Background and purpose — Criticism of the lateral approach (LA) for hip arthroplasty is mainly based on the risk of poor patient-reported outcomes compared to the posterior approach (PA). However, there have been no controlled studies comparing patient-reported outcomes between them. In this randomized controlled trial, we tested the hypothesis that patient-reported outcomes are better in patients who have undergone total hip arthroplasty (THA) with PA than in those who have undergone THA with LA, 12 months postoperatively. Patients and methods — 80 patients with hip osteoarthritis (mean age 61 years) were randomized to THA using PA or the modified direct LA. We recorded outcome measures preoperatively and 3, 6, and 12 months postoperatively using the Hip Disability and Osteoarthritis Outcome Score–Physical Function Short Form (HOOS-PS) as the primary outcome. Secondary outcomes were HOOS-Pain, HOOS-Quality-Of-Life, EQ-5D, UCLA Activity Score, and limping. Results — We found no statistically significant difference in the improvements in HOOS-PS between the treatment groups at 12-month follow-up. All secondary outcomes showed similar results except for limping, where PA patients improved significantly more than LA patients. Interpretation — Contrary to our hypothesis, patients treated with PA did not improve more than patients treated with LA regarding physical function, pain, physical activity, and quality of life 12 months postoperatively. However, limping was more pronounced in the LA patients.