Portland (Oregon)

By | 16th January 2018

Do you need a car in Portland?

Do you need a car in Portland > Should you rent a car in Portland USA > Portland ( PDX )

Portland is well known for trying to combat the problems of urban sprawl which have blighted so many other large American cities, and this has meant that the city fathers have tried to make Portland expand within its existing commuter belt, rather than endlessly grow further and further out beyond it.

Do you need a car in Portland? Introduction

Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

For the visitor, this tends to mean it’s more likely that you’ll be staying in a hotel that is reasonably well connected to its neighbourhood, so Portland is a lot more walkable than many American cities, and it also has a more than half decent light rail network, even if you’re measuring this by European standards.

It’s also somewhere that is pleasant enough to get hold of a bicycle and to ride around the many trails which surround the city. Again, Portland would be extremely poor if measured by Dutch standards, but compared with most other European cities, it’s quite a reasonable place for cycling, and by American standards it’s positively amazing!

Portland might also be one of those places that is nice enough to stay, that has good quality restaurants and some great bars, but the real reason to come here is to explore the great outdoors. Yet even for getting outside the city, there are trails, for example in forest Park to the west, and there are also numerous different options available for heading towards the iconic Mount Hood National Forest in the east, although beware that many so-called cycle routes are really just painted lines on the road, or wide verges on fast highways.

Why should you rent a car in Portland?

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 Portland?

Portland Car hire summary

Overall drive rating



Cheapest rate for one week




How much should I expect to pay in the peak season?





Free parking score

Total 351 - of which 191 have free parking. [full notes - parking]



  • As with any other destination, it might be worth looking at Portland car hire options if you want the flexibility to head further inland around Oregon. A car is great for the numerous nationally designated forest areas around the state of Oregan.
  • Limited rail service beyond the city of Portland itself – other than the Cascades service between Vancouver (BC) and Eugene (OR) and Amtrak’s Coast Starlight service that runs between Seattle and Los Angeles.
  • You can do a driving circuit along the Columbia River and then back heading south from Astoria. This route would be very difficult to follow by bus, and even if you find a schedule that works, in a bus you would miss the opportunity to enjoy all the different bridges.
  • It might be worth considering hiring a car for a day or two rather than for the full length of your stay.

Why not? Visiting Portland without a car

Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

Portland public transport quick facts

Train score



Water travel score


Overall public transport score


Walking and Cycling Overview

Active travel score

(walking + cycling)


  • Excellent public transport within the city of Portland.
  • MAX fast light rail service.
  • Portland Streetcar within the downtown area.
  • Excellent network of bus services.
  • One of the best cycling cities in the USA.


Car rental in - Portland Need v worth & should!

Do you need a car in Portland?

Based on comparison with transit, walking and cycling.

Is it worth hiring a car in Portland?

Based on value for money

Should you rent a car in Portland?

Weighing up the above, if you are asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?

Who is travelling?

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

What about for 2 people travelling together?

For families?


Where are you staying?

Do you need a car in Portland if we are staying in a central area?

What if we are staying on the edge of the city/resort?

Or in a rural area?


What is your attitude towards driving?

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

If I am easy either way?

If I prefer to drive?



Final score:


Go back up to:
Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

Do you need a car in Portland? On balance, our Portland car hire advice is that there isn’t a huge  need to get one, especially if you plan to stay based in the city itself and occasionally tour out. Portland car hire might be a sensible plan for a day or two during a week long visit to the city, but no more.

Would you hire a car in Portland?

Have you driven in Portland? Do you agree with our advice on whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Portland?
Tell us what you think using the comments section below:
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