Salt Lake City

By | 16th January 2018

Do you need a car in Salt Lake City?

Do you need a car in Salt Lake City > Should you rent a car in Salt Lake City USA > Salt Lake City ( SLC ) Do you need a car in Salt Lake City? Is it worth hiring a car in Salt Lake City? Should you rent a car in Salt Lake City?

Salt Lake City 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 Salt Lake City 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 Salt Lake City 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 248 - of which 168 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 Salt Lake City, 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.

Salt Lake City 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 Salt Lake City


  • [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 Salt Lake City 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 Salt Lake City 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 Salt Lake City. 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 Salt Lake City, 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 - Salt Lake City Need v worth & should!

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

Do you need a car in Salt Lake City?

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

Is it worth hiring a car in Salt Lake City?

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  Salt Lake City" 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 Salt Lake City?

Should you rent a car in Salt Lake City?

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  Salt Lake City, you might also want to look up some of our other cities to see how  Salt Lake City compares with other destinations in  USA or  North America.
  • 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 Salt Lake City?

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 Salt Lake City 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 Salt Lake City 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 Salt Lake City 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 Salt Lake City 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 Salt Lake City 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 Salt Lake City 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 Salt Lake City, 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 Salt Lake City 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 Salt Lake City 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 Salt Lake City 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 Salt Lake City, or are there good reasons not to?

Do you need a car in Salt Lake City? Introduction

When someone asks "Do you need a car in Salt Lake City?", this often breaks down to two key questions:
  1. Can you actually get around using public transport, or is a car all but essential?
  2. Is it worth hiring a car in Salt Lake City? Is it good value for money, compared with non-car options?
Over the next few sections, we wil look at the pros and cons of driving in Salt Lake City as a tourist, and ultimately weigh these up, so we can answer the key question of Should you rent a car in Salt Lake City?
Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

James says - a few trip notes:

Although I visited Salt Lake City way back in 1996, it was only a brief stop late at night when travelling by Amtrak train from Denver, before heading later that evening down to the sin city of Las Vegas, a passenger service that is sadly no longer operating.

Salt Lake City is the headquarters of the Church of Jesus Christ of the latter-day Sts, and this makes it a pilgrimage destination for Mormons, who come to visit the vast imposing Mormon Tabernacle that is situated right in the city centre.

Given that Salt Lake City is situated in the generally sparsely populated state of Utah, which has traditionally been very conservative in its politics, this is the sort of destination where it will be natural to expect that the only way to really get anywhere would be to do so using a rental car, taking advantage of whatever vast multilane freeways the city offered.

Now it’s perfectly true to say that if you are just looking for Salt Lake City car hire deals, and you aren’t really even thinking about whether or not there’s any point in getting a rental car, then Salt Lake City is absolutely the sort of destination where you have no problem at all driving. However, the idea of giving a each city is to look at how easy it is to get around without a hire car, and also at the sort of activities and places to visit which can all be enjoyed without renting a car, and even at routes to take where the car free options are considerably better than what can be seen by driving alone.

As our summary below shows, Salt Lake City is clearly a very evenly balanced destination, and it’s also the sort of place where I think it’s best to either get a car for the full period or to take advantage of the numerous different options forgetting around without one, and especially to then look at ways to head onwards by train either in the direction of San Francisco to the west or Denver through the Rockies to the east. We don’t think there’s much point in looking at Salt Lake City car hire deals which just involve renting a car for part of your holiday/vacation, unless you’re planning is to stay in a city centre hotel in Salt Lake City where substantial parking charges are made in addition to the room price.

Why should you rent a car in Salt Lake City?

What are the main reasons for hiring a car here? Do you just want to drive locally? Do you want to go further afield, or should you even look at taking a road trip? 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 Salt Lake City?
  1. Freedom and flexibility – good standard of driving roads in and around Salt Lake City.
  2. Many suburban hotels are not near public transport stops – hotels geared around guests arriving in their own car or in a rental car.
  3. Most suburban hotels will provide free parking (please check with destination).
  4. Access to stunning natural scenery at your own pace – Kodachrome, Zion et cetera, although many of these points in southern Utah are easier to reach from Las Vegas.
  5. Possible starting point for a road trip encompassing Monument Valley – perhaps a one-way rental ending in either Las Vegas or Phoenix.
  6. Potential one-way rentals returning at various different drop-off points in California, Nevada, Arizona, Colorado et cetera.
  7. Yellowstone National Park is an easy drive from Salt Lake City – and it’s much easier to visit with a rental car.
  8. Suggested one-way rental Salt Lake City – Salt Lake City to Zion to Kodachrome to Monument Valley to Grand Canyon to Sedona to Phoenix.
  9. Suggested driving loops from Salt Lake City – Salt Lake City designed to Kodachrome to Monument Valley to Grand Canyon to lake of our Sioux City to Las Vegas to Salt Lake City.

Why not? Visiting Salt Lake City without a car

What is public transport like in Salt Lake City? 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 4?
  1. Salt Lake City Valley local public transport – light rail-based, reasonable standards. Generally, public transport around Salt Lake City is far better, both when compared with most people’s expectations, or with other similar sized cities in the USA.
  2. The Great Salt Lake – travel across it by Amtrak (need to continue towards San Francisco).
  3. Amtrak across the Rockies to Denver – one of the worlds great scenic rail journeys.
  4. Snowbird is a year round resort, which is easy enough to reach by bus transfers from the valley. Allow around 90 minutes for a light rail – bus transfer. It’s quicker by car (around 45 minutes), but there’s no need to get a car just to get here. From here you can easily arrange any kind of outdoor activity from skiing in winter to hiking and biking in the summer. You can also take the year round cable car service to reach higher altitudes.
  5. Mountain biking (e.g. Slickrock Trail) – but you will need an organised trip or rental vehicle to get to start of trail.
  6. Kodachrome basin, Zion and other state and national parks by guided tour bus.
  7. Mormon Tabernacle – walking distance from city centre.
  8. Regular airport transfers from Salt Lake City International airport by bus.
  9. Various ride van and other shuttle services to Salt Lake City International airport.
  10. Yellowstone National Park – transfer bus services.
  11. Yellowstone National Park transfer by air (various options at destination).

Salt Lake City car hire verdict. Do you need to rent a car in Salt Lake City? This is a lot more evenly balanced a destination than visitors might expect, and the very best things to do here really don’t actually involve getting a rental car, so we think is well worth having another rethink before getting one.

Do you need a car in Salt Lake City? Verdict – no (evenly balanced)


Our slider ratings range from 0 (it isn't even possible to hire a car, e.g. Hong Kong) through to 10 (you really must rent a car here, e.g. Phoenix, Tampa). However, most places are somewhere inbetween these extremes, and this is where it gets more interesting! Further ratings breakdowns, including a much more detailed public transport rating, are currently being added. If you have any questions or comments, please leave them below.


What is our final score for Salt Lake City on the Carornocar scale?

Remember, this isn't so much a rating of the road network, or a score for what we think of the buses or trains, but it's simply a scale showing the swing between whether or not we think a rental car is a good idea here.


Would you hire a car in Salt Lake City?

Have you driven in Salt Lake City? Do you agree with our advice on whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Salt Lake City}? Do you need a car in Salt Lake City? For some or all of the time? Tell us what you think using the comments section below:
Category: USA

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *