North America > United States > Anchorage
See: Why rent a car in Anchorage ? | Why not? | Ratings | Summary | Comments
(All of these pages will look a lot nicer when they are tidied up later in the spring)
Your key questions for any destination:
Do I need a car in Anchorage?
Strictly speaking, there are very few travel destinations anywhere in the world where it's absolutely essential to rent a car in order to see the main points of interest.
That's why we give you loads of ratings scales from 1 to 10, rather than just yes or no answers!
- The need question is generally answered by looking at public transport (transit) options. Is it good enough for visitors who are happy to consider using it?
- How many public transport routes are there, and are they mainly rail or road (bus) based?
- Is public transport fast, frequent, safe, reliable and cheap?
- Does public transport actually take you to the places you'll probably want to see?
Is it worth hiring a car in Anchorage?
This question is usually more about value for money. For this, we look at Anchorage car hire options, and consider how rental costs compare with using transit.
How far are you likely to drive anyway, and how much might you expect to spend on fuel, road tolls, parking and any other charges. We compare Anchorage with other destinations locally and around the world.
This is obviously much more of an issue if you are planning a longer road trip than it is on a small island.
Should I rent a car in Anchorage?
This is basically a merging of the two questions. Everything else might be about giving certain facts about the costs of car rental or using public transport in Anchorage, but answering this question is very much a matter of opinion.
Please note that Carornocar.com is currently being revised and updated in preparation for the Summer 2022 (northern hemisphere) tourist season.
We do not intent to include detailed covid information, nor do we intend to suggest hiring a car, just because public transport might still have a mask requirement. Our advice will be based on the same criteria we've always used, ie whether or not you can get a better travel experience, or at least a better value one, by choosing not to hire a car.
Anchorage is in car rental price band: 8/10 (1 = cheapest car rental location)
General comment - based on price alone, is it worth renting a car in Anchorage?
No. Car rental is very expensive by global standards.
Can you expect big swings in car rental prices in Anchorage between the peak and the off peak season?
2/10 (0 = stable prices)
Driving score: 7/10
Non car score:9/10
(0 = car hire not advised / 10 = rental car essential)
General comment -
Under constant review. Although there are loads of non-car options, driving still often seems like the natural choice in Anchorage.
Anchorage has been one of the great surprises in doing research for Carornocar. The natural starting point is that Alaska is a vast open state with such spectacular scenery that the only way to do it justice is by car.
Further research shows that although there is no question about the scenery, but that the best way to get around is anything but by car!
Instead, because the area around Anchorage offers such a rich variety of excursions that include hiking, biking, bus shuttles, train journeys with panoramic coaches, and of course cruise ships and ferries, getting a rental car should actually be a long way down the priority list for anyone who wants to see Alaska at its best.
Why? Visiting Anchorage using a hire car
Why do you need a car in Anchorage ?
- For all the obvious reasons – public transport is limited in terms of both routes and frequency.
- A rental car will allow you to drive on the limited number of road routes which are available from Anchorage at your own pace, and to stop whenever you want.
Ratings: How does Anchorage compare?
Is it worth hiring a car in Anchorage? TBC
This is based on a rough consideration of the costs of renting a car in Anchorage, and how this compares with the costs of using public transport. The answer to this varies hugely from one destination to the next, based on a wide range of factors. It's based on renting a car at the airport (TBC), and driving for an average of 2-3 hours on open roads on most days.
How does this compare if:
You are travelling:
Solo / As couple / small family / larger family / senior couple etc
Does car rental make sense on different budgets?
Do you need to hire a car in Anchorage? TBC
This is based strictly on whether or no we think it's possible to visit Anchorage (and the surrounding area) without using a car. Of the three key questions, this one is the most likely to be a "no".
Should you rent a car in Anchorage? TBC
This is a balance of all factors. Remember this is an answer to the question for people who are already asking it. That's why the answer might still be a "yes", even when public transport is good.
See global comparisons
Hiring | Driving | Parking
Trains | Buses | Local travel
Car hire basics:
Public transportation basics:
Regular bus services: YES
Coach (inter-city): YES
High Speed Rail:
Rail type (end stub / through / junction / hub):
As you start ....
Does Anchorage airport have a direct rail link?
(Yes - within terminal / adjacent / short walk) (Yes - bus transfer / other) No
Has our advice for Anchorage car rental changed over time, or has it been pretty constant?
2017 - 7
2019 - 4
2021 - 3
Average score - 4
As far as any question about getting a rental car goes, anchorage and indeed Alaska in general really is a destination of the most ultimate of extremes!
Firstly, you have the extreme geography – Alaska is one of the most northerly destinations with any notable levels of tourist traffic, and this comes with extreme terrain and extreme weather, although the southern parts of the main Alaskan landmass can actually be surprisingly pleasant in summer.
Then you have the prices that come with this remote and rugged terrain – due to a combination of the high costs involved with making rental cars available and the higher cost of the kind of SUV or equivalent vehicle you might expect to rent, Anchorage is one of the most expensive major car hire destinations in the world, and if you instead choose to continue onwards to any other possible rental location in the state, then you can expect to pay even more! Yet any other transport option you look at for covering any kind of distance is going to be extremely expensive to, whether that’s one of the very few available scheduled coach services, the Alaska Railroad or ferry services via the Alaska Marine Highway.
But the real extreme factor when considering whether or not to rent a car in Anchorage, or indeed when trying to work out how to get around by any means is the sheer lack of roads in this part of the world. Even if you are looking at travelling by train instead, then there is really only one major rail route which runs through Anchorage, and the Alaska Railroad roughly parallels the highway anyway between see Ward/Whittier and Fairbanks – although in places the 2 corridors can be several miles apart.
So what does all this mean when it comes to actually making a choice about whether or not it’s worth renting a car in Anchorage, or whether there are enough ways to get around without a hire car?
First things first, given the extremely high daily cost of car rental in Anchorage, you might also be considering getting hold of a hire car for a part of your stay, and then using other transport options for the rest of it. Even if there are some service fees which are fixed regardless of the length of rental, this might well still be an option worth exploring, especially if your intention is to stay in and around Anchorage, rather than to try and do any kind of road trip, for which options are extremely limited anyway.
Why not? Visiting Anchorage without a car
Why don't you need a car in Anchorage ?
Alaska without a car
You might well notice that directly in front of the main terminal at Ted Stevens International airport in Anchorage, there’s quite a new looking railway station, and it would be logical to presume that this might provide some kind of shuttle linked to the downtown area, but sadly this isn’t the case. Anchorage is one of the few airports in the world to have an active railway station which doesn’t provide such a shuttle service. Instead, the airport is the local terminus for some of the services on the Alaska Railroad, including trains which head from Anchorage to the cruise port in Whittier, thus providing a very useful connection if you are simply here to head straight on to a cruise package.
However the more impressive route on the Alaska Railroad is the one which heads inland from Anchorage up towards Fairbanks, although this full journey actually takes over 12 hours, given that the trains have to negotiate so many sharp bends.
It’s also possible to take the train part of the way towards Fairbanks and to hook up with a coach service on the way back, but the corridor used by the Alaska Railroad is also about as far as any long distance you cana kindly let me you are road transport gets in this state.
Within the city of Anchorage itself and the small communities which are immediately around it, then you will also have the choice of regular urban bus services, together with local cabs, including Uber.
But Alaska really is one part of the world where any decision about what to see and how to see it really isn’t just about road versus rail or hire car versus bus or taxi, because there are 2 other major considerations – firstly the idea of getting somewhere by private air charter, or simply chartering a small plane for the day to see various different places (also known as flight seeing), and secondly because you don’t have to be a cruise ship passenger to enjoy some of Alaska’s stunning coastal scenery by boat, because there is also the option of the Alaska Marine Highway together with a couple of small local ferry services.
Given that there are so many air taxi services in this part of the world, this might well be an option which shouldn’t immediately be discounted on cost grounds!
Do you or don't you need a car in Anchorage ?