Do I need a car in Las Vegas? Where can we even start with car-rental advice for the great enigma in the desert that is Sin City, Las Vegas, Nevada?
Of all the different travel destinations in the world, Las Vegas is quite possibly the best and the most iconic place from which to start a road trip, especially because you could just randomly spin the compass and basically set off in any direction to the North, South, East or West, and you are sure to see completely amazing landscapes, where ever you go.
Do I need a car in Las Vegas? Introduction
If you are coming to Las Vegas to start a road trip, then please see our Las Vegas road trip pages for a few more suggestions on where to start.
However, the chances are that if you’re coming to Las Vegas for the first time and if you are maybe here for long weekend, perhaps a week, and you aren’t sure whether it’s really worth getting a rental car at the airport, then we would definitely say that there is no need to, and certainly not if you are just planning on staying mainly in and around The Strip.
Why rent a car in Las Vegas?
A few reasons why you do need to rent a car in Las Vegas
- Road trips! Las Vegas is the world’s ultimate road trip start point!
- Driving loops or one way? – there are various easy one way or driving loop options which can be mixed with visiting cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles or Phoenix.
- Take a road trip to Monument Valley – the ultimate American driving experience (but this really needs a full week from Vegas, and it is well out of the range of even a very long day trip).
- Drive on across The Rockies towards Denver via Salt Lake City. This loop can also include places like Grand Teton and Yellowstone National Park.
- Outside of town, public transport is terrible. Despite the size of the city, there is no passenger rail service! The railway station closed in 1997!
- Numerous national parks and other amazing landscapes within a one day excursion from Vegas. You probably have more options from Las Vegas then you would from anywhere else, perhaps apart from Salt Lake City, which is a little bit closer to many of the places of interest in southern Utah.
- Nearby state parks – for any of the more local landscapes, a Las Vegas rental car is all but a must. These places cannot be visited by scheduled bus, and tour bus options rarely give enough time to see these places properly.
Is it worth it to rent a car in Las Vegas – compared to other destinations?
- Fuel costs in the city of Las Vegas are on a par with New York. However, from a European perspective, fuel is still extremely cheap.
- No road tolls in the state of Nevada, or in Arizona and New Mexico. Even if you venture into Colorado (which has modest tolls), or California, which has hefty tolls around urban areas, most of the suggested road trip circuits from Las Vegas will be mainly on toll-free highways.
- Car rental can be expnesive at times. As a whole, car rental costs in Las Vegas aren’t particularly great value when compared to European countries like Spain, but they are on a par with other destinations in the southern part of the USA. You don’t need a car just to get around The Strip, but when it comes to the scenery outside the city, of course it’s worth getting a rental car in Vegas.
- You really do need a car in Vegas if you want to do any kind of looping circuit. If you want to visit Las Vegas without hiring a car, you can still see a great deal, but you will generally need to take buses or coach trips that venture out of the city in the morning and return same day. It’svirtually impossible to travel between smaller towns that aren’t on major inter-state highways by bus. This makes Las Vegas car rental good value, almost by default.
- Unlimited mileage – most Las Vegas car rental deals should come with unlimited mileage – and this will be key for any kind of road trip, because it’s very easy to cover huge distances in a single day here.
- Free parking – once you are out of the city of Las Vegas, most places you visit on a road trip should provide free parking, and most hotels will include it too. Needless to say, this is a given for any “motels” by major highways. You will still need to pay for parking if you include larger cities like Phoenix or Salt Lake City on your trip, but in all of these locations, there should still be plenty of hotels offering free overnight parking.
A hire car in Las Vegas makes a huge amount of sense the moment you really want to step on the pedals and get out of the city, particularly if you want to see places in your own time and on your own terms. There are various different national parks which are within reach of a day trip from Las Vegas, especially in southern Utah, and further suggestions for some of these can be seen by having a look at our Las Vegas road trip pages and just looking at places which are relatively close by.
By far the most famous landscape attraction that is so often associated with Las Vegas is the Grand Canyon. To do this properly, you will really need to go to the South Rim. Although this can be reached in a 5 to 6 hour drive once you are out of the Las Vegas suburbs, it really isn’t doing it justice to try and do this in a single day. Having said that, mid-week Las Vegas hotel prices are often sufficiently reasonable that you could budget to leave most of your things behind there for one night and then find a cheap motel in northern Arizona, thus allowing for a full day in the Grand Canyon and at least the chance to step down briefly beneath the rim. To spend more time inside the canyon needs a more complex excursion – please see our Grand Canyon page for more.
Why not? Visiting Las Vegas without a car
A few reasons why you might not really “need” a car in Las Vegas (and it might not be worth it at all):
Do I need a car in Las Vegas – local points
- Downtown, forget it – for anything relating to staying on the strip or downtown, there’s just no need for a Las Vegas rental car – use local public transport or take taxis.
- Parking – most of the major casinos on the strip now charge for parking. There are various ways to get this “comped”, but it might not be worth the bother if you don’t need a car for the time you spend in the city.
- Many activities or excursions will include hotel pick up, and then they will take care of all the driving.
- Local travel distances tend to be short – if you don’t want to use local buses, the taxi (or Uber) fare will be reasonable.
- Walking Vegas – Las Vegas might not seem like the sort of place to take a walk, but the major resort hotels are all connected to each other by covered walkways or bridges of various kinds.
Las Vegas car hire v other locations
- Las Vegas car rental prices – if you are most used to hiring a car in Europe, and particularly in countries such as Spain and Croatia, then you can expect to pay considerably more for a one week car hire in Las Vegas, although there is much less seasonal variation here. You canalso expect to pay a lot more if you rent at the last minute – but that can change a great deal according to seasonal demand) – see our general car hire guide.
- Is it worth it at weekends? Las Vegas is a very popular destination year round, but hotels do tend to fill up even more at weekends. This is probably more pronounced in Vegas than it is in most other cities, because it is so popular for people to come here on short weekend breaks from neighbouring California, and since Vegas sells itself as being a 24 hour party city. Exepct to pay a bit more if you rent a car for the weekend, or if you rent for any longer period that includes a weekend.
- Partial rental – you may well find that you really don’t need a car in Las Vegas for the time you are in the city, and you might consider ditching the idea of renting one across the weekend. If you then do a shorter 3-4 day road trip during the week, or simply stay in the city but make a few outbound trips, you should get the best value all-round.
- Compared to the rest of the USA, expect to pay more than you might in Florida, but otherwise about the same as you would in states such as California, again, depending on seasons.
James says - a few trip notes:
To say that you don’t “need” a rental car in Vegas is only really to say so in the strictly functional sense. It’s true – you can see most of the places above if you take an organised tour. You can see a few places by scheduled bus, but you are seriously limited. Whether or not car rental in Vegas is good value becomes irrelevant when there is no passenger rail service running through the town! To say that you shouldn’t hire a car in Vegas because you should spend all your time playing the slots instead would also be a rather bizarre logic (and of course the house is always going to win more from you than the rental company!).
I spent two weeks in Las Vegas in 2004. The city has changed a bit since then, as it always does, but one notable move is that the mega-hotels are now tending to charge for car parking, when they didn’t previously. There has also been a notable improvement in bus service within the city.
Roulette wheel v Wheels on the Road?
First things first, and without pointing out the glaring obvious, Las Vegas is a city that really exists primarily for entertainment, and even if there is a huge amount more to the city than just the casinos, you are simply never going to run out of things to see and do here. A lot of this is also going to include free drinks – alcoholic or otherwise. But however easy going Vegas may seem, please don’t gamble with Nevada’s strict drink driving rules.
If you want to gamble first and see sights later, it’s best just to rent a car for the second part of your trip – if the call of the road can get you away from the tables that is!
On top of all of the activities in and around the city, numerous excursions are offered where the package will include either a tour bus picking up outside your hotel, or some kind of minibus shuttle to an activity location near the city.
Las Vegas is also one of those places where helicopter tours are popular part of the offering, especially scenic helicopter flights which will take you towards the Grand Canyon via the Hoover Dam and then typically back to watch the sun setting over the strip (depending on the season).
Vegas being what it is, public transport is not the same as you’d expect to find in a more traditional North American or European city, but in addition to the high profile (but not always that useful) monorail service, there are numerous express and local buses plying up and down the strip, and taxis are ubiquitous.
If you’re coming to Vegas for the first time, and if you aren’t specifically planning a long road trip, then you will get by absolutely fine without renting a car, and taking some excursions outwards by bus or helicopter. Do you need a car in Las Vegas in the strictest sense? To see the city, or to see the landscapes as part of a packaged excursion – certainly not.
Yet the market for car rental in Las Vegas is sufficiently competitive that if you just want to rent a car for a day or two in the city, and then drop it back that evening, or even at the airport on your way out of town, that should still be reasonably possible. The vast size of the major casinos means that each will have at least one car rental facility.
Do you need to rent a car in Las Vegas – just for the city?
Is it worth hiring a car in Las Vegas? To see even just a few of the amazing landscapes that are within a day’s trip, yes, absolutely. It’s just not really worth hiring a car solely for the purpose of driving it around town or nearby – by the time you have factored in parking, it’s much easier to use buses and taxis.
Ultimately, should you hire a car in Las Vegas? If you are here with a proper road trip, then you really don’t need our advice, but a car can still be extremely useful for making multiple trips out of the city in different directions.
So if you need us to give you a heads or tails coin flip between getting a Las Vegas rental car or not bothering, we’d say this one is just going to come down on the side of “yes”. But only just – we promise to give a yes/no answer on every city, so there you have it!