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Europe > Germany > Cologne

See: Why rent a car in Cologne ? | 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 Cologne ?

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 Cologne ?

This question is usually more about value for money. For this, we look at Cologne 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 Cologne 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 Cologne ? 

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 Cologne , but answering this question is very much a matter of opinion.

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?

Please note that is currently being revised and updated in preparation for the Summer 2022 (northern hemisphere) tourist season. 

We do not intent to include detailed covid information, nor do we intend to suggest hiring a car, just because public transport might still have a mask requirement. Our advice will be based on the same criteria we've always used, ie whether or not you can get a better travel experience, or at least a better value one, by choosing not to hire a car.

Quick Ratings

Price band

Cologne is in car rental price band: 4/10 (1 = cheapest car rental location)

General comment - based on price alone, is it worth renting a car in Cologne ? 

Sometimes. Car rental is slightly cheaper than global averages.


Can you expect big swings in car rental prices in Cologne between the peak and the off peak season?

5/10 (0 = stable prices)

Driving score: 6/10

Non car score:8/10

Balance: 6

(0 = car hire not advised / 10 = rental car essential)

General comment -


Why? Visiting Cologne using a hire car

Why do you need a car in Cologne ?

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.


  • 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

Why don't you need 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.

Ratings: How does Cologne compare?

Is it worth hiring a car in Cologne ? TBC

This is based on a rough consideration of the costs of renting a car in Cologne , 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 Cologne ? TBC

This is based strictly on whether or no we think it's possible to visit Cologne (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 Cologne ? 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 Cologne airport have a direct rail link?

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






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

2017 - 6

2019 - 7

2021 - 6

Average score - 6



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.


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

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