By | 16th January 2018

Should you rent a car in Anchorage?

Do you need a car in Anchorage > Should you rent a car in Anchorage USA > Anchorage ( ANC )
Do you need a car in 3? Is it worth hiring a car in 3? Should you rent a car in 3? Should you rent a car in 3?

Anchorage Car hire summary

Overall drive rating

Based on a weighted score across all factors, including driving roads, hire and fuel costs, road safety etc. [Full notes - drive rating]


Cheapest rate for one week

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



  • Price alone isn't the only factor in determining whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Anchorage but clearly it's an important one. See our "why" section for more figures.
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 "whynot" section for more suggestions.
Free parking score Based on the number of hotels which offer free parking.Total 152 - of which 96 have free parking. [full notes - parking]




  • During the peak holiday season, public transport is often better value, as many train and bus fares are fixed throughout the year. See our "whynot" section for more suggestions.

Anchorage public transport quick facts

"Top trumps" train score

Higher scores go to the systems which take you to the most amazing places.



  • [full notes - top trumps trains]
  • A good rail system doesn't mean you shouldn't hire a car, but it often means you have a decent range of options.

Overall public transport score

This is a more practical rating based on bus and rail travel.



  • [full notes - overall transit] buses | trams | metro | local & regional rail | national rail
  • Is public transport in Anchorage good value, or is it worth hiring a car just because it is cheaper overall?

Walking and Cycling Overview

Active travel score

This overall rating considers walking and cycling in and around Anchorage



Take to the waters!

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


Need, worth & should!

Whether you have come here asking "do I need a car in Anchorage", "is it worth hiring a car in Anchorage", or whether or not you "should" hire a car here, these are all slight variations on a similar theme:

Do you need a car in Anchorage?

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.

Is it worth hiring a car in Anchorage?

Is car hire good value, especially during the peak season? How does this compare with transit fares?

Should you rent a car in Anchorage?

Weighing up the above questions, if you are here for the first time AND asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?

Of the car rental destinations researched for Carornocar, Anchorage is one of the most interesting. This is because the natural assumption for any first-time visitor might well be that because Alaska has so much big open country, the obvious choice here would be to head straight for the  rental car desk. Surely everyone needs a car in Anchorage – or do they?

Do you need a car in Anchorage? Introduction

When someone asks "Do you need a car in Anchorage?", 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 Anchorage? 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 Anchorage as a tourist, and ultimately weigh these up, so we can answer the key question of Should you rent a car in Anchorage?

Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

For many, that is still going to be the primary choice – there’s no question about it, the vast state of Alaska offers some amazing driving opportunities. However, simply because of this great size, most of the state’s interior is completely untouched, and this in turn means that there are actually very few paved roads. In many cases, it is much easier to get around to remote locations by private air taxi!

So any road trip from Anchorage is actually going to be restricted to only a small number of route options. However, with a car you are still going to have the flexibility to stop where and when you want – something that’s not so easy by bus or train, when very limited schedules apply – nothing in Alaska works on a “hop on, hop off” basis!

So what about other ideas for exploring Alaska?

This is where things start to get really interesting. Once you plant the seed of the idea that hiring a car in Anchorage isn’t completely necessary, then a whole range of amazing non-car options starts to unravel itself.

These include some of the most scenic railway journeys that you can take anywhere in the world, together with the various different ways of taking to the waters. These include regular transport ferries as well as cruise offerings. On top of this you will find a plethora of hiking and biking options which don’t necessarily require you to use your own set of wheels to get to the start of the route.

In fact, if you are visiting a location like Denali National Park, then an Anchorage rental car is only going to get you to the park entrance. You will have to take a shuttle bus once inside the park anyway.

Why should you rent a car in Anchorage?

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 Anchorage?

  • Open roads – simply because Alaska means big open country and wide open roads with very little traffic.
  • Toll-free: There are no toll roads of any kind in the state of Alaska.
  • Rail services are spectacular, but heavily limited in terms of both routes and service frequency. Expect a daily tourist train during the busy season. Expect little else outside this.
  • Regular urban buses can only be found within the city limits of Anchorage. They are of little use to tourists.
  • Inter-city coaches cover much of the Alaskan interior. However, you won’t be able to stop mid-route. Typical frequencies are only once per day at best.
  • Limited ferries – You can explore the Alaskan coast by ferry, but you still need to get to and from the port. It’s much easier to take a car with you.

Why not? Visiting Anchorage without a car

What is public transport like in Anchorage? 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?

Cost issues

  • Expect to pay more per day in Alaska than anywhere else – you are more likely to be in a bulky vehicle, with the heating on, and you are probably going to drive further.
  • Alaska car rental costs considerably more than any equivalent elsewhere in the USA, or in Canada. Only Hawaii is comparable on price.
  • You will need comprehensive breakdown cover, given the potential distances you may drive from Anchorage, and the limited number of service stations.
  • Fuel in Alaska is not cheap – you may be close to the refinery, but you are still paying a premium for being here. Expect to pay a little bit less than California, but more than other states in the “Continental 48”.
  • The nature of the weather and terrain makes a 4×4 vehicle very useful, and this in turn pushes up the cost of both the rental itself and fuel.

Other issues

  • There are only a limited number of public roads to drive on.
  • The railroad trips you can take here are amongst the best you will find anywhere in the world – by taking a single track rail line away from any highway, you really can get much closer to nature.
  • Many people prefer to see Alaska by taking a cruise. If this is your plan, and you want to add on a few more days in and around Anchorage, then you will find more than enough options without needing to get a rental car.
  • You really don’t need a car in Anchorage to see the most interesting places .  Using a combination of inter-city buses, train excursions, ferry and national park buses, you can see most of the key places of interest.
  • It may be worth hiring a car in Anchorage for a day or two, depending on your plans. This will be a great deal better value than renting a car for your whole trip. This will still be so, even after you have forked out for train trips and so on.
  • In the summer at least, there are several options for regular cycling and mountain bike riding around Anchorage. Cycling options include rail trails around the resort of Alyeska. You can get to the start using local buses. It’s also easy enough to rent bikes for the day.


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.

Should you rent a car in Anchorage? In order for us to say “you really don’t need a car in Anchorage”, we’d need to put forward at least a couple of options which show that you can see most of the main places of interest without one. Anchorage offers this and more. Not only is it really not worth hiring a car in Alaska for any more time than you absolutely need to, but you also have a huge choice of other options from hiking and biking to train and ferry trips. Buses also provide some vital links in between.

We have no doubt that the locals will tell you that a car is a must here. After all, that’s what they will use, but a car is also what they will already have. What we have to look at is whether or not it’s worth getting a rental car in Anchorage. That really isn’t so clear cut, since the cost is so high! Just because the locals will all use cars, the chances are they aren’t using the tourist trains or taking the ferries on a daily basis either. However, as a visitor, these services will make a huge amount of sense.

Ultimately, if you still think that you should hire a car in Anchorage, then we’d really suggest going for a shorter rental period. This will wortk out better value than having a car for the whole length of your stay. After all, it’s very easy to pick up or drop of a car downtown in the middle of the stay. Even if you need to go out to the airport, that’s not a problem either as Anchorage is a compact city.

Whatever your own choice may be, Anchorage is one place where it’s absolutely worth thinking again before heading straight to the car rental lot on auto-pilot.

Would you hire a car in Anchorage?

Have you driven in Anchorage? Do you agree with our advice on whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Anchorage}?

Do you need a car in Anchorage? For some or all of the time? 

Tell us what you think using the comments section below:

Category: USA

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