By | 16th January 2018

Do you need a car in Cologne?

Do you need a car in Cologne > Should you rent a car in Cologne Germany > Cologne ( CGN )
Do you need a car in 4? Is it worth hiring a car in 4? Should you rent a car in 4? Should you rent a car in 4?

Cologne Car hire summary

Overall drive rating

Based on a weighted score across all factors, including driving roads, hire and fuel costs, road safety etc. [Full notes - drive rating]


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 Cologne 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 284 - of which 45 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.

Cologne 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

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

Walking and Cycling Overview

Active travel score

This overall rating considers walking and cycling in and around Cologne



Take to the waters!

This is a general rating for all types of water travel, including scheduled ferries, sea / rivers cruises and excursions in Cologne


Need, worth & should!

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

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 Cologne?

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

Should you rent a car in Cologne?

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

One of the most iconic images for the round-Europe inter-rail traveller is the Hohenzollern bridge leading out from Cologne Hauptbahnhof station and over the Rhine, with the imposing Dom Cathedral as a backdrop.

For getting around the enormous Rhine-Ruhr conurbation which stretches from east to west to the north of Cologne, there is certainly no need for a hire car, as public transport is excellent. This is covered in our Düsseldorf car hire advice page. What about elsewhere?

Do you need a car in Cologne? Introduction

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

Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

Despite initial impressions, there are actually several reasons why you might find that you should hire a car in Cologne, and these generally revolve around driving south.

Why should you rent a car in Cologne?

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 Cologne?

  • Valleys and Vines – Further to the south are the Rhine and Mosel valleys, which offer many a scenic vista amongst the numerous vineyards.
  • Belgium and Luxembourg – Cologne Bonn airport is also a useful gateway for the Ardennes scenic region in southern Belgium and also for neighbouring Luxembourg. From within Europe, flights to Cologne are usually much cheaper than flights to either Brussels or Luxembourg, and there is also a wider choice of low-cost routes. Generally, it is better to head into this part of the world in a hire car, although it is by no means essential (see below).


  • Autobahns – You can try and race a high speed train down the A35 autobahn, but with ever increasing speed restrictions coming into place on the German motorway network, the train is almost certain to win. Having said that, the German motorway network is still an easy way of getting around when compared with British or American equivalents.
  • Nurburgring – Cologne is also the closest major airport to the infamous Nurburgring Grand Prix circuit. You can even drive around the circuit in your own car, but hire car companies would not be best pleased about you doing it in one of theirs! More realistically, there area around Nurburg offers plenty of opportunities for scenic drives on rural lanes.

Why not? Visiting Cologne without a car

What is public transport like in Cologne? 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 Cologne?

Within the city

  • Public transport provision within Cologne itself, to neighbouring Bonn and also within the Rhine-Ruhr conurbation to the north is excellent, so no car is needed for simply travelling around this area. See our Düsseldorf page for more details.
  • High-speed and local train services are available to and from all the main airports in the region, including Cologne Bonn, and also Frankfurt International to the south and Düsseldorf International to the north.
  • Cool as ICE – If you really want to zoom fast down the A35 corridor, you can of course just take the ICE high-speed train from Cologne airport to Frankfurt. If you book far enough in advance, you can get a seat right behind the drivers’ cab – but depending on formation, you may need to upgrade to First class to get this view!

Beyond Cologne without a car

  • Boat cruises – A hire car is certainly a good option for exploring the Rhine or Mosel Valleys, but an even more pleasant, and far more tranquil option is to take a river cruise holiday. For shorter trips, plenty of cruisers offer journeys along the Rhine in Cologne itself. A perfect option for dinner!
  • Cycling – the city of Cologne itself is renowned for being one of the most cycle friendly in Germany, and there are also plenty of trails linking Cologne with the other big cities in the region. German drivers might have a reputation for putting their foot down on the autobahns, but cyclists can generally expect to be treated with respect by drivers in German cities.
  • Mosel Maare cycle route – Further south is the Mosel Maare cycle route, a rare example of a railway in Germany which fell into disuse, and has since been converted into a cycling trial. This runs between Daun and Wittlich. Take the train to Daun, or to Wengeror for the southern end of the route.


Do you need a car in Cologne? In many ways, the decision whether to hire a car or not in Cologne is a simple case of direction — head north and probably you won’t need to, head south and we think it is a good idea. As many people would have the impression that there is no need to hire a car in Cologne, or anywhere else in Germany, we think this is one city where that sentiment is worth re-considering.

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 Cologne?

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

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

Tell us what you think using the comments section below:

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