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 Anchorage? Is it worth hiring a car in Anchorage? Should you rent a car in Anchorage?

Anchorage 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 Anchorage 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 Anchorage 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 152 - of which 96 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 Anchorage, 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.

Anchorage 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 Anchorage


  • [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 Anchorage 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 Anchorage 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 Anchorage. 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 Anchorage, 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 - Anchorage Need v 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. 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 Anchorage?

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. 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  Anchorage " will swing towards a strong no, because you can do absolutely fine without one).
Is it worth hiring a car in Anchorage?

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? 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  Anchorage" 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 Anchorage?

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?
  • 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  Anchorage, you might also want to look up some of our other cities to see how  Anchorage compares with other destinations in  USA or  North America.
  • 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 Anchorage?

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 Anchorage 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 Anchorage 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 Anchorage 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 Anchorage 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 Anchorage 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 Anchorage 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 Anchorage, 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 Anchorage 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 Anchorage 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 Anchorage 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 Anchorage, or are there good reasons not to?

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.


What is our final score for Anchorage 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.


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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