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Edmonton

North America > Canada > Edmonton

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

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 Edmonton?

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

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

First impressions of Edmonton might be of a city that sits at the edge of a wide prairie and at the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It’s also the location of the West Edmonton Mall. This vast mega complex that was the largest in the world before various different cities in Asia started playing shopping mall top trumps with each other. If you fancy a virtual visit to this giant shopping metropolis before visiting Edmonton in person, then just watch the “so bad it’s good” comedy “Christmas in Wonderland”.

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.

Quick Ratings

Price band

Edmonton is in car rental price band: 6/10 (1 = cheapest car rental location)

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

Sometimes. Car rental is slightly more expensive than global averages.

Volatility:

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

5/10 (0 = stable prices)

Driving score: 5/10

Non car score:5/10

Balance: 7

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

General comment -

 

Any decision on whether or not to rent a car in Edmonton is nothing like as straightforward as it might initially look.

Why? Visiting Edmonton using a hire car

Why do you need a car in Edmonton ?


Within the city

  • Edmonton is a large and generally sprawling city. It is built for the car.
  • There are no commuter trains serving Edmonton.
  • The only through train is the east-west VIA rail service which runs between Toronto and Vancouver (see below).

Rockies & beyond

  • For all of the usual reasons of flexibility, a hire car is probably still going to be useful, especially for venturing deep into the Rockies.
  • The balance in both Edmonton and nearby Calgary is always going to swing towards spending more time in the mountains, and less in the cities.
  • Public transport options are limited in rural areas (but what might be lacking in quantity certainly manages to pack in the quality!).
  • It’s also relatively easy to travel between Edmonton and Calgary – it’s going to be a 3 to 4 hour drive in a car, around 50 buses per day are available, and you can also fly.
  • For visiting Jasper and beyond, if you rent a car in Edmonton, you will have far more flexibility. There is only one scheduled bus (Greyhound) per day between Edmonton and Jasper, and other shuttle services (eg Sundog) are limited in frequency.
  • Jasper Skytram – this is a great way to get outstanding views of the Rockies from a vantage point high above the town of Jasper. If you are used to mountain cable cars in places like Switzerland, then you may asl obe used to a wide range of trains and buses getting you to the base station. There is a local shuttle servicing hotels in Jasper, but it’s much easier to get to Jasper in the first place in a rental car.
  • The Icefields Parkway between Jasper and Banff is one of the world’s great road trips – and it’s difficult to do by bus.

Why not? Visiting Edmonton without a car

Why don't you need a car in Edmonton ?


So all this background points to an auto-dominated city where a rental car is a natural choice, but as we’ve also said with nearby Calgary, there are two strong reasons why this might not always be the case.

  • Firstly, when it comes to recreational cycling, Edmonton is actually a pretty good place for biking, with a vast network of paths and linked parks, many running along the banks of the Saskatchewan River, which runs diagonally roughly north-east to south-west through the city. There are also plenty of other great places to go road cycling or mountain biking around Edmonton, primarily towards the Rocky Mountains in the west. However, as with any location in Western Canada or in the western parts of the USA, you might still want to get a hire car to drive your (potentially also hired) bikes into the more scenic areas.
  • Secondly, Edmonton is also the start of a great train trip into the Rocky Mountains, running via the Jasper National Park. It is also possible to reach this area by organised bus trip.

As as former host of the Winter Olympics, Edmonton sits within easy range of a wide number of skiing and other winter sports activities, and for this sort of holiday there’s often little point in getting a rental car if resort shuttle bus services will do.

  • On the whole, we’d score Edmonton very high for the spectacular scenery which can be reached by car, but equally by train or by way of hiking or cycling excursions. Yet although the options in terms of non-car exploring are not anything like as versatile as they might be in European mountain regions such as The Alps, there are still enough options available with each mode.
  • The train trip through the Rockies has to be rated as one of those truly great rail trips, and for us, this puts it over above any equivalent road trip, largely because the train is able to get that little bit closer to the scenery. However, with services only operating 2-3 times per week, a trip on “The Canadian” is something to be savoured, by planned carefully! Note that VIA rail do not own the track in this part of Canada, so they warn passengers that services can be held up due to freight movements. Always allow plenty of time for any rail journey in western Canada!
  • You can arrange tours of the Canadian Rockies by train and bus, with enough gaps in your planning. If you base yourself in towns like Jasper and Banff for a few days, then you won’t be complaining about things to do, but allowing more time when compared to driving in a rental car might make your trip more expensive than it needs to be!
  • Icefields Parkway by bus – a tour service with limited stops is offered by Brewsters.

Ratings: How does Edmonton compare?

Is it worth hiring a car in Edmonton? TBC

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

This is based strictly on whether or no we think it's possible to visit Edmonton (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 Edmonton? 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 Edmonton airport have a direct rail link?

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

 

 

 

 


Changelog

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

2017 - 6

2019 - 4

2021 - 7

Average score - 6

Notes:

 

If you prefer to drive and then have the freedom to stop, then an Edmonton rental car is obviously still going to be the best bet, but it’s worth finding time to do some hiking away from the roadways to really see everything properly, even if you only do short stretches.

However, we are here to answer the question “should we get a hire car in Edmonton”, and given that a wide range of cycling options are available, together with the possibility of a truly unforgettable train trip, then the answer that question isn’t an automatic yes. If you are planning on hiring a car in Edmonton on auto pilot, then it’s best to keep doing so, but if you are even briefly pausing to think about it, then no might well be the better option.

Summary

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

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