By | 16th January 2018

Should you rent a car in Queenstown?

Do you need a car in Queenstown > Should you rent a car in Queenstown New Zealand > Queenstown ( ZQN )

Queenstown really prides itself as being the outdoor activity capital of the world. This is, after all, the place where bungee-jumping was invented. Yet the town of Queenstown itself is a relatively small place, with a population of around 30,000 people. The airport in Queenstown is right on the edge of the centre, so it’s easy enough to pick up a hire car here, but buses and taxis are also widely available, and nowhere within the town itself is particularly out of reach by any means.

Do you need a car in Queenstown? Introduction

Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

If you are coming here for outdoor activities, then you might well be taking part in the sort of sports where transport is provided. This will always be the case if this involves vans or towing trailers with kayaks, mountain bikes and other specialist equipment. That too should be reasonably straightforward enough. If that was the only focus then the advice would lean heavily against getting a hire car.

Spectacular scenery

Yet the reason why Queenstown is so popular for outdoor activities also explains why it attracts so many visitors seeking a much more genteel sort of holiday. This is of course because Queenstown sits right in the middle of so much outstanding scenery.

In particular, this is the gateway to New Zealand’s fjord land, the most famous part of which is the spectacular Milford Sound. Driving from Queenstown to Milford Sound without stopping might take 2 to 3 hours. Some visitors also choose to take scenic flights, either from Queenstown or from the small airport that is in Milford Sound itself. In some cases these flights are simply provided on a one-way basis between the two points.

There are buses shuffling up and down around this area and you can take organised tours which will show the scenic areas around Queenstown at their pace rather than yours.

These organised tours can also include a specialist itinerary focusing on places used in the Lord of the Rings trilogy or in the Hobbit.

So there’s certainly no need to look for Queenstown car hire deals if you’ll be happy enough relying on local public transport and organised trips. This is easy enough to do here, but it’s far from ideal.

Compared to many great European outdoor destinations, for example such as Interlaken in Switzerland, public transport around Queenstown really is not that good at all. This is hardly surprising given that no railways were built here to start with.

Therefore, on balance, our Queenstown car hire advice has to swing towards saying that unless your focus really is just on outdoor activities where transport is provided, getting a rental car here is going to be a lot easier than not having one.

Why should you rent a car in Queenstown?

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 Queenstown?

Queenstown 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 223 - of which 149 have free parking. [full notes - parking]



  • Superb scenery – best explored at leisure, on your own terms.
  • Famous film locations – although some Tolkein fans might prefer a tour with the knowledge of a professional guide.
  • No rail services in or near Queenstown.
  • Other than local services within Queenstown, buses are slow, and they typically only operate once per day.
  • You could start a longer New Zealand road trip in Queenstown. Generally we would suggest starting in Auckland instead, as it has a wider choice of inward flights and car rental options. However, Queenstown would work fine for a South Island road trip.

Why not? Visiting Queenstown without a car

Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

Queenstown public transport quick facts

Train score



Water travel score


Overall public transport score


Walking and Cycling Overview

Active travel score

(walking + cycling)


  • Queenstown outdoor paradise – often these activities will include transport.
  • No car needed for access to hiking trails – walk direct from Queenstown or use local buses.
  • Fly to Milford Sound for the ultimate scenic experience.
  • Take a cycling tour – hire a bike in Queenstown instead.
  • Walk, cycle or runthe Queenstown trail.
  • Queenstown Airport is a short walk from Frankton, a suburb of Queenstown. There are regular buses between the airport, Frankton and Queenstown, and the whole Queenstown built up area is less than 5km long.


Car rental in - Queenstown Need v worth & should!

Do you need a car in Queenstown?

Based on comparison with transit, walking and cycling.

Is it worth hiring a car in Queenstown?

Based on value for money

Should you rent a car in Queenstown?

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 Queenstown 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 Queenstown 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 Queenstown 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

Should you rent a car in Queenstown? Ultimately, you should rent a car in Queenstown if you want to see or do anything on your own terms. For any kind of organised activity, including sight seeing flights or bus tours of film locations, then there’s really little need.

Would you hire a car in Queenstown?

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

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