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North America > United States > Baltimore

See: Why rent a car in Baltimore ? | 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 Baltimore?

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 Baltimore?

This question is usually more about value for money. For this, we look at Baltimore 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 Baltimore 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 Baltimore? 

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 Baltimore, but answering this question is very much a matter of opinion.

Note that this advice is aimed primarily at visitors arriving at Baltimore-Washington airport (BWI). It also may be useful for visitors arriving into downtown Baltimore by train. For visitors arriving into BWI, but planning primarily to visit Washington DC, please see our Washington DC car hire advice page.

Please note that 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.

Quick Ratings

Price band

Baltimore is in car rental price band: 4/10 (1 = cheapest car rental location)

General comment - based on price alone, is it worth renting a car in Baltimore? 

Sometimes. Car rental is slightly cheaper than global averages.


Can you expect big swings in car rental prices in Baltimore between the peak and the off peak season?

3/10 (0 = stable prices)

Driving score: 6/10

Non car score:4/10

Balance: 6

(0 = car hire not advised / 10 = rental car essential)

General comment -

Reviews tend to change depending on whether focus is more on the city of Baltimore (very non car) or the area around it (very car).


The city of Baltimore has undergone a substantial urban renaissance in recent years. Many attractive new developments have been built in the harbour front area and also in the adjacent downtown. This part of Baltimore is all inherently walkable. Many local bus services are available. Baltimore also has a reasonable light rail system. This also which extends out as far as BWI airport.

Visitors wanting to combine a visit to Baltimore with a visit to Wasington DC can also travel easily between the two cities by train. This can be courtesy of either the express Amtrak service or the more regional MARC commuter trains. This section of the line also has a station near BWI airport with a corresponding shuttle bus link. Visitors to Baltimore can also easily continue what the Northeast corridor route to make day trips to Philadelphia or New York City.

Altogether, getting a hire car in Baltimore is certainly something that’s far from necessary. This is especially so if your plan is to incorporate Baltimore as part of a wider itinerary along America’s north-eastern seaboard.

This is a combination of cities that is particularly popular with visitors from Europe.

Multi-city Itineraries

For the first time visitor from Europe to America’s Atlantic coast, then an open jaw routing that involves arriving in New York and then departing from Washington DC or vice versa is a natural choice. Baltimore is sometimes overlooked on this sort of itinerary, which can be a great shame.

Gettysburg car rental suggestions

Is it worth using Baltimore car hire to get to Gettysburg?

When it comes to US history, the American Civil War site of Gettysburg, where Abraham Lincoln gave his famous address, is surely as essential a part of any visit to this part of the country as any of the locations within Washington DC itself?

The closest sizeable city to Gettysburg is the Pennsylvanian state capital Harrisburg. However, Baltimore is the closest major international gateway. It makes sense to pick up a rental car in Baltimore to go and visit Gettysburg. Gettysburg is also particularly difficult to get to by any sort of scheduled bus services. Even from Washington DC, packaged coach tours are few and far between.

Additionally, getting a rental car in Baltimore might also be useful for exploring some of the other scenic areas which lie to the west. These include the Shenandoah National Park. Many of these areas can also be visited from Washington. Further advice is provided on that page as well.

Why? Visiting Baltimore using a hire car

Why do you need a car in Baltimore ?

  • Take a driving tour to Gettysburg.
  • In Baltimore, car hire still makes a great deal of sense, as the city is still dominated by large freeways. This atill makes driving the default option.
  • A hire car is useful for heading to most places to the south of Baltimore and beyond Washington DC. Please see Washington page for more details.
  • A Baltimore rental car is useful for the Delmarva Peninsula.

Why not? Visiting Baltimore without a car

Why don't you need a car in Baltimore ?

  • Public transit in Baltimore is of a reasonable standard, including heavy rail (MARC commuter) and light rail options.
  • Baltimore makes an easy base for reaching Washington DC or Philadelphia by rail.
  • Baltimore car hire options would be poor value for a smaller group, especially if just staying relatively locally.

Ratings: How does Baltimore compare?

Is it worth hiring a car in Baltimore? TBC

This is based on a rough consideration of the costs of renting a car in Baltimore, 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 Baltimore? TBC

This is based strictly on whether or no we think it's possible to visit Baltimore (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 Baltimore? 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

Tram: NO

Metro: NO

Commuter Rail:

High Speed Rail:

Rail type (end stub / through / junction / hub):


As you start ....

Does Baltimore airport have a direct rail link?

(Yes - within terminal / adjacent / short walk) (Yes - bus transfer / other) No






Has our advice for Baltimore car rental changed over time, or has it been pretty constant?

2017 - 4

2019 - 6

2021 - 6

Average score - 6



So, do you need a car in Baltimore? On balance, we wouldn’t expect anyone to be considering hiring a car in Baltimore if they were only planning on staying within the city limits. For getting outside the city, a rental car is almost certainly going


Do you or don't you need a car in Baltimore ?

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