By | 16th January 2018

Should you rent a car in Inverness?

Do you need a car in Inverness > Should you rent a car in Inverness UK > Inverness ( INV ) Do you need a car in Inverness? Is it worth hiring a car in Inverness? Should you rent a car in Inverness?

Inverness 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 Inverness 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 Inverness 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 108 - of which 79 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 Inverness, 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.

Inverness 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 Inverness


  • [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 Inverness 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 Inverness 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 Inverness. 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 Inverness, 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 - Inverness Need v worth & should!

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

Do you need a car in Inverness?

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  Inverness " will swing towards a strong no, because you can do absolutely fine without one).
Is it worth hiring a car in Inverness?

Is it worth hiring a car in Inverness?

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  Inverness" 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 Inverness?

Should you rent a car in Inverness?

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  Inverness, you might also want to look up some of our other cities to see how  Inverness 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 Inverness?

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 Inverness 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 Inverness 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 Inverness 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 Inverness 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 Inverness 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 Inverness 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 Inverness, 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 Inverness 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 Inverness 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 Inverness 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 Inverness, or are there good reasons not to?

Inverness may be capital of the Highlands, but is that status enough to make it a major public transport hub as well?

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Why should you rent a car in Inverness?

  • Flexibility — for all the obvious reasons, a hire car will give you far more flexibility than go by train or bus will.
  • Timinghowever scenic the train lines out of Inverness may be, most services only operate a few times each day, so it is difficult to get off en route to take photos and then jump back on again.
  • Eilean Donan Castle — again, this is somewhere that with good planning can be reached by coach or a combination of bus and train. The village of Dornie sits on the A87 about 10 miles east of Kyle of Lochalsh. Driving gives you the flexibility of following a similar route to the Kyle line through Glenn Carron (A890), and then returning along the A87 through Glen Shiel.

West Coast and Isle of Skye

  • Go West — a car will give much more flexibility for exploring the West of Scotland, especially if you head towards Ullapool and beyond, where there are no trains, and buses are extremely rare, except when operating in conjunction with ferry services.
  • Skye — although it is possible to explore the Isle of Skye using buses, they only operate on an infrequent basis. To make the best use of the fantastic scenery Skye has to offer, including the famous Cuillin Hills, a car is essential.

Why not? Visiting Inverness without a car

What is public transport like in Inverness? 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 Inverness?

Local transport

  • Loch Ness — if you drive there, you really will just see a large body of water. To capture the spirit of Scotland’s most famous monster, you’ll be much better off on a cruise or organised tour (and we don’t recommend guided tours very often). These can easily be arranged from the centre of Inverness.
  • Bike it! If you drive on the A9, chances are that you will see many cyclists taking part in the gruelling John O’Groats to Land’s End cycling challenge. If this gives you inspiration, why not hire a bike in Inverness, and take one of the many scenic circuits which can be explored from the Highland capital — just make sure you take a good map to avoid getting caught out on a long dead-end road.
  • Great Glen Way – The Caledonian Canal to the head of Loch Ness is a good place to start your Inverness bike tour – but the more adventurous can continue all the way down to Fort William on the Great Glen Way – and it is even possible to book one way bike rental for this route!
  • Whisky tours — there are numerous distilleries within range of Inverness, and taking a coach tour of any of these locations means you don’t have to worry about sampling the product on the way.

Beyond Inverness by train

  • The Kyle line. This line alone is a good enough reason not to hire a car for a visit to Inverness. Often rated as one of the most scenic rail lines in the world, together with the West Highland line out of Glasgow Queen Street, it really is one of Scotland’s must see railway routes.
  • Plockton. This lovely fishing village, originall set up as a planned community to help stem the flow of emmigration, has been immortalised in the Hamish Macbeth TV series, and is an ideal excursion on the Kyle line.
  • Compass covered — unlike nearby Aberdeen, which sits out on the corner of the rail network, train routes from Inverness head out in the direction of all the major compass points — north on the Far North Line towards Wick and Thurso, east towards Aberdeen, south on the Highland Line to Perth, continuing to Edinburgh and Glasgow, and west on the Kyle line to Kyle of Localsh. Out of these four major routes, at least three are scenic for a substantial length of their journey — the line to Aberdeen in our opinion is less impressive.
  • Limited road routes — despite Inverness being remote relative to the rest of the UK, it still offers an excellent selection of rail routes, which roughly match the range of routes which are available by road. The main exception to this is the A82, which heads south west to Fort William, and beyond Glasgow, although scheduled coach services are available on this route. Therefore the relative advantage of having a car is much less than it might be at other locations. Is it worth the cost?
  • Combine train and bus – e.g. to Eilean Donan Castle, by tain, allow a good 3 hours, using the Kyle Line and a coach to Dornie. Alternatively, the direct coach journey from Inverness to Dornie takes just under 2 hours. Note – mixing one-way coach and railway journeys can be more expensive than making return trips by the same route, but if you book in advance you can get good deals, and you will see more this way.
  • The superb Dunrobin Castle even has its own station (Dunrobin), but the castle is only open during the summer months. It takes just over 2 hours to get there by train – or 90 minutes by bus, but the train is more scenic, especially as it heads inland up Dornoch Firth (the detour explaining the additional journey time).
  • Take the train up. Although recent years have seen huge improvements in the range of flights to Inverness, there is still a much wider choice of flights to either Edinburgh or Glasgow. Why not take the train in at least one direction, and enjoy the scenic Highland Line – the good stuff starts north of Perth, so it doesn’t matter whether you fly into Edinburgh or Glasgow. There is also one direct train each day from London King’s Cross to Inverness, the Highland Chieftan, taking around 8 hours.
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Inverness is one of those places where it is easy to automatically think a hire car is the best option, but there are plenty of reasons to think again.

The Kyle Line on its own is one of them, and because there are so many other options for enjoying this part of the world without needing a hire car, our recommendation is to try and do without one.

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