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 )
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?

Birmingham 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 Birmingham 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 257 - of which 132 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.

Birmingham 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 Birmingham 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 Birmingham



Need, 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:

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.

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?

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?

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 Birmingham?

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 Birmingham?

  • 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.

Why not? Visiting Birmingham without a car

What is public transport like in Birmingham? 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 Birmingham?

  • 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.

Verdict – Do you need a car in Birmingham?

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.


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 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? 

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