand for cars is so high that some companies aren’t servicing them correctly. When I was in the queue to return my car to Budget one couple came back because the vehicle’s tag was out of date and just a piece of paper, while a group of friends behind me had similar issues with their car not being roadworthy.
This combined with what I can only assume to be incentives for upselling requires you to be alert and aware when picking up your vehicle. For example, FOX aggressively tried to upsell me a toll pass in addition to two very expensive insurance packages.
I didn’t think it helped to have an English accent, however, many US residents were bullied into purchasing this toll pass at $12.99 per day (or $194.95 per rental).
Luckily, I knew about the Florida Visitor Toll Pass. However, they still tried to convince me that it wouldn’t work and that if I hit 6 tolls in one day I’d be spending $90 plus the cost of the tolls. I actually ended up spending $8 over the course of 5 days on that visit. Less than the cost of a 1 day toll pass with FOX.
Orlando Travel Planning Guide
🏥 Should I Buy Travel Insurance for a Trip to Orlando?
If you’re travelling to Orlando for vacation, then travel insurance is recommended. Basic travel insurance coverage with Safety Wing averages between $5 – $10 per day and offers peace of mind.
However, if a trip to Orlando isn’t part of a vacation. For example, you live locally. Then travel insurance isn’t likely to be necessary.
🚘 Do I Need to Rent a Car for a Trip to Orlando?
You don’t need to rent a car for a trip to Orlando (you can use rideshare services instead). However, a hire car will make your trip to Orlando significantly more convenient.
🏨 Where to Stay in Orlando?
Deciding where to stay in Orlando can be incredibly overwhelming. Having visited Orlando several times over the past decade, I’m going to try and make it as simple as possible.
- If you’re going to both Universal Orlando and Walt Disney World and don’t want to hire a car, then stay in an Orlando hotel with a shuttle to the theme parks.
- If you are travelling with kids and plan to do pool days, then book one of the many Orlando hotels with waterslides.
- If you are going to Walt Disney World on a budget, then stay in a hotel with both a free breakfast and theme park shuttle.
- If you are only visiting Universal Orlando, then spend a little extra for the perks of staying in a hotel onsite.
🎟️ Where To Buy Orlando Theme Park Tickets?
If you are visiting a theme park in Orlando, then you’ll need to purchase theme park tickets. If you’re based in the US or Canada, I recommend Klook for your Orlando theme park tickets.
Klook consistently has the most competitive prices. There’s also a range of different ticket options to suit all budgets and requirements.
Meanwhile, if you’re based in the United Kingdom. Then I recommend buying your Orlando theme park tickets from AttractionTix.
I personally use AttractionTix when purchasing theme park tickets. That’s because AttractionTix has the most competitive prices and incredible customer service.