By | 16th January 2018

Do you need a car in Birmingham?

Do you need a car in Birmingham > Should you rent a car in Birmingham UK > Birmingham ( BHX ) Do you need a car in Birmingham? Is it worth hiring a car in Birmingham? Should you rent a car in Birmingham?

Birmingham 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 Birmingham 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 Birmingham 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 257 - of which 132 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 Birmingham, 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.

Birmingham 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 Birmingham


  • [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 Birmingham 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 Birmingham 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 Birmingham. 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 Birmingham, 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 - Birmingham Need v worth & should!

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

Do you need a car in Birmingham?

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

Is it worth hiring a car in Birmingham?

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  Birmingham" 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 Birmingham?

Should you rent a car in Birmingham?

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  Birmingham, you might also want to look up some of our other cities to see how  Birmingham compares with other destinations in  UK 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 Birmingham?

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

Birmingham sits at the heart of the English Midlands, with a strong mix of both industrial and traditional tourist attractions.

Like any reasonable sized European city, there’s no need to get a hire a car in Birmingham if you are just visiting the centre, but the chances are that you are almost certainly going to want to travel beyond this area, so what is the best way of getting around?

Do you need a car in Birmingham? Introduction

When someone asks "Do you need a car in Birmingham?", 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 Birmingham? 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 Birmingham as a tourist, and ultimately weigh these up, so we can answer the key question of Should you rent a car in Birmingham?
Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

Why should you rent a car in ?

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 ?

  • Flexibility – as with anywhere else, having a hire car will give you many more options for getting around, especially if you want to explore the many rural areas which are right on Birmingham’s doorstep.
  • Shopping. In the centre of Birmingham you have the new Bullring, but elsewhere you have the very suburban Merry Hill, or the hugely impressive Touchwood centre in Solihull. Although Touchwood is a short walk from Solihull station, a car boot tends to come in handy for all those shopping bags.
  • Country lanes — Birmingham might sit in the centre of what is known as the West Midlands conurbation, but that does not mean that the whole area is built up. In fact, many parts of the West Midlands are nothing of the sort — and as a local I can certainly say that you can be on superb country lanes within literary just a few minutes of picking up a hire car at Birmingham airport.
    Warwickshire in particular has many great back-roads and associated villages, but so do any of the counties surrounding Birmingham. Just take your pick, pick up your hire car in Birmingham airport, and get in gear!
  • Shakespeare country by road — as it is a bit of a tight squeeze to do the world famous Warwick Castle and then Shakespeare’s town of Stratford Upon Avon within the same day by public transport, we suggest either dividing them up into two separate trips, or going by car in order to have a bit more flexibility.
  • Cotswolds — the Cotswolds is one of the most attractive areas of England, especially due to the numerous postcard-perfect villages. The Cotswold region sits in between major towns and cities such as Cheltenham, Bristol, Oxford and Stratford-upon-Avon, and the closest major airport to this area is Birmingham.
    Naturally, with so many villages to explore, this area is much easier to see in a hire car. Considering that the main railway line which runs through the Cotswolds runs diagonally between Cheltenham and Oxford, there is no direct way to reach the Cotswolds from Birmingham by public transport anyway, and to travel along this route in a circuit would mean buying two entirely separate rail tickets, so the train really doesn’t offer good value to this part of the world.
    For more suggestions on driving in the Cotswolds v. getting around the Cotswolds without a car, please see Oxford.
  • Ironbridge – this World Heritage site might be one of the most famous icons of the Industrial Revolution, but it has no direct connection with that other icon, the railway. to get there you will either need to drive, or take a bus from nearby Telford.
  • Buxton and The Peak District – see East Midlands. or Manchester.
[whynot2 num=”38″]
  • Rail hub — Birmingham sits right at the centre of the British rail network, and in particular Birmingham New Street is a major interchange between intercity cross-country services heading towards the South West via Cheltenham and Bristol; the South Coast via Oxford and Reading; the North West and Glasgow via Wolverhampton; and the North East, Edinburgh and beyond via Derby and Sheffield.
    Birmingham also has three fast trains each hour to London, heading via Birmingham Airport and Coventry; whereas the regional rail network stretches as far as Pwllheli and Aberystwyth in West Wales, Cardiff and Newport in South Wales and Chester and Liverpool in the North West. This makes it easy to reach Birmingham from just about anywhere else in the UK, and it also makes it extremely easy to explore in any direction using central Birmingham as a base. Other local and regional trains depart from Birmingham Moor Street and Snow Hill stations, reaching as far as the cathedral city of Worcester and the Malverns to the west or Stratford Upon Avon to the south and Warwick to the south-east, before continuing on towards London Marleybone.
  • Birmingham New Street – now moved from a negative to a positive, the “new” New Street, also known as Grand Central, which is technically for the new shopping centre above, is a dazzling new hub in the heart of England.
  • Airport and NEC complex — passengers taking flights to Birmingham airport can make a swift transfer into the city centre by jumping aboard one of the fast and frequent trains which run to Birmingham New Street and beyond. The journey can take as little as 10 minutes, and there are usually around seven trains each hour.
    Naturally, when the airport is so well connected to the city centre, it always makes it much easier to continue the rest of your trip by train. However, the Birmingham airport site doesn’t just feature as a major transport hub. Adjacent to Birmingham International station is the National Exhibition Centre (NEC) complex, which includes the Genting Arena, which is often used for concert tours. Trains are available after any performance at the Genting Arena, although they do tend to be a bit of a tight squeeze!
  • Concerts and shows — aside from the NEC complex, a huge variety of entertainment options is available within the city centre itself, and this includes the city’s other major arena, the NIA (Barclaycard National Indoor Arena), together with numerous theatres and smaller entertainment venues. Birmingham is home to the world famous City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra (CBSO), who play in the Symphony Hall, which is part of the National Convention Centre.
    All of these other venues are within an easy walk of the main city centre stations.
  • Villages by rail — although you will naturally have far more flexibility and a hire car, there are still many attractive villages which can easily be reached within a few minutes’ train travel from one of the major Birmingham stations. A personal favourite between Birmingham and Coventry would be Hampton-in-Arden, which has a quiet village pub just a few hundred yards from the station, together with a number of country walks. You can easily take a scenic walk from here to the next stop at Berkswell. I would also highly recommend the village of Tanworth-in-Arden, with the tree-lined route into Umberslade Farm. This sits between Danzey and Wood End stations.
  • Canals – Birmingham has an amazing network of historic canals, and many of these follow the same routing as the newer railways. It’s very easy to combine an historic canal walk with a journey back into town.
  • Peaky Blinders territory – although this was largely filmed on-set, many of the industrial features can still be found around the historic canals.


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 Birmingham 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.


Birmingham has one of the most comprehensive public transport networks of any UK city outside London, and even if this is largely used by commuters heading in to the city, it is just as useful for tourists wanting to head out of Birmingham to see places like Worcester, Stratford Upon Avon or Warwick. Do I need to hire car in Birmingham? There’s certainly no need, but a hire car could still be useful, especially if you want to venture west and into Wales, where public transport links are much more sparse. But there’s more than enough to see here without needing a car.

Verdict — no

  • Note — this advice is based around flying into Birmingham airport (BHX). East Midlands is an alternative airport for the area, and some of our advice for this airport overlaps with Birmingham.

Would you hire a car in Birmingham?

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

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