Should you rent a car in Chicago?

Should you rent a car in Chicago USA > Chicago

Chicago Introduction

Why? Why not? Ratings


Why should you rent a car in Chicago?

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 Chicago?

Chicago Car hire summary

Overall drive rating



Cheapest rate for one week




How much should I expect to pay in the peak season?





Free parking score

Total 940 - of which 479 have free parking. [full notes - parking]




Should you rent a car in Chicago?

  • Great Lakes — To get around the city of Chicago itself, there really is no reason to get a hire car, unless you want to behave like Ferris Bueller. To enjoy scenic areas around the Great Lakes or inland, then as with anywhere, a hire car will give you much more flexibility.
  • Base — Chicago is arguably still America’s main transportation hub — although Atlanta airport has taken the singular title of world’s busiest airport from Chicago O Hare, Chicago also has a secondary airport at Midway and sits at the centre of the Amtrak passenger rail network. So there’s a much wider choice of flights to Chicago from Europe in particular, and also from Asia. This naturally makes Chicago a good place to pick up a hire car and use as a base or a starting point for a road trip into other states.
  • Route 66 — Chicago is the start of the famous Route 66 which traverses some of the United States’ most dramatic scenery as it heads through the Rockies and Canyon lands into California. Note that if you are looking at picking up a hire car in Chicago and dropping it off somewhere else, it is worth checking each hire company’s policy on one-way rentals first as these can vary dramatically from one car hire provider to the next, and sometimes you can be stung with additional fees at the car hire desk if you do not double check the small print beforehand.

Why not? Visiting Chicago without a car

Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

Chicago public transport quick facts

Train score



Water travel score


Overall public transport score


Walking and Cycling Overview

Active travel score

(walking + cycling)


  • Architecture – The Windy city has so much to offer aficionados of architecture, crime capers and pizza, and it also offers plenty of easy options are getting around courtesy of the CTA transit system.
  • El – When it comes to elevated trains (Els), Chicago really is the pioneer. Whereas New York’s elevated subway lines and steamy heating ducts might have featured as a backdrop in more films, they are generally only used in the less glamorous suburbs. In Chicago, the “loop” travels around the downtown district giving stunning views of some of the city’s most famous skyscrapers.
  • Cycling city – Chicago has invested millions of dollars in new cycle lanes, making it one of the most bike friendly cities in the USA. There are now nearly 600 Divvy bike share stations across the city.
  • The 606 – this new walking and cycling trail runs east-west for 2.7 miles in the northwest of the city. Divvy bike hire is available near each of the five entrances.


Car rental in - Chicago Need v worth & should!

Do you need a car in Chicago?

Based on comparison with transit, walking and cycling.

Is it worth hiring a car in Chicago?

Based on value for money

Should you rent a car in Chicago?

Weighing up the above, if you are asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?

Who is travelling?

Is it worth renting a car in Chicago if I am a solo / budget traveller?

What about for 2 people travelling together?

For families?


Where are you staying?

Do you need a car in Chicago if we are staying in a central area?

What if we are staying on the edge of the city/resort?

Or in a rural area?


What is your attitude towards driving?

Should I hire a car in Chicago if I prefer not to drive?

If I am easy either way?

If I prefer to drive?



Final score:


Go back up to:
Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

Should you rent a car in Chicago? Verdict: no

Would you hire a car in Chicago?

Have you driven in Chicago? Do you agree with our advice on whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Chicago?
Tell us what you think using the comments section below:
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