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North America > United States > Houston

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

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 Houston?

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

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

What can we really say about Houston, one of the most car-dependent cities on earth? This is a place where nearly 95% of all journeys in the city are taken by car, and anybody who has the option of driving will drive.

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

Houston 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 Houston? 

Sometimes. Car rental is slightly cheaper than global averages.


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

5/10 (0 = stable prices)

Driving score: 5/10

Non car score:1/10

Balance: 9

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

General comment -


Why? Visiting Houston using a hire car

Why do you need a car in Houston ?

So it almost goes without saying that a rental car in Houston is an absolute must, and that’s really almost all there is to it!

  • Public transport in Houston is terrible, so you have little choice.
  • The token light rail network is unlikely to take you where you want to go.
  • IT’s virtually impossible to transfer to or from the port of Galveston by public transport.

Why not? Visiting Houston without a car

Why don't you need a car in Houston ?

However, we never want to dismiss a city entirely and say that there is no way to get around without a car, even if you would normally hire one anyway.

So for a start, Houston does have a network of public transport bus routes, including scheduled bus services from both the main Houston Intercontinental International airport as well as the smaller Houston Hobby airport. There is also a token light rail service in Houston. However, this is really largely aimed at commuters, and it doesn’t serve either airport.

  • Taxis are always an option. Ff you have to spend your entire visit using them, this isn’t exactly something we’d refer to as a “no car” option, when it just means somebody else is doing the driving!
  • Trying to get around Houston and the area that surrounds it without a car is by no means impossible. This really will depend on where it is you are trying to get to.
  • You can also transfer by bus towards the state capital San Antonio or towards easy-going Austin, both in around 2 to 3 hours. However, bus services to the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex typically take 5 to 6 hours. There are naturally plenty of short hop flights within Texas, including between Houston and Dallas.

Ratings: How does Houston compare?

Is it worth hiring a car in Houston? TBC

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

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

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






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

2017 - 9

2019 - 9

2021 - 9

Average score - 9



Visiting Houston without a car simply isn’t much fun. This great Texan oil city was always built around the car first. Even if Houston’s vast freeways move like treacle at times, they are still the only real way to get around. To appreciate a true feeling of the size and flavours of big open Texas, then you will have to head to the north-west towards the state’s border with New Mexico. This is often easier to do from Dallas.

Therefore, our Houston car advice is very strongly that this is the sort of city where a hire car isn’t just advisory, it’s all but essential.

Verdict – yes


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

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