By | 16th January 2018

Should I hire a car in Aberdeen?

Do you need a car in Aberdeen > Should you rent a car in Aberdeen United Kingdom > Aberdeen ( ABZ ) Do you need a car in Aberdeen? Is it worth hiring a car in Aberdeen? Should you rent a car in Aberdeen?

Aberdeen Car hire summary

Overall drive rating

Based on a weighted score across all cost and quality factors. [Full notes - drive rating]


  • Price alone isn't the only factor in determining whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Aberdeen but clearly it's an important one. See our "why" section for more figures.
  • Cost factors include - price of car hire (peak and off peak season), car hire extras, fuel, tolls and parking costs.
  • Quality factors include - scenic drives, road quality and upkeep, general safety and congestion levels.
  • A complete index of all 10 factors will be uploaded shortly.

Cheapest rate for one week

Based on cheapest economy car hire deal with no added extras. [full notes - basic costs]



  • This is the very lowest price we could find for a one week car rental period in Aberdeen during the quiet season.
  • You will almost always end up paying more than this figure, but any extra costs or supplementary charges are usually determined by the renter, so we cannot easily compare like with like.
  • In many cases, rental companies will offer a cheap rental and then expect you to take out expensive insurance waivers. There are always ways to avoid this!

How much should I expect to pay in the peak season?

Based on cheapest deal during the summer holiday season. (Unless otherwise noted) [full notes - seasonal variations]



  • During the peak holiday season, public transport is often better value, as many train and bus fares are fixed throughout the year. See our "why not" section for more suggestions.
  • For most featured destinations, the peak season will be during the summer, typically July and August for northern hemisphere destinations. However, peak demand might occur at different times, for example in some ski resorts or winter sun destinations etc.

Free parking score

Based on the number of hotels which offer free parking. Total 116 - of which 61 have free parking. [full notes - parking]



  • Free hotel parking is very useful to have when you are hiring a car, and it's always worth checking ahead beforehand.
  • If free hotel parking is not available, you might want to consider renting a car for a single day, rather than for your whole trip.
  • The availability (or lack of) free hotel parking can be a really important factor in determining whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Aberdeen, as it can be a significant extra daily cost which you won't usually be paying at home!
  • Parking costs play a very major part in our consideration of whether or not it's worth hiring a car in each destination.
  • By using public transport, walking or hiring a bicycle, you can avoid having to worry about parking charges altogether! See our "why not" section for more suggestions.

Aberdeen public transport quick facts

Train score

Higher scores go to the systems which don't just take you to the most amazing places, but also to the ones which are easy to use, fast, reliable and frequent. A good train system on its own is usually enough to determine that you don't need to hire a car in many destinations.


  • [full notes trains]
  • Trains include all kinds of urban rail system from trams up to metro and suburban networks.
  • Trains also include mountain railways and cable cars.
  • Generally, places with a good rail network will automatically mean that you don't "need" to hire a car, but you can still might find that on balance you are better off by having one.

Water travel score

This is a general rating for all types of water travel, including scheduled ferries, sea / rivers cruises and excursions in Aberdeen


  • [full notes - water score]
  • The water score looks at means of transport on water - it does not consider water based activities like surfing or kayaking.

Overall public transport score

This is a more practical rating based on bus and rail travel, and also including ferries and other boat services, where they are part of the public transport network.


  • [full notes - overall transit] buses | trams | metro | local & regional rail | national rail
  • Is public transport in Aberdeen good value, or is it worth hiring a car just because it is cheaper overall?
  • Even if public transport is cheap and reliable, you might still feel that you should hire a car in Aberdeen because it will still give you more flexibility to reach out-of-the-way places, especially in rural areas.

Walking and Cycling Overview

Active travel score

This overall rating considers walking and cycling in and around Aberdeen. It includes factors such as the quality of the street environment, and whether you are likely to feel safe walking or cycling, together with the availability of bicycle hire and the ease of linking walking or cycling routes with public transport.


  • [full notes - active score] walking (city) | hiking | cycling (city /  country).
  • A high active travel score means that you might not need a car in Aberdeen, because you can see everything you need to see using a combination of your own two feet and the public transport system.

Car rental in - Aberdeen Need v worth & should!

Whether you have come here asking "do I need a car in Aberdeen", "is it worth hiring a car in Aberdeen", or whether or not you "should" hire a car here, these are all slight variations on a similar theme. Here we break each one down according to the criteria we use for each question. This is a weighted score based on the values above. These are explained further in the text which follows - [#why] [#whynot]. Do you need a car in Aberdeen?

Do you need a car in Aberdeen?

This is essentially based on whether or not public transport and other "non car" options are good enough to get around and beyond the city. For the lowest "need" score, the destination should have a combination of excellent all-round public transport, great opportunities for walking and cycling, together with poor value car hire or generally poor quality roads. 
  • In destinations where both public transport and car hire options are excellent, the verdict for "do I need a car in  Aberdeen " will swing towards a strong no, because you can do absolutely fine without one).
Is it worth hiring a car in Aberdeen?

Is it worth hiring a car in Aberdeen?

Is car hire good value, especially during the peak season? How does this compare with transit fares? This question mainly looks at issues of cost and practicality.
  • In destinations where both public transport and car hire options are excellent, the verdict for "is it worth hiring a car in  Aberdeen" will swing towards whichever option offers the lowest overall cost for a group of 2-4 people travelling together.
Should you rent a car in Aberdeen?

Should you rent a car in Aberdeen?

Weighing up the above questions, if you are here for the first time AND asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?
  • The final "carometer" swing is much more opinion based, and it takes into account which options will give you the truly best travel experience (n our humble opinion of course). Where a destination offers an excellent score with or without a car, the swing will go towards whichever option we feel gives the most truly unforgettable experience.
  • Ultimately, it's your choice whether or not you rent a car here. We're trying to give you something that's sufficiently far enough away from a "maybe" to help you make that choice. Ultimately, people only come to us because they are uncertain, but we don't really know what each person's preferences are. Whether we say you should or you shouldn't rent a car in  Aberdeen, you might also want to look up some of our other cities to see how  Aberdeen compares with other destinations in  United Kingdom or  Europe.
  • By using public transport, walking or hiring a bicycle, you can avoid having to worry about parking charges altogether! See our "why not" section for more suggestions.

What does everyone else do?

Do most people hire a car in Aberdeen?

This is based on our observations of (a) car rental facilities and (b) what we think most people will do here. It's not an exact figure, just an estimate of how likely people are to get hold of a rental car here.
  • his is based on the percentage of people "in the market" who we think are likely to hire a car. This includes anyone arriving on holiday here who would usually hire a car on their travels, so it doesn't include people who don't usually drive (or don't drive), people staying with friends etc.


Visitors per year (million)

  • Cities with more visitors are more likely to have more complex airport car rental arrangements, and generally they will also have better public transport, but this is not always the case, especially in North America.


  • [full notes - do as everyone else does?]
  • You may wish to go with the flow, or you might prefer to avoid doing the most popular or obvious option. This will vary according to the range of choice available. This tends to be much higher in destinations which are closer to the middle of the car or no car scale.

Who is travelling?

Your group size and travel budget has a major impact on whether or not getting a rental car is good value compared to using public transport as your main means of getting around. Ultimately, these are all "worth" questions:

Is it worth renting a car in Aberdeen if I am a solo / budget traveller?

Generally, hiring a car is not good value for solo travellers for multiple reasons, especially as most of the costs of renting apply to the car, not the occupants. With public transport, the reverse is usually true! However, there are always some places where you will need a car, simply because they are almost impossible to reach using public transport.

Is it worth renting a car in Aberdeen for 2 people travelling together?

A rental car can be good value for couples or for friends travelling together, but since most cars come with at least four seats, it's often still better value to use public transport. However, if you prefer to keep yourselves to yourselves, then you might still want to rent.

Is it worth renting a car in Aberdeen for families?

Families of groups of 3-4 people travelling together will always get the best value from a rental car. However, you may also be burdened with extra costs for car seat hire, and you well also prefer to use local trains and buses, if they are quicker than getting stuck in heavy traffic.

Where are you staying?

The place you are staying, together with the sort of places you want to see, will have a large impact on whether or not you "need" to rent a car:

Do you need a car in Aberdeen if we are staying in the city centre / main resort area?

Most large towns or purpose built holiday resorts will have some kind of public transport, whereas parking provision will vary greatly from one place to the next. 

Do you need a car in Aberdeen if we are staying on the edge of the urban area?

Typically you may be staying in an apartment or hmall house on the edge of a resort or urban area. These places usually have some level of public transport, but not as much as city / resort centres.

Do you need a car in Aberdeen if we are staying in a rural area?

Rural proprties might include larger villas or apartments, but they can still be within a short walk of a bus stop or local railway station, and the opportunities for hiking and cycling might also be substantial, depending on the destination.

What is your attitude towards driving?

We can give you suggestions based on whatever we consider to be a "typical" visitor to Aberdeen, but ultimately your decision is also going to be influenced by whether or not you ususally prefer to hire a car in the first place.

Should I hire a car in Aberdeen if I prefer not to drive?

This is especially the case when there is only one main driver in the group, and it's based on the attitude of the driver rather than their passengers! The main driver may also simply prefer to use public transport, or they may prefer to take scenic train journeys where available.

Should we rent a car in Aberdeen if we are easy either way?

This is more aimed at the typical visitor who isn't that bothered about how they get around, as long as it is the most convenient / best value option.

Should I rent a car in Aberdeen if I prefer to drive?

For people who usually prefer the freedom and flexibility of having a hire car. Is it still best to rent a car in Aberdeen, or are there good reasons not to?

The Granite city sits in a geographically remote corner of the UK, but once you get there, can you get around easily using public transport? Or is a hire car all but essential? What are the main Aberdeen car hire options? There are many reasons to rent a car in Aberdeen, but the city and its surroundings can also still be explored using local public transport options, even if your journey choices will be a lot less flexible.

Do you need a car in Aberdeen? Introduction

When someone asks "Do you need a car in Aberdeen?", this often breaks down to two key questions:
  1. Can you actually get around using public transport, or is a car all but essential?
  2. Is it worth hiring a car in Aberdeen? Is it good value for money, compared with non-car options?
Over the next few sections, we wil look at the pros and cons of driving in Aberdeen as a tourist, and ultimately weigh these up, so we can answer the key question of Should you rent a car in Aberdeen?
Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

Why should you rent a car in Aberdeen?

What are the main reasons for hiring a car here? Do you just want to drive locally? Do you want to go further afield, or should you even look at taking a road trip? In terms of factors like the cost of the hire itself, fuel costs, road tolls and parking charges, is it worth hiring a car in Aberdeen?

Reasons why you should hire a car in Aberdeen

  • Remoteness — although you will have no problem getting around the city itself, public transport routes starts to thin out massively once beyond the central city area.
  • Limited train routes — Aberdeen is right at the end of the East Coast route from London via Edinburgh. The only other train service is a limited frequency (one train every two hours) route to Inverness. Even Inverness by comparison is a rail hub, with routes fanning out on each of the major compass points.
  • Backed into a corner – the simple reality is that Aberdeen sits in a corner, and only has one railway line running through it. Of course, the roads are also constrained by this geography, but you can at least drive in your own time. This is a key reason why Aberdeen car hire is strongly advised as the better option.
  • Limited attractions — there are relatively few points of interest in Aberdeen itself, whereas the surrounding countryside offers plenty of places to visit.
  • Scottish castles – including the famous Balmoral Castle. Without a car, these places are difficult to get to.

Why not? Visiting Aberdeen without a car

What is public transport like in Aberdeen? What about local conditions for walking or cycling? Can you rely on public transport and maybe a few taxis for most or all of your trip? Are there some times of year when it's easier to get by without a car than others? When should you rent a car in 3?

Visiting Aberdeen without a car

There are very few reasons not to hire a car for a visit to Aberdeen, unless you’re making a very brief stay in the city itself, and aren’t planning on venturing very far beyond city limits.

  • Balmoral by bus: Hardy public transport users can go by bus to Balmoral Castle, which is just next to the village of Crathie on the A93. Allow around 3 hours, up to 8 buses each way per day. You will have to change at least twice outside the summer season.
  • Orkney and Shetland — Aberdeen offers both onward flights and ferry services to the Orkney and Shetland Islands. You can take a hire car onto the ferry services, but is much cheaper to go as a foot passenger.
  • Scenic coastal rail route — the train route from Edinburgh up to Aberdeen has a number of particularly scenic stretches, especially as it hugs the coast for much of the route. Flying into Aberdeen and out through Edinburgh would be one way to enjoy this route, although the availability of flights there is generally much better than it is to Aberdeen anyway. Another option is just to pick return flights to Edinburgh and take the train in both directions. If you are flying in and out of Aberdeen, then this train route is still worth exploring at least down to Stonehaven, where it goes inland.
  • Start at Dyce: A very quick shuttle bus (or taxi) is available from Aberdeen Airport to nearby Dyce station, from where most trains heading south start. Dyce is also the best place to board trains heading to Inverness. This avoids going into Aberdeen city centre and back out again. However, your journey options are still limited to the route heading west to Inverness, and the coastal route heading south beyond Aberdeen.

Aberdeen car rental scenarios

Is it worth renting a car in Aberdeen just for part of my stay?

Not really – Aberdeen makes a great base for exploring the Highlands, but there are only limited points of interest within the city itself. Unless your plan is to get around the Highlands entirely by bus and train (in which case, make your connection at Dyce and don’t go into the city centre), then you really should hire a car in Aberdeen for the whole duration of your stay.

Is it worth renting a car in Aberdeen even for backpackers, students and other travellers who are on an extremely tight budget?

Probably not – based on price alone, you will get better value travelling by train and coach, especially if you book well in advance. It’s also easy enough to arrange coach or minibus tours of the Highlands or of the Isle of Skye from Inverness, and even if none of these options will give you the same flexibility as renting a car, they will almost certainly still be better value.

Should I hire a car in Aberdeen if I am planning on staying in the city / downtown?

Yes – even if you are staying right in the centre of Aberdeen, you will want to go out of the city, and in particular you want to go and visit the Cairngorms National Park. You really should hire a car for this.

Bear in mind that reaching places like, for example, Aviemore is usually going to mean going through Inverness and making a change, so it will be quicker to drive. Hotels right in the city centre are unlikely to provide free parking, but Aberdeen is sufficiently compact that you should be able to find a hotel with free parking around the edge of the city centre that is within easy walking distance, or short bus ride from the centre.

For example, the Village Hotel group are one chain who are known to provide free parking on all of their sites, and they have a location on the western side of the city. In total, about half of all hotels in Aberdeen will have free parking for guests.

I usually try to avoid driving if I can – so should I hire a car in Aberdeen?

No – we would rate Aberdeen is the most car focused major travel destination in the UK, but you will still find far more options for onward travel by bus and train then you will in many other places in Europe. If you are visiting Aberdeen from North America, then you will probably find that the choice of public transport (or transit) in Aberdeen is actually quite good, and you will also find a much wider range of onward connections via Inverness.

I am a train enthusiast – do I still need to hire a car in Aberdeen?

Absolutely not – you may well have already taken the train up to Aberdeen via Edinburgh, a route which takes you across the world famous Forth Bridge as well as the rebuilt Tay Bridge. Further to the west, you have a choice of three of the most spectacular train rides anywhere in the world; the most impressive one being the Kyle line from Inverness. Heading south from Inverness, you also have the Highland mainline which can take you back towards Perth, whereas the West Highland mainline can be joined at Fort William by taking a coach connection from Inverness. However, if you only plan to take one or two train trips, then you should still hire a car in Aberdeen, and then just use park-and-ride at local stations. Other than in the centres of Aberdeen or Inverness, you should be able to park for free at most stations in the Highlands and Aberdeenshire[1].

I am mainly interested in history and architecture and urban/cultural attractions – should I hire a car in Aberdeen?

Probably – Aberdeen is a wealthy city, and this means that it has an impressive range of cultural attractions relative to its size, but the real star here is still the scenery, so as per the general advice above, you’re probably will still want to rent a car. If you’ve tried looking up the bus schedules to get to Balmoral Castle (you will have to change twice, eventually back on to the same bus, due to shift restrictions), then you will agree that you really do need to get a car in Aberdeen if you want to see any castles other than those in the city centres!

How many people would we need in the car before a rental becomes better value than using transit?

If there are two or more of you travelling together, you are probably going to find that it’s worth hiring a car in Aberdeen. The only real exception would be for much younger travellers who may have difficulty obtaining a rental car package without paying a substantial supplement. Generally, for solo travellers, it is going to make more sense to travel around by scheduled bus, tour bus or train, but renting a car might still be more convenient.

We are senior citizens, should we rent a car in Aberdeen?

There are no particular reasons why senior citizens shouldn’t hire a car in Aberdeen, at least up until the age limits imposed by the rental companies, usually around 70 to 75.

However, UK residents who have a Senior Railcard will be able to get one third off all train travel, and this will apply in Scotland as it does in England and Wales, even though English concessionary bus passes are not valid here. Travelling by train from Aberdeen is also usually quite stress free – the lines in this part of Scotland are nothing like as busy as they are in the central belt, and reliability is usually quite good, but service patterns are often very irregular, especially if you want to travel over to Inverness and then try and find a connection from there.

Do I need a rental car if I am flying into Aberdeen airport but staying in another destination outside Aberdeen?

Probably, yes. Even if you are staying in another town which has a good bus service, or which is on the main railway line, you will then still be quite restricted in terms of where else you can visit from there.

If I’m planning on touring around, is this best done in a rental car?

Generally, yes – the Scottish Highlands and Islands are naturally very popular with touring motorists, but getting a rental car isn’t the only way of moving around. Travelling by train and bus, you can still see places like the spectacular done robing Castle further up the east coast, you can continue deep into sky by bus, and combine this with a train trip on the Kyle line if you want, and there are usually buses integrating at both ends of the island ferry routes. The roads in the Highlands tend to be very winding, with many smaller roads often using passing places, and some drivers will find this quite stressful. If you travel around the Scottish islands by car ferry, you get to benefit from the “Road equivalent pricing” fair capping (see above), but many car rental companies will still require you to take out daily ferry insurance, and this can be an unwelcome extra expense.

Should we try to visit Aberdeen without a car because that’s better for the environment?

It’s difficult to make the environmental case for train travel on very rural Scottish routes, which often have very low passenger occupancy rates, so fuel consumption per person would be much higher than on busier routes further south.

It’s not unreasonable to point out that none of these Highland lines would be built today if a so-called “business case” had to be made based on current usage, yet the trunk routes between Aberdeen and Inverness and the Central Belt still have an important role to play in terms of providing an alternative to the heavily congested main highways (A9/A90). There are no electrified lines north of Falkirk, so all of the mainline trains you take will be using diesel.

Should I hire car in Aberdeen to start a road trip?

Absolutely – we’ve included a suggestion for a sample Scottish Road trip which could start in either Edinburgh or Glasgow and then taking in the West Coast and the Isle of Skye. This route would certainly pass through Inverness, and it would be easy enough to include Aberdeen in this loop. You may also find a better combination of flight and car hire deals in Aberdeen if you are making a comparison with Inverness. If you are planning on taking a road trip which includes more places to the south, then generally speaking, the best Scottish car rental deals are in Edinburgh or Glasgow. This is also where you will find a much wider choice of inward flight, including direct long haul flights from the USA and Canada. However, by starting your road trip from Aberdeen, you do at least have direct access to the Cairngorms.

Should I rent a car in Aberdeen and return it somewhere else?

Advice on One Way Rentals from Aberdeen

Maybe, especially if you have a driving route in mind which starts in Aberdeen and then ends up in another major Scottish city, in particular in Edinburgh or Glasgow. However, I would usually expect this to be cheaper if you do it the other way round, since the one-way fee is often determined on a mileage basis, whereas the actual rental fee is going to be more competitive further south. On the other hand, depending on your flight or train options, it might be worth hiring a car in Aberdeen and then dropping it off in Inverness. Any one-way rental fee could be better value than having a long drive back to where you started (but that is still only going to be about 2 hours, so not really long by North American standards!).

Should I rent an RV / camper / caravan in Aberdeen, instead of a car?

Yes, touring with a camper is very popular in the Scottish Highlands, especially with the recent promotion of the NC500 coastal touring route. Many visitors with campervans simply bring their own vehicles over from the Continent, but there are also several places which will provide campervan rentals in Aberdeen.

Needless to say, if you are visiting from North America, then you will find that fuel prices in the UK are significantly higher here, and you should also be warned that prices tend to rise further still as you head north or west from Inverness. However the cost of fuel should be balanced against the cost of staying in hotels or bed and breakfasts – something that can be extremely difficult during the July and August peak season. Remember as well that even roads classified as “A” roads (i.e. trunk roads) can still be single-track in some places, including on some recommended scenic drives (like the NC500). Always observe local etiquette and signs which advise any slower vehicle to pull over and allow faster drivers to pass. In some cases, the roads will not be suitable for a large camper van.

Should I hire a car from Aberdeen Airport, or from the city centre?

Generally, in the UK, you will get a better deal from on-airport car hire. This is because airports tend to have much bigger parking lots, as land is cheaper than in the city centre. You should not expect to pay an extra airport facility fee like you do at some airports in the USA.

If you do rent a car in the centre of Aberdeen, you do at least have the advantage that the major hotels, railway station and the port are all close to each other, so there are a few car hire options within this area. However, some rental offices are further out, and some may be at the airport, so make sure you specifically request “Aberdeen STATION”.

I’m moving to Aberdeen – do I need a car to live here?

Commuting in Aberdeen is very different to being a tourist. The city is compact enough that you can get to most places using a combination of bus and walking. This is not a very cycle friendly city, and you will need a car in Aberdeen if you need to commute to any of the major office locations around the edge of the city – this is an oil town after all!

[1] Technically the City of Aberdeen is separate to Aberdeenshire.

Should I hire a car in Aberdeen

Hire a car in Aberdeen and drive to the western coast of Scotland.


Our slider ratings range from 0 (it isn't even possible to hire a car, e.g. Hong Kong) through to 10 (you really must rent a car here, e.g. Phoenix, Tampa). However, most places are somewhere inbetween these extremes, and this is where it gets more interesting! Further ratings breakdowns, including a much more detailed public transport rating, are currently being added. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.


What is our final score for Aberdeen on the Carornocar scale?

Remember, this isn't so much a rating of the road network, or a score for what we think of the buses or trains, but it's simply a scale showing the swing between whether or not we think a rental car is a good idea here.


So should you hire a car in Aberdeen? As Scottish cities go, when it comes to train networks, Aberdeen is certainly the weakest link, so to get to other places you would almost certainly end up needing to go by bus. This is not our view of travel enjoyment — buses should be there to supplement train journeys, not as a preferred method of transport in their own right. There are also no truly “world class” scenic railway routes heading out of Aberdeen, whereas there are out of Inverness or Glasgow, and to a lesser extent, Edinburgh.

For this reason, Aberdeen gets our strongest verdict of all Scottish cities that a car is necessary to get the best out of your trip.

Would you hire a car in Aberdeen?

Have you driven in Aberdeen? Do you agree with our advice on whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Aberdeen}? Do you need a car in Aberdeen? For some or all of the time? Tell us what you think using the comments section below:

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