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North America > United States > Boston

See: Why rent a car in Boston ? | Why not? | Ratings | Summary | Comments

(All of these pages will look a lot nicer when they are tidied up later in the spring)

Your key questions for any destination:

Do I need a car in Boston?

Strictly speaking, there are very few travel destinations anywhere in the world where it's absolutely essential to rent a car in order to see the main points of interest.

That's why we give you loads of ratings scales from 1 to 10, rather than just yes or no answers!

  • The need question is generally answered by looking at public transport (transit) options. Is it good enough for visitors who are happy to consider using it?
  • How many public transport routes are there, and are they mainly rail or road (bus) based?
  • Is public transport fast, frequent, safe, reliable and cheap?
  • Does public transport actually take you to the places you'll probably want to see?

Is it worth hiring a car in Boston?

This question is usually more about value for money. For this, we look at Boston car hire options, and consider how rental costs compare with using transit.

How far are you likely to drive anyway, and how much might you expect to spend on fuel, road tolls, parking and any other charges. We compare Boston with other destinations locally and around the world.

This is obviously much more of an issue if you are planning a longer road trip than it is on a small island.

Should I rent a car in Boston? 

This is basically a merging of the two questions. Everything else might be about giving certain facts about the costs of car rental or using public transport in Boston, but answering this question is very much a matter of opinion.

The Massachusetts state capital is perhaps best known for its educational institutions, and Harvard University is even situated in the city of Cambridge, Massachusetts.

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Boston also developed the first, and still one of the best, underground systems in the USA, and the city has a good network of local buses and state-wide coaches, so is there any need to hire a car there?

Why? Visiting Boston using a hire car

Why do you need a car in Boston ?

Reasons why you should rent a car in BostonĀ 

Should you hire a car in Boston?

  • Leaf fall — New England is most famous for its autumn leaves, and Boston is the main gateway for this. Although new England leave fall bus tours are available, this really is the kind of excursion that is best done in the car.
  • Cape Cod — a car is best for driving out to Cape Cod, and even for continuing on to the nearby islands of Nantucket and Martha’s Vineyard. However, coaches and buses also serve these routes if you have a bit more time.
  • LimiTed although the famous ‘T’ (MBTA) network is generally excellent for getting round Boston itself, it becomes much more limited outside the central city area. The lines don’t always intersect with each other, so you often have to change twice.
    Meanwhile, journeys to the west of the city on the Green line can be tortuously slow, as this route has so many stops, and it divides into five separate fingers, so you can sometimes wait a very long time for your train.
  • Suburban trains operate into separate North and South stations, but there is no direct Metro link between them, and many routes only have limited hours of operation.

Why not? Visiting Boston without a car

Why don't you need a car in Boston ?

Boston without a car

  • Ride the ‘T’ – despite having some limitations as mentioned above, and not having an acronym as cool as “BART”, MBTA (Massachusetts Bay Transit Association) does offer a comprehensive network of routes within and around the city of Boston.
  • Whale watching tours — take a whale watching trip from Boston harbour, and this will be one of your most memorable experiences of a visit to Boston. No car needed.
  • Big dig — Boston’s infamous ‘big dig’ has ended up being one of the most expensive engineering projects in US history, but it has finally buried a waterfront elevated highway which strangled access from the city to its coastal shores. Now visitors to the city can enjoy a network of linked parks, whilst the cars whizz around in tunnels below. This is definitely one to appreciate on 2 feet, not from behind the steering wheel from the bowels below!
  • Quincy — take the “T” out to Quincy, Massachusetts, birthplace of John Quincy Adams, and home to the famous Quincy library, rated as one of America’s favourite buildings. From here, you can also get great views looking back towards the city.

Ratings: How does Boston compare?

Is it worth hiring a car in Boston? TBC

This is based on a rough consideration of the costs of renting a car in Boston, and how this compares with the costs of using public transport. The answer to this varies hugely from one destination to the next, based on a wide range of factors. It's based on renting a car at the airport (TBC), and driving for an average of 2-3 hours on open roads on most days.

How does this compare if:

You are travelling:

Solo / As couple / small family / larger family / senior couple etc

Does car rental make sense on different budgets?



Do you need to hire a car in Boston? TBC

This is based strictly on whether or no we think it's possible to visit Boston (and the surrounding area) without using a car. Of the three key questions, this one is the most likely to be a "no".

Should you rent a car in Boston? TBC

This is a balance of all factors. Remember this is an answer to the question for people who are already asking it. That's why the answer might still be a "yes", even when public transport is good. 

See global comparisons

Hiring | Driving | Parking

Trains | Buses | Local travel


Car hire basics:


Public transportation basics:


Regular bus services: YES

Coach (inter-city): YES

Tram: NO

Metro: NO

Commuter Rail:

High Speed Rail:

Rail type (end stub / through / junction / hub):


As you start ....

Does Boston airport have a direct rail link?

(Yes - within terminal / adjacent / short walk) (Yes - bus transfer / other) No






Has our advice for Boston car rental changed over time, or has it been pretty constant?

2017 - 6

2019 - 6

2021 - 6

Average score - 6



Should you hire a car in Boston? Conclusion – whilst public transport in Boston itself is perfectly adequate, you will almost certainly want to leave the city, and although you can venture out by bus or train, a hire car will definitely be best for this. When should you rent a car in Boston? This is especially so during the leaf fall season.

Verdict — yes (especially seasonally during Fall / Autumn)

Links and notes:


Do you or don't you need a car in Boston ?

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