The Complete Guide to Hiring a Car in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
For complete freedom to explore the Ara Tapu and Ara Metua roads of Rarotonga or perhaps the flattened coral roads of the outer islands, you’ll need to hire a car or scooter. Explore at your own pace and stop by glorious beaches, intriguing historical sites, quaint cafes and much more on a road trip around the Cook Islands. But what do you need to hire a car in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands? Find out in this complete guide to car hire in the Cook Islands, including where to hire, the cost, road rules and other essential tips!
What Do You Need to Hire a Car in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands?
To hire from most car rental companies in the Cook Islands, you need to have a full valid driving license (not a provisional license) that is written in English. If it is not written in English, then it needs to be accompanied by an International Driving Permit or another official translation – see Can You Drive in the Cook Islands With an Overseas License? for more details.
How Old Do You Need to Be to Hire a Car in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands?
Drivers must meet the minimum age requirements of the car rental company, typically no younger than 21 years old, but some rentals companies allow 18-year-old drivers.
If hiring a scooter, you also need to make sure that you have a visitor’s scooter license if your overseas license doesn’t cover driving a motorcycle. See the 10 Tips for Riding a Scooter in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands for more advice on hiring scooters.
Where Can You Hire a Car in the Cook Islands?
Out of the Cook Islands’ 15 islands, there are only car rental companies on Rarotonga, Aitutaki and Atiu. On the outer islands, such as Mangaia, Mauke and Mitiaro, accommodations can usually arrange a rental car for you.
Car Hire on Rarotonga
There are around 9 different vehicle rental companies on Rarotonga, while a couple of accommodations also have their own rental cars. Aside from those accommodations renting out vehicles, car rentals on Rarotonga have a formal process of a full car inspection and requesting a bond or a pre-authorisation lock of funds on your credit card, for example.
Car rental companies on Rarotonga also have various price structures, usually reducing daily rates the longer you hire, as well as having options to pay to reduce the excess on your already included insurance. There’s a fee for picking up vehicles at the airport, baby seats (if available), and additional drivers but not for dropping off vehicles at accommodations (where available).
In terms of driving on Rarotonga, most roads that visitors are using are sealed, easy to drive on, and quick to get around – see typical distances in Rarotonga Travel Times & Distances: How Long to Travel Rarotonga? Note, however, that some insurance terms and conditions are breached if you use gravel roads, such as the road to the Papua Waterfall.
For a full comparison of all of the car rental companies on Rarotonga, head to the 8 Best Car Rentals in Rarotonga: The Top Car Rental Companies. You can also check out scooters at Scooter Hire on Rarotonga: Where to Rent, Cost & More.
Car Hire on Aitutaki
There are around four car hire companies on Aitutaki and a couple of accommodations offering scooter hire. Car rentals are much more laidback on Aitutaki, with standard daily rates, free airport or accommodation delivery, and hardly any additions, such as insurance excess reducers, baby seats, etc. You are, however, required to leave a bond or have a credit card pre-authorisation, in case you damage the vehicle.
Most roads on Aitutaki are sealed, but there are no penalties for driving the few gravel roads that there are. Check out how long it takes to drive around in Aitutaki Travel Times & Distances: How Long to Travel Aitutaki?
For a full comparison of all of the car rental companies on Aitutaki, see The Best Car Rentals in Aitutaki: The Top Car Rental Companies. You can also check out scooters at Scooter Hire in Aitutaki: Where to Rent, Cost & More.
Car Hire on Atiu
Atiu is one of the few smaller outer islands with a car rental alternative to simply hiring a car from your accommodation. One of the local convenience stores hires out vehicles, which you can learn more about in The Best Car Rentals on Atiu: The Top Atiu Car Rental Companies, as well as scooters in Scooter Hire on Atiu: Where to Rent, Cost & More.
Because many roads are flattened coral, most car rentals are jeeps or trucks. See the Cook Islands Travel Times: How Long to Travel Around the Islands? to see how long it takes to drive around Atiu.
Car Hire on the Outer Islands
Because of the tiny tourism industry on the outer islands of the Cook Islands, such as Mangaia, Mauke and Mitiaro, most accommodations have their own car or scooter available to hire for a daily rate. Fuel is usually included in the cost. See The Cheapest Car Rentals in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands for details on which accommodations hire what, as well as approximate rates.
The Vehicles You Can Hire in the Cook Islands
A wide range of vehicle types is available to hire in the Cook Islands, more so in Rarotonga than on Aitutaki or the other outer islands. Almost all rental cars are secondhand Japanese imports, usually of the brand Toyota. While some rental cars are relatively recent at around eight years old, many cars are up to 20 years old.
Vehicles available to hire in the Cook Islands include:
- Small cars, such as a Toyota Yaris or something similar
- Medium cars, such as a Toyota Corolla or something similar
- People-movers, such as a Toyota Estima or something similar
- Convertibles, such as a Nissan Micra or something similar
- SUVs, such as a Ford Escape or something similar
- Minivans, such as a Toyota Hiace or something similar
- Scooters, such as a Yamaha Mio or something similar.
We list all of the vehicle models in our car rental comparisons, starting with the 10 Best Car Rentals in the Cook Islands: The Top Cook Islands Car Hires.
The Cost of Car Rentals in the Cook Islands
Car rentals can be pretty affordable in the Cook Islands. Each rental vehicle has a day rate, while cars on Rarotonga may have other associated costs like baby seat hire, insurance excess reducers, an administration fee, etc. Additional mandatory costs include fuel, as well as fees for if you don’t return the vehicle with a full fuel tank, return the vehicle late or any other breaches of the rental agreement.
Day Rates for Car Rentals in the Cook Islands
Note that day rates are at their cheapest when hiring for 5 or 7+ days on Rarotonga. Outer islands tend to have a set day rate at the highest end of the price scale.
- Small car/day – NZ$40-$70
- Medium car/day – NZ$45-$78
- People-mover/day – NZ$65-$100
- Premium car/day – NZ$65-$100
- Minivan/day – NZ$65-$115
Additional Costs for Renting a Car in the Cook Islands
- Petrol/litre – NZ$2.60-$3.20
- Airport delivery – NZ$25-$50
- Accommodation delivery – NZ$0
- Additional Driver/day – NZ$0-$2
- Administration fee – NZ$0-$8
- Insurance/day – NZ$0-$25
- Baby seat/day – NZ$2
- Unlimited kilometres – NZ$0
- Roadside assistance – NZ$0
- Bond (refundable) – NZ$500-$2,500.
Learn more about the typical price of car rentals, as well as how much it costs to rent for one, five and seven days, in The Cost of Renting a Car in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands. For the cost of scooter rentals, on the other hand, check out Scooter Hire on Rarotonga: Where to Rent, Cost & More.
Hitting the Road
Your car rental only really gets started when you put your keys in the ignition and hit the road! However, the Cook Islands’ roads might have different rules than what you are used to. Certain rules, like driving on the left side of the road and giving way to oncoming traffic might throw you off, so make sure you’re aware of the traffic laws.
Some important road rules to remember include:
- Drive on the left side of the road
- The maximum speed limit in Avarua and Muri is 30kph
- The maximum speed limit in villages and most of Aitutaki is 40kph
- The maximum speed limit outside of populated areas on Rarotonga is 50kph
- At roundabouts, give way to vehicles approaching from the right
- Give way (yield) to oncoming traffic
- Motorcyclists must wear a helmet on Rarotonga
- Only two people are permitted on a motorcycle/scooter, seated astride; not sideways. Pillion passengers must be sat behind the driver.
To learn more about driving in the Cooks, see How to Drive in the Cook Islands + 10 Road Rules. Plus, check out our safety tips in the 10 Safety Tips for Driving in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands.
More About What You Need to Hire a Car in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands
That’s it for our guide to hiring a car in Rarotonga and the Cook Islands. For more car rental tips, check out the following guide:
- Which is Better, Renting a Car or Taking the Bus on Rarotonga?
- 10 Ways to Save Money on Car & Scooter Rental in the Cook Islands
- 10 Tips for Riding a Scooter in Rarotonga & the Cook Islands
Finally, compare renting a vehicle with more ways to get around the Cook Islands using the Cook Islands Transport Guide: 15 Ways to Get Around the Cook Islands.