We are heavy users of black car services when we travel, for airport transportation, and at home in San Diego when we feel like having a glass of wine with dinner.
If you’re on a San Diego vacation, you will likely need to use a car service or opt for a car rental. Our attractions, beaches, and hotels are spread across the county.
These are San Diego car services that we use regularly.
Best San Diego Airport Transportation: Blacklane
Based in Germany, Blacklane first crossed my radar years ago when they asked me to test their product with a $250 credit. I booked a ride from central London to Four Seasons Hotel Hampshire with success and have spent thousands of dollars with them since, arranging rides for my family all over the world.
They are a little bit like Uber, where they contract with certain drivers worldwide to provide rides on behalf of Blacklane. Blacklane is our black car service of choice in San Diego and around the world.
Rates: Blacklane charges a flat fee per ride that is inclusive of gratuity. The fee is given at the time of booking. I will say that I’ve noticed their rates have gone up slightly in San Diego.
San Diego Airport Transfers: Airport transportation to and from San Diego Airport depends on what time of day they’re arranged for.
A typical ride from my house in La Jolla to the airport is usually $70, and that’s about what Uber Black charges me (departing SAN is slightly more expensive because the driver will likely need to park and wait for you).
I like that Blacklane drivers will meet me at baggage claim and track my flight so that they arrive on time. With this San Diego Airport car service, I do not stress if my flight is late or early.
Bottom Line: I’ll pay a bit more for Blacklane because the cars are usually nicer, and the drivers are far more professional than Uber, in my experience, even though drivers in San Diego often work for both companies.
In San Diego, the type of car does vary. It could be a Suburban, Lincoln Town Car, Mercedes, or a Mercedes Sprinter. Blacklane, I’ve been told, has stricter car requirements than Uber, so the cars will be newer. As of this writing, I have six future Blacklane reservations on the books.
Reservations: They have an app or you can use their website. My credit card information is stored, I can rate drivers, and view my ride history.
Go to Blacklane online or download the app.
Best for La Jollans: La Jolla Star Transportation
We’ve been using La Jolla Star Transportation on and off for 15 years. I did have some not-so-great experiences with them under prior management, but not lately. Drivers are professionally-dressed (Blacklane and Uber drivers here do not always wear suits) and courteous.
They maintain a clean, nice fleet of cars (I seem to ride in mostly Mercedes or Lincoln Town Cars) that seem relatively new, but the cars are not as luxurious as Black Star Premium Car Service listed below.
Rates: I find that it’s best to call them to verify pricing. It is usually different than what is listed online. Gratuity needs to be added to the cost of your ride. My account is preset to add gratuity, but you can always call to adjust that up or down if need be.
San Diego Airport Transfers: La Jolla Star Transportation charges more for airport drop-off and pick-up, which is why I don’t use them regularly. But, if you do choose to use them, they’re great.
I booked them most recently as a Los Angeles International Airport Transfer (LAX) to La Jolla. Our flight from Hong Kong landed so early on a Sunday morning that waiting for a flight from LAX to SAN would have taken longer and actually cost more than just hiring a car. We were picked up in a Mercedes SUV crossover and delivered without issue to our home in San Diego. My credit card was billed automatically. The entire experience was pleasant and easy.
I did not use Blacklane in this instance because I wanted to know exactly what kind of car I would be riding in for 2 hours. La Jolla Star Transportation has a gorgeous fleet of cars that they own, so you know what you’re going to get each time.
They also track flight details, so there is no need to worry if your flight is delayed or early. At LAX, I called the main number as the car was waiting in the cell phone lot and at the Tom Bradley Terminal curb within minutes.
Bottom Line: The other reason people use La Jolla Star Transportation is that you’re often riding with the same drivers, which provides another layer of comfort for some people. They are the best choice for black car service within or near La Jolla (often pricing less than Uber Black for really short distances).
Reservations: La Jolla Star Transportation does not have an app or ability to make reservations online. You’ll need to call.
Most Convenient: Uber Black
As you probably know, Uber is an app from which you can request various cars for immediate rides. I’ll use Uber Black when in a pinch, but our recent rides have been hit or miss. The cars have been old and not well maintained. One of our recent drivers tried to sell us some investments. No, thank you.
We do not use UberX or UberSelect as we prefer drivers with a commercial license, so I can’t comment on these services.
Why I find Uber problematic: I actively dislike that if you need to contact your driver for any reason, you’re routed through a not-so-reliable 800 number. The process was nearly impossible for me to navigate in Austin recently when I worried I’d left my wallet in the car (thankfully, it was in the safe hands of Four Seasons Hotel Austin). I’m convinced that if it were in my Uber, it would have been long gone mostly because the process of getting in touch with a driver is much too cumbersome.
Yes, you often receive text messages that your Uber is arriving, but you cannot text back after the ride is finished, in my experience.
Many drivers have also told me that Uber does not vet their drivers as well as other black car services but have not done enough research to validate that.
San Diego Airport Transportation: SAN now has a dedicated Ride Share pedestrian island you must go to for Uber and other rideshare apps. It’s busy and difficult sometimes to identify which side of the island your car is arriving.
You need to collect your bags and walk across the street to the Ride Share island (signage will direct you). Your car could arrive on either side of the island so you must be in contact with your driver just in case you miss them.
Rideshare apps are not permitted to pick passengers up at the zones outside of baggage claim.
Bottom Line: I use Uber Black for last-minute rides.
Rates and Reservations: It’s possible to get a quote online or through the Uber app before requesting a ride.
Roomy Nice Cars: Black Star Premium Car Service
I recently had the pleasure of riding with Black Star Premium Car Service to Arrowhead Springs for an assignment a few years ago. The company I was working for booked it through LimoLink but you can book the San Diego-based company directly.
They have new, lovely and large luxury sedans. I rode in a gorgeous BMW 740li with a very professional driver armed with directions and left me to work in peace.
They definitely provide the best overall experience. I look forward to using them again soon.
San Diego Airport Transportation: A ride from La Jolla to the airport is roughly $85 plus gratuity. Yes, it’s the most expensive option, but you get what you pay for.
Reservations: Fill out a quote form online or call them directly. I have had people tell me that they did not receive responses after filling in the quote form but will look into this.
For the Truly High-End Travelers: Empire CLS
Empire CLS offers VIP Meet and Greet experiences at the San Diego International Airport and over 450 airports and destinations globally, in addition to chauffeur services.
Our airport is quite simple to navigate, but if you are used to VIP service, high security, or need to get through as quickly as possible, this is the way to go.
Empire CLS is the largest independently owned executive car service used by CEOs, celebrities, and luxury hotels. They own over 650 vehicles, and every driver of them is an employee. In cities where they do not have vehicles, they contract with top chauffeurs and train them the Empire CLS way, complete with etiquette training.
So, you get the same level of service no matter where you are riding. No is car is over 2 years old. This is the most high-end car service in San Diego.
Reservations: You can email me with your flight and transfer details and I will get you a quote.
Other San Diego Ride Share Services
In addition to the ones listed above, Lyft is popular in San Diego.
What San Diego car service do you use?
Katie Dillon is the managing editor of La Jolla Mom. She helps readers plan San Diego vacations through her hotel expertise (that stems from living in a Four Seasons hotel) and local connections. Readers have access to exclusive discounts on theme park tickets (like Disneyland and San Diego Zoo) and perks at luxury hotels worldwide through her. She also shares insider tips for visiting major cities worldwide like Hong Kong, London, Paris, and Shanghai that her family has either lived in or visits regularly (or both).
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