By | 16th January 2018

Do you need a car in Baltimore?

Do you need a car in Baltimore > Should you rent a car in Baltimore USA > Baltimore ( BWI )
Car: Do you need a car in 3? No car: Is it worth hiring a car in 3? Slider: Should you rent a car in 3? Should you rent a car in 3?

Baltimore car hire quick facts

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 Baltimore 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 218 - of which 138 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.

Baltimore 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 {coming shortly}

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 Baltimore good value, or is it worth hiring a car just because it is cheaper overall?

Walking and Cycling Overview

Active travel score {coming shortly}

This overall rating considers walking and cycling in and around Baltimore



Need, worth & should!

Whether you have come here asking "do I need a car in Baltimore", "is it worth hiring a car in Baltimore", 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 Baltimore?

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 Baltimore?

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

Should you rent a car in Baltimore?

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

Note that this advice is aimed primarily at visitors arriving at Baltimore-Washington airport (BWI). It also may be useful for visitors arriving into downtown Baltimore by train. For visitors arriving into BWI, but planning primarily to visit Washington DC, please see our Washington DC car hire advice page.

Do you need a car in Baltimore? Introduction

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

Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

The city of Baltimore has undergone a substantial urban renaissance in recent years. Many attractive new developments have been built in the harbour front area and also in the adjacent downtown. This part of Baltimore is all inherently walkable. Many local bus services are available. Baltimore also has a reasonable light rail system. This also which extends out as far as BWI airport.

Visitors wanting to combine a visit to Baltimore with a visit to Wasington DC can also travel easily between the two cities by train. This can be courtesy of either the express Amtrak service or the more regional MARC commuter trains. This section of the line also has a station near BWI airport with a corresponding shuttle bus link. Visitors to Baltimore can also easily continue what the Northeast corridor route to make day trips to Philadelphia or New York City.

Altogether, getting a hire car in Baltimore is certainly something that’s far from necessary. This is especially so if your plan is to incorporate Baltimore as part of a wider itinerary along America’s north-eastern seaboard.

This is a combination of cities that is particularly popular with visitors from Europe.

Multi-city Itineraries

For the first time visitor from Europe to America’s Atlantic coast, then an open jaw routing that involves arriving in New York and then departing from Washington DC or vice versa is a natural choice.  Baltimore is sometimes overlooked on this sort of itinerary, which can be a great shame.

Gettysburg car rental suggestions

Is it worth using Baltimore car hire to get to Gettysburg?

When it comes to US history, the American Civil War site of Gettysburg, where Abraham Lincoln gave his famous address, is surely as essential a part of any visit to this part of the country as any of the locations within Washington DC itself?

The closest sizeable city to Gettysburg is the Pennsylvanian state capital Harrisburg. However, Baltimore is the closest major international gateway. It makes sense to pick up a rental car in Baltimore to go and visit Gettysburg. Gettysburg is also particularly difficult to get to by any sort of scheduled bus services. Even from Washington DC, packaged coach tours are few and far between.

Additionally, getting a rental car in Baltimore might also be useful for exploring some of the other scenic areas which lie to the west. These include the Shenandoah National Park. Many of these areas can also be visited from Washington. Further advice is provided on that page as well.

Why should you rent a car in Baltimore?

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 Baltimore?

  • Take a driving tour to Gettysburg.
  • In Baltimore, car hire still makes a great deal of sense, as the city is still dominated by large freeways. This atill makes driving the default option.
  • A hire car is useful for heading to most places to the south of Baltimore and beyond Washington DC. Please see Washington page for more details.
  • A Baltimore rental car is useful for the Delmarva Peninsula.

Why not? Visiting Baltimore without a car

What is public transport like in Baltimore? 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 Baltimore?

  • Public transit in Baltimore is of a reasonable standard, including heavy rail (MARC commuter) and light rail options.
  • Baltimore makes an easy base for reaching Washington DC or Philadelphia by rail.
  • Baltimore car hire options would be poor value for a smaller group, especially if just staying relatively locally.

So, do you need a car in Baltimore? On balance, we wouldn’t expect anyone to be considering hiring a car in Baltimore if they were only planning on staying within the city limits. For getting outside the city, a rental car is almost certainly going to be useful.

Verdict – yes


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.

Would you hire a car in Baltimore?

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

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

Tell us what you think using the comments section below:

Category: USA

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