By | 16th January 2018
Do you need a car in Edinburgh > Should you rent a car in Edinburgh UK > Edinburgh ( EDI ) Do you need a car in Edinburgh? Is it worth hiring a car in Edinburgh? Should you rent a car in Edinburgh?

Edinburgh Car hire summary

Overall drive rating

Based on a weighted score across all cost and quality factors. [Full notes - drive rating]


  • Price alone isn't the only factor in determining whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Edinburgh but clearly it's an important one. See our "why" section for more figures.
  • Cost factors include - price of car hire (peak and off peak season), car hire extras, fuel, tolls and parking costs.
  • Quality factors include - scenic drives, road quality and upkeep, general safety and congestion levels.
  • A complete index of all 10 factors will be uploaded shortly.

Cheapest rate for one week

Based on cheapest economy car hire deal with no added extras. [full notes - basic costs]



  • This is the very lowest price we could find for a one week car rental period in Edinburgh during the quiet season.
  • You will almost always end up paying more than this figure, but any extra costs or supplementary charges are usually determined by the renter, so we cannot easily compare like with like.
  • In many cases, rental companies will offer a cheap rental and then expect you to take out expensive insurance waivers. There are always ways to avoid this!

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 "why not" section for more suggestions.
  • For most featured destinations, the peak season will be during the summer, typically July and August for northern hemisphere destinations. However, peak demand might occur at different times, for example in some ski resorts or winter sun destinations etc.

Free parking score

Based on the number of hotels which offer free parking. Total 572 - of which 167 have free parking. [full notes - parking]



  • Free hotel parking is very useful to have when you are hiring a car, and it's always worth checking ahead beforehand.
  • If free hotel parking is not available, you might want to consider renting a car for a single day, rather than for your whole trip.
  • The availability (or lack of) free hotel parking can be a really important factor in determining whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Edinburgh, as it can be a significant extra daily cost which you won't usually be paying at home!
  • Parking costs play a very major part in our consideration of whether or not it's worth hiring a car in each destination.
  • By using public transport, walking or hiring a bicycle, you can avoid having to worry about parking charges altogether! See our "why not" section for more suggestions.

Edinburgh public transport quick facts

Train score

Higher scores go to the systems which don't just take you to the most amazing places, but also to the ones which are easy to use, fast, reliable and frequent. A good train system on its own is usually enough to determine that you don't need to hire a car in many destinations.


  • [full notes trains]
  • Trains include all kinds of urban rail system from trams up to metro and suburban networks.
  • Trains also include mountain railways and cable cars.
  • Generally, places with a good rail network will automatically mean that you don't "need" to hire a car, but you can still might find that on balance you are better off by having one.

Water travel score

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


  • [full notes - water score]
  • The water score looks at means of transport on water - it does not consider water based activities like surfing or kayaking.

Overall public transport score

This is a more practical rating based on bus and rail travel, and also including ferries and other boat services, where they are part of the public transport network.


  • [full notes - overall transit] buses | trams | metro | local & regional rail | national rail
  • Is public transport in Edinburgh good value, or is it worth hiring a car just because it is cheaper overall?
  • Even if public transport is cheap and reliable, you might still feel that you should hire a car in Edinburgh because it will still give you more flexibility to reach out-of-the-way places, especially in rural areas.

Walking and Cycling Overview

Active travel score

This overall rating considers walking and cycling in and around Edinburgh. It includes factors such as the quality of the street environment, and whether you are likely to feel safe walking or cycling, together with the availability of bicycle hire and the ease of linking walking or cycling routes with public transport.


  • [full notes - active score] walking (city) | hiking | cycling (city /  country).
  • A high active travel score means that you might not need a car in Edinburgh, because you can see everything you need to see using a combination of your own two feet and the public transport system.

Car rental in - Edinburgh Need v worth & should!

Whether you have come here asking "do I need a car in Edinburgh", "is it worth hiring a car in Edinburgh", or whether or not you "should" hire a car here, these are all slight variations on a similar theme. Here we break each one down according to the criteria we use for each question. This is a weighted score based on the values above. These are explained further in the text which follows - [#why] [#whynot]. Do you need a car in Edinburgh?

Do you need a car in Edinburgh?

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. For the lowest "need" score, the destination should have a combination of excellent all-round public transport, great opportunities for walking and cycling, together with poor value car hire or generally poor quality roads. 
  • In destinations where both public transport and car hire options are excellent, the verdict for "do I need a car in  Edinburgh " will swing towards a strong no, because you can do absolutely fine without one).
Is it worth hiring a car in Edinburgh?

Is it worth hiring a car in Edinburgh?

Is car hire good value, especially during the peak season? How does this compare with transit fares? This question mainly looks at issues of cost and practicality.
  • In destinations where both public transport and car hire options are excellent, the verdict for "is it worth hiring a car in  Edinburgh" will swing towards whichever option offers the lowest overall cost for a group of 2-4 people travelling together.
Should you rent a car in Edinburgh?

Should you rent a car in Edinburgh?

Weighing up the above questions, if you are here for the first time AND asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?
  • The final "carometer" swing is much more opinion based, and it takes into account which options will give you the truly best travel experience (n our humble opinion of course). Where a destination offers an excellent score with or without a car, the swing will go towards whichever option we feel gives the most truly unforgettable experience.
  • Ultimately, it's your choice whether or not you rent a car here. We're trying to give you something that's sufficiently far enough away from a "maybe" to help you make that choice. Ultimately, people only come to us because they are uncertain, but we don't really know what each person's preferences are. Whether we say you should or you shouldn't rent a car in  Edinburgh, you might also want to look up some of our other cities to see how  Edinburgh compares with other destinations in  UK or  Europe.
  • By using public transport, walking or hiring a bicycle, you can avoid having to worry about parking charges altogether! See our "why not" section for more suggestions.

What does everyone else do?

Do most people hire a car in Edinburgh?

This is based on our observations of (a) car rental facilities and (b) what we think most people will do here. It's not an exact figure, just an estimate of how likely people are to get hold of a rental car here.
  • his is based on the percentage of people "in the market" who we think are likely to hire a car. This includes anyone arriving on holiday here who would usually hire a car on their travels, so it doesn't include people who don't usually drive (or don't drive), people staying with friends etc.


Visitors per year (million)

  • Cities with more visitors are more likely to have more complex airport car rental arrangements, and generally they will also have better public transport, but this is not always the case, especially in North America.


  • [full notes - do as everyone else does?]
  • You may wish to go with the flow, or you might prefer to avoid doing the most popular or obvious option. This will vary according to the range of choice available. This tends to be much higher in destinations which are closer to the middle of the car or no car scale.

Who is travelling?

Your group size and travel budget has a major impact on whether or not getting a rental car is good value compared to using public transport as your main means of getting around. Ultimately, these are all "worth" questions:

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

Generally, hiring a car is not good value for solo travellers for multiple reasons, especially as most of the costs of renting apply to the car, not the occupants. With public transport, the reverse is usually true! However, there are always some places where you will need a car, simply because they are almost impossible to reach using public transport.

Is it worth renting a car in Edinburgh for 2 people travelling together?

A rental car can be good value for couples or for friends travelling together, but since most cars come with at least four seats, it's often still better value to use public transport. However, if you prefer to keep yourselves to yourselves, then you might still want to rent.

Is it worth renting a car in Edinburgh for families?

Families of groups of 3-4 people travelling together will always get the best value from a rental car. However, you may also be burdened with extra costs for car seat hire, and you well also prefer to use local trains and buses, if they are quicker than getting stuck in heavy traffic.

Where are you staying?

The place you are staying, together with the sort of places you want to see, will have a large impact on whether or not you "need" to rent a car:

Do you need a car in Edinburgh if we are staying in the city centre / main resort area?

Most large towns or purpose built holiday resorts will have some kind of public transport, whereas parking provision will vary greatly from one place to the next. 

Do you need a car in Edinburgh if we are staying on the edge of the urban area?

Typically you may be staying in an apartment or hmall house on the edge of a resort or urban area. These places usually have some level of public transport, but not as much as city / resort centres.

Do you need a car in Edinburgh if we are staying in a rural area?

Rural proprties might include larger villas or apartments, but they can still be within a short walk of a bus stop or local railway station, and the opportunities for hiking and cycling might also be substantial, depending on the destination.

What is your attitude towards driving?

We can give you suggestions based on whatever we consider to be a "typical" visitor to Edinburgh, but ultimately your decision is also going to be influenced by whether or not you ususally prefer to hire a car in the first place.

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

This is especially the case when there is only one main driver in the group, and it's based on the attitude of the driver rather than their passengers! The main driver may also simply prefer to use public transport, or they may prefer to take scenic train journeys where available.

Should we rent a car in Edinburgh if we are easy either way?

This is more aimed at the typical visitor who isn't that bothered about how they get around, as long as it is the most convenient / best value option.

Should I rent a car in Edinburgh if I prefer to drive?

For people who usually prefer the freedom and flexibility of having a hire car. Is it still best to rent a car in Edinburgh, or are there good reasons not to?

Should you hire a car in Edinburgh? Well, if you are just heading for a few days into the centre of Edinburgh, a car will of course be a complete hindrance.Central Edinburgh is well known as being both a nightmare for car drivers, and a throng of buses.

We’re guessing you know that, so this advice is for slightly longer stays in the Scottish capital, using it as a base to explore the surrounding area.

Do you need a car in Edinburgh? Introduction

When someone asks "Do you need a car in Edinburgh?", 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 Edinburgh? 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 Edinburgh as a tourist, and ultimately weigh these up, so we can answer the key question of Should you rent a car in Edinburgh?
Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

Why should you rent a car in Edinburgh?

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 Edinburgh?
  • Urge to Explore: Once you have climbed to the top of either Calton Hill or Arthur’s Seat, however breathtaking the immediate view below, you will also have a strong urge to explore the neighouring country, and a car will give you the most freedom to do this.
  • The Falkirk Wheel is one of the most impressive engineering structures in Scotland, and the easiest way to get there is by car (although a bike would give you the freedom to explore the canal aswell).
  • Forth Bridges: A car will give you the freedom to head north across the spectacular Forth Road Bridge, which in turn gives you amazing views of the even more stunning Forth Rail Bridge.There is no longer any toll on the Forth Road Bridge.
  • Stirling: Head out to Stirling with its famous castle, and visit the nearby William Wallace monument, which is easier to get to by car.
  • Fife: Head into the ancient Kingdom of Fife, and on to St Andrews, the world famous home of golf.
  • Golf: A car is ideal for any of the numerous golf courses in and around Edinburgh.
  • Glasgow: Head across to Glasgow – the train will take you to the city centre, whereas a car will give you freedom to explore the many interesting destinations in the suburbs and beyond. See our Glasgow car hire guide for more details.
  • Rail network: Compared to Glasgow, where our verdict is no, the local and regional rail network heading out from Waverley station is nothing like as comprehensive, especially within suburban Edinburgh, where the public transport is dominated by buses.
  • Head North: Edinburgh is an ideal staging post for heading north and into the Scottish Highlands – especially as flights to Inverness tend to be a bit more expensive than flights to Edinburgh (when travelling within the UK), and Edinburgh Airport offers a much wider range of inward flights from mainland Europe aswell as flights from New York Newark in the USA. Flying into Edinburgh and then driving up also means you don’t miss out on the scenery.
  • Motorways: Picking up a hire car at Edinburgh Airport will give you easy access to the Scottish motorway network, and you will already be in an ideal position to reach most of the Central Belt, as the airport is to the west of the city. This makes arriving at Edinburgh Airport a much better bet than Glasgow Airport or Prestwick, for access to most of central Scotland, as both of these airports are to the west of Glasgow.
  • Small hotels: Even though the City Council has made driving difficult in central Edinburgh, there are many excellent small hotels and b&bs on the roads leading in and out of the city, particularly aroudn Murrayfield on the way in from the airport. These places tend to provide free onsite parking.
  • Gardens: Don’t forget to visit the beautiful Royal Botanic gardens to the north of the city – but exploring around Edinburgh by car will take you to plenty of other green spaces.

Why not? Visiting Edinburgh without a car

What is public transport like in Edinburgh? 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 4?
  • Easy buses: Edinburgh is bus central – they might not be glamorous, but they will take you where you want to go. (If you have the right change – Ed)
  • Bus frequency: On the busiest arteries, buses can turn up as often as every 30 seconds – just like in central London.
  • Use your Inner Tube! Edinburgh has a unique ‘Inner Tube‘ cycleway mapping system, inspired by Harry Beck’s London tube maps. This is based on a network of off-road cycle routes which itself uses disused railway lines around the city.
  • Car? Daft! Because there is just so much to see and do in the centre of Edinburgh itself, and even more within easy range of a short bus ride – renting a car for a short stay would be daft!
  • Road v Rail: Most places which would make interesting road trips – Glasgow, Falkirk (for the Falkirk Wheel), Stirling (for Stirling Castle and the William Wallace Monument), Perth etc, can be easily accessed by fast and frequent train services.
  • Train + bus: Those places that aren’t directly on the rail network are usually easy to access by local bus services. For example, the William Wallace Monument is adjacent to Stirling University campus, so plenty of buses are available.
  • St Andrews: Even though St Andrews doesn’t have its own railway station, a shuttle bus is available from nearby Leuchars, or regular coach services are available from Edinburgh Bus Station.
  • Arriving by train in Edinburgh by night, and climbing up the Waverley Steps (becoming Escalator-Ed) to look back at Edinburgh Castle is truly spectacular!
  • Forth Foot Bridge: There is a better way to appreciate the full glory of the Forth Bridges without a hire car – take the train to Dalmeny, which is right before the start of the Forth Rail Bridge. Climb down to the sea shore, appreciate the spectacular vista of the bridges from sea level, then climb up to the start of the Forth Road Bridge. You can then cross on foot, again enjoying great views of the Forth Rail Bridge. At the north side, head to North Queensferry station, and board a train to appreciate the Forth Rail Bridge.
  • Deep Sea World – is an easy excursion at the end of the Forth Rail Bridge – alight at North Queensferry (also an easy drive across the Forth Road Bridge).
  • East Coast Route: The train journey from Edinburgh to Berwick is particularly stunning (this is the final part of the route up from London Kings Cross).


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.


What is our final score for Edinburgh on the Carornocar scale?

Remember, this isn't so much a rating of the road network, or a score for what we think of the buses or trains, but it's simply a scale showing the swing between whether or not we think a rental car is a good idea here.



James says - a few trip notes:

Edinburgh is the city where I studied Architecture, so I know it well.

When should you hire a car in Edinburgh? Although you won’t want a car for a short weekend away, it will give you more freedom to get out and explore the numerous interesting destinations beyond Auld Reekie herself, reching places that aren’t so easy to get to by public transport. Therefore the verdict is a soft yes – a car is useful, but not essential.

Would you hire a car in Edinburgh?

Have you driven in Edinburgh? Do you agree with our advice on whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Edinburgh}? Do you need a car in Edinburgh? For some or all of the time? Tell us what you think using the comments section below:

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