By | 16th January 2018

Do you a car in Tampa?

Do you need a car in Tampa > Should you rent a car in Tampa USA > Tampa ( TPA )
Car: Do you need a car in 3? No car: Is it worth hiring a car in 3? Slider: Should you rent a car in 3? Should you rent a car in 3?

Tampa car hire quick facts

Cheapest rate for one week Based on cheapest economy car hire deal with no added extras. [full notes - basic costs]



  • Price alone isn't the only factor in determining whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Tampa but clearly it's an important one. See our "why" section for more figures.
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 "whynot" section for more suggestions.
Free parking score Based on the number of hotels which offer free parking.Total 216 - of which 156 have free parking. [full notes - parking]




  • During the peak holiday season, public transport is often better value, as many train and bus fares are fixed throughout the year. See our "whynot" section for more suggestions.

Tampa public transport quick facts

"Top trumps" train score

Higher scores go to the systems which take you to the most amazing places.



  • [full notes - top trumps trains]
  • A good rail system doesn't mean you shouldn't hire a car, but it often means you have a decent range of options.

Overall public transport score {coming shortly}

This is a more practical rating based on bus and rail travel.



  • [full notes - overall transit] buses | trams | metro | local & regional rail | national rail
  • Is public transport in Tampa good value, or is it worth hiring a car just because it is cheaper overall?

Walking and Cycling Overview

Active travel score {coming shortly}

This overall rating considers walking and cycling in and around Tampa



Need, worth & should!

Whether you have come here asking "do I need a car in Tampa", "is it worth hiring a car in Tampa", or whether or not you "should" hire a car here, these are all slight variations on a similar theme:

Do you need a car in Tampa?

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.

Is it worth hiring a car in Tampa?

Is car hire good value, especially during the peak season? How does this compare with transit fares?

Should you rent a car in Tampa?

Weighing up the above questions, if you are here for the first time AND asking about hiring a car, is it a good idea?

Of all the 300 cities featured in Carornocar, Tampa really does stand out as the one place where a rental car really is completely and utterly essential – more so even than cities like Phoenix.

[top2 num=”275″]

Why should you rent a car in Tampa?

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 Tampa?

Now there are plenty of American cities which sprawl across large areas, but which have at least made some attempt at installing a light rail system (Houston, Dallas and Denver for example), and there are even sprawling American cities in the (geographical) south which actually have heavy rail mass transit systems, but where a hire car still makes more sense, including Miami, Atlanta and Los Angeles.

Then. There. Is. Tampa!

Tampa really does stand out on its own as somewhere that it feels like an act of self punishment to come here and not have access to a car in some form.

Yet we also think that Tampa is a great place for a visitor to drive, notwithstanding the more than occasional spot of congestion, which can always be found in any city that builds itself around the car and makes little effort to provide any alternatives. As a driver in Tampa, you will find that you aren’t just rewarded with multilane highways, but that the city and the neighbouring area also has a huge network of fantastic bridges, which can turn any drive from drudgery to delight, especially if you are travelling outside the peak periods.

Now we shouldn’t dismiss Tampa entirely by saying that there is no public transport here, as that is not the case. There is simply no substantial rail-based public transport, other than a token trolley (the TECO line) in the downtown area, and a daily train service running between Miami and Washington DC, that takes a dogleg route to call in at Tampa.

Of course, there are still all of the usual buses, including bus connections between Tampa International Airport and not just downtown Tampa, but also St Petersburg and Clearwater. Naturally, there are also scheduled coach services running from Tampa to Orlando and also down to Miami, but none of these public transport options are anything like as flexible as driving. If you want to look up any sample trips, just try making it between Tampa and St Petersburg without a change of bus! Yes, you cando it, but you are relying on a pre-booked Greyhound, instead of a turn up and go urban or regional bus. Any journey between the two centres is going to take 90 minutes to two hours by bus, compared to just under an hour in a rental car, in light to mid-level traffic.

This is why Tampa is the only destination to score a full 10.0 on our index of car hire necessity. We don’t think that such a score is a remotely good thing, because it means that there is little choice for visitors, or for anyone else either. You don’t just need a car to come here, you need a car to get around on every small journey, and you’ll need a car just to get across the road from the grocery store parking lot to the drive-in restaurant on the other side.

The city is also a complete nightmare to walk around, unless you are keeping yourself just to the more historic downtown areas.

Things really don’t get any better once you head towards the huge white sandy beaches that bring people to the Tampa Bay area in the first place. One strip mall will lead to another, but if you want to go between them using your own two feet, you will find little shade from the sun, and none at all from the wide lanes of traffic.

Why not? Visiting Tampa without a car

What is public transport like in Tampa? 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 3?

  • No reason to visit Tampa without a car, if you have the choice of getting one.
  • You can visit the Tampa Bay area by coach from various points in Orlando, either by scheduled coach, or by a free service for guests of Busch Gardens – see Mears Express.
  • TECO trolley operates in downtown Tampa – it’s largely a heritage throwback, but it runs through areas where you can also walk between most places.
  • If you are just coming to laze on the beach, you will be fine – various airport shuttle services are available throughout the region.

Tampa really is the ultimate in car dependent sprawl, and the area is worse off because of it.


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.

Would you hire a car in Tampa?

Have you driven in Tampa? Do you agree with our advice on whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Tampa}?

Do you need a car in Tampa? For some or all of the time? 

Tell us what you think using the comments section below:

Category: USA

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