By | 16th January 2018

Is it worth hiring a car in Zürich?

Do you need a car in Zurich > Should you rent a car in Zurich Switzerland > Zurich ( ZRH ) Do you need a car in Zurich? Is it worth hiring a car in Zurich? Should you rent a car in Zurich?

Zurich 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 Zurich 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 Zurich 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 252 - of which 37 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 Zurich, 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.

Zurich 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 Zurich


  • [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 Zurich 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 Zurich 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 Zurich. 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 Zurich, 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 - Zurich Need v worth & should!

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

Do you need a car in Zurich?

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

Is it worth hiring a car in Zurich?

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  Zurich" 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 Zurich?

Should you rent a car in Zurich?

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  Zurich, you might also want to look up some of our other cities to see how  Zurich compares with other destinations in  Switzerland or  Europe.
  • 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 Zurich?

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 Zurich 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 Zurich 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 Zurich 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 Zurich 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 Zurich 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 Zurich 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 Zurich, 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 Zurich 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 Zurich 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 Zurich 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 Zurich, or are there good reasons not to?

Is anywhere more iconic of Switzerland’s obsession with clockwork precision timed trains than Zürich’s Grand Central Station (Hauptbahnhof)? So why would anyone even consider hiring a car in Zürich?

Do you need a car in Zurich? Introduction

When someone asks "Do you need a car in Zurich?", 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 Zurich? 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 Zurich as a tourist, and ultimately weigh these up, so we can answer the key question of Should you rent a car in Zurich?
Why? Why not? Ratings Comments

Why should you rent a car in Zurich?

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 Zurich?

When is it worth hiring a car in Zürich?

  • Costly trains — trains in Switzerland, and particularly in and around Zürich might well be superb, but they can also be outrageously expensive. Even though car hire at Zürich airport is not cheap either, sharing a car with a group of people might work out cheaper than going by train.
  • Scenic drives — the trains may be excellent, but they are, as Jeremy Clarkson might say, a bit pedestrian. Hit the A3 out of Zürich, and you will soon be heading into Switzerland’s finest driving country. For many (but not all, as some of the rail routes are away from any roads) of the train routes listed below, it might be just as (or almost as, ed) secenic to take the car – and you have the usuals of exploring at your own pace and going off the beaten track.
  • Stelvio — of all the roads in Europe, the Stelvio pass was rated by Top Gear as the best driving experience. To enjoy this at its fullest, drive to Davos and then continue to Zernez, before going through the Ofen Pass to Sluderno. The Stelvio Pass is actually in neighbouring Italy en route S38 towards Bormio. From here, you can head back through the La Schera tunnel, or through the Bernina Pass, taking a similar route to the Bernina railway line.

Why not? Visiting Zurich without a car

What is public transport like in Zurich? 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?

City of Zürich

  • Easy to get around by trams.
  • One of Europe’s leading “non-car” cities – excellent bus network..
  • Even the hotels have their own trains — or at least the Dolder Grand, recently redesigned by British architect Norman Foster, has its own private train.

Beyond by train & Swiss travel system

There are too many outstanding rail routes which can be taken from Zürich to mention them all, so here are a few highlights:

  1. Value train tickets — Swiss rail tickets can seem outrageously expensive, but there are numerous ways to get a better deal. Firstly, you can book in advance on some of the trunk routes, just like advance purchase tickets on British trains – although the value tickets are only on sale on selected routes, no more than 15 days in advance, and often you can only get fares on direct train services. Unfortunately, although Switzerland may have many Brunel accolites, the fares manual and website have come firmly from the stable of Brittas.
  2. Travel passes – The best option for travelling around is to get one of the Swiss travel system passes. These provide unlimited travel on a set number of days, and this includes all mainline rail services, together with lake cruises and connecting buses. However, you will still have to pay for some mountain railways and cable cars, although you will at least get a partial discount. Note that due to currency fluctuations, the cost of even these passes has risen sharply – I last bought one in 2007 for around £100, now you will only see £5 change from £200! Note – if you have an unlimited train pass, you may find cheaper flights to Geneva or Basel instead of Zurich.
  3. Pass discounts. At the time of writing, a 30% discount offer is available for Swiss flexi-passes, although this expires at the end of November 2011. Worth keeping an eye out for future offers (we will try and update when we hear anything).
  4. Regional Passes – if you don’t fancy travelling around the whole country, you can get a regional pass to cover a smaller area. However, these aren’t cheap either – for example the Bernese Oberland pass comes in at a whopping £170 for 3 days travel in 7 (half price on other days) – and you still only get 50% off the Jungfrau and Schilthorn excursions. This is what happens when there is no other way of getting there – and however costly, these routes are truly priceless!
  5. Mountain add-ons. Add a mountain railway ticket at the time of booking a Swiss Rail pass, and the cost is just about bearable – £25 for Murren or £27 for Schilthorn. The Jungfrau line doesn’t even get a mention – you will need your own Swiss bank account to pay for that one (£128 day return from Interlaken).
  6. Jungfraujoch discount – discounts are available with most passes, and you may be able to start your ticket from Kleine Scheidegg, and get an early or late ticket to pay a lot less – potentially as little as £32, if you accept the restrictions. Either way, good luck trying to drive a car to the ‘Top of Europe!’.
  7. Swiss transfer ticket – Another option if you’re just travelling between the airport and one destination is to get the Swiss transfer ticket, which gives you free train travel anywhere in the country on the day you arrive and on the day of your return journey. This must be bought outside the country, and currently costs £95.
  8. Relative cost — car hire in Switzerland is more expensive than any other country in Europe, apart from Scandinavia. There are no bargain car hire deals at Zürich airport to be had, just expensive and even more expensive, and you still need to pay for petrol. So, even if you think the Swiss trains are expensive, car hire is unlikely to be much of a cheaper option, unless three or more people are travelling together.
  9. Famous resorts — the world-famous resort of St Moritz, Davos and Klosters are within easy and stunningly scenic train ride from Zürich. Slightly lesser known is Arosa, home of the Tschuggen Grand spa resort, where stunning modern architecture meets an equally impressive alpine backdrop.
  10. Glacier Express — Clarkson might be right about this one, it is the slowest intercity train in the world, but why would you want to go fast, when the views are so impressive at every turn? This runs from Zermatt to St Moritz, taking in the world-famous Landwasser viaduct on the way.
  11. Just incase the Glacier express isn’t enough, you can continue onward from St Moritz on the Bernina line into Italy and along the shores of Lake Como, terminating in either Bergamo or Milan. The flight home from here might even be slightly cheaper — or do it the other way round, so you don’t miss out on your duty-free allowance which is available on flights from Switzerland. This route takes in the amazing Brusio Spiral Viaduct.
  12. Better connections – Compared to Geneva, Zürich airport has better connections to the Bernese Oberland and Zermatt, although Bern is closer still. Needless to say, the railway routes here are superb too, and there are many places where you can’t even take a car — see our separate Bern page for more details.
  13. Cento Valli – A personal favourite Swiss rail route is the Cento Valli, it literally 100 valleys line between law Carno Locarno at the top of Lake Maggiore, and the Italian town of Domodossola. This can be done as part of a long circuit from Zürich — the main lines on either side are superb too, although it is actually closer to Milan. See our Milan page for other scenic rail routes in southern Switzerland and Lombardy.
  14. Southern Germany — Zürich isn’t just Gateway to some of Switzerland’s finest scenery, there are also a whole host of scenic lines to explore in south-west Germany, especially around the Upper Donau nature park. There are also various scenic routes around Lake Constance to the North East of Zürich.
  15. First-class trams — in Zürich, following abandoned plans to build an underground system, the trams are designed to operate at extremely high frequency, to integrate with other lines, and not to be hindered by traffic. This ‘Zurich model’ has been emulated in other cities that have since developed tram networks, with varying degrees of success. So if you have trams in your city that aren’t as good, blame it on Zurich – or at least attempts to emulate this model. Over 60% of journeys to work in Zurich are made by public transport, compared to less than 20% by car.
  16. Lake cruises — take a cruise on Lake Zürich, another part of the integrated Swiss travel system.
  17. Sunday shopping — Swiss law prevents Sunday trading, except for shops which are inside railway stations. Therefore, Swiss railways developed the ‘Railcity’ concept of turning their major stations into genuine destination shopping centres, featuring high-quality shops and eateries, rather than just having the overpriced convenience food and impulse shopping that most British railway stations have. Both Zürich Hauptbahnhof (Central) and Zürich airport stations are impeccably designed retail centres as well as being major interchange points.
  18. Superb stations — whereas Zürich airport and Zürich Hauptbahnhof both impressive architectural feats in their own right, the big name station design is in Zürich’s secondary station of Stadelhofen. This is designed by the Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, who also designed the new frontage to the main station in Lucerne.
  19. Europe’s crossrails — from Zürich you take the fast ICN tilting train to Bern, Geneva and other major cities in Switzerland, the ‘train formerly known as Cisalpino’, now just Eurocity to Milan, the German ICE train to Stuttgart, Frankfurt and beyond, and the French TGV to Paris. Express trains are also available to Liechtenstein, and on through Innsbruck towards Vienna in Austria. Few other cities in Europe offer this kind of connectivity.
  20. Genuine airport rail hub — even if you are not heading on one of Switzerland numerous scenic routes, Zürich airport is a genuine integrated rail hub, with services to numerous other Swiss cities, and not just to the centre of Zürich itself. For example, trains to Geneva start at Zürich airport, and direct services are also available to Basel, St Gallen and Romanshorn on the edge of Lake Constance.


Verdict – no (strong)


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 Zurich 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.


Is it worth hiring a car in Zürich?

Clearly, this is a long list of superlatively scenic train journeys (with a price to match) which can be taken from Zürich, a list which is expanded further still on our Bern page for central Switzerland, and our Milan page for southern Switzerland. This list might be written by a rail enthusiast, but this is undoubtedly a part of the world where anyone will appreciate these are unmissable train rides. So is it worth it to hire a car in Zürich? However, petrol heads will also believe that mountain scenery that makes a great train ride makes it even better drive, and there might well be some truth in that – as long as you are driving in areas that have through roads! So even though our recommendation is still to make the best possible use of the ruthlessly efficient Swiss travel system, the driving is amazing too, especially as drivers won’t experience quite the same level of mountain restrictions as there are around Bern.

Would you hire a car in Zurich?

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

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