Do I Need a Rental Car in Orlando?

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When it comes to planning an Orlando vacation, there are so many details you have to think about to pull it all together. You’re booking plane tickets, hotels, park tickets, etc., and you may be wondering…do I need a rent a car for Orlando?

Well, you’ve come to the right place. Depending on the length of your stay, a rental car can be a nice chunk of change, and you probably are considering whether or not it is worth it. Depending on the size of your travel group and the itinerary you have planned for your trip, you may or may not require a hire car.

Additionally, if you plan to drive around Orlando and its surrounding areas, you might need an international driver’s license to comply with local regulations and ensure smooth travels.  

In this post, we will discuss everything you may want to consider regarding whether or not a rental car is necessary for your Orlando vacation. We will cover everything from cost, local hire car services, driving in Orlando, and more. Without further adieu, let’s get into it.

This post is part of our Orlando Family vacation series – all the best planning tips you need for a Disney & Orlando family vacation

Transportation Options When Traveling Around Orlando

In today’s world, there are a number of options that will get you from point A to point B when traveling around the Orlando area. The thing you have to consider is what works best for your family, the cost of these options, and simply what makes the most sense for your itinerary. Let’s discuss your forms of transportation in Orlando:

Hire Car in Orlando

First and foremost, let’s start with the main focus of our article today… a hire car (also known as a rental car). Having a rental car available for use is probably your most convenient option; this gives you the most control when it comes to planning your days and making arrangements to get to each of the destinations on your itinerary.

If you plan to travel to several destinations throughout Orlando, this may be the best option for you.

Rideshare in Orlando

Rideshare services such as Uber and Lyft have become very popular these days because of the convenience of simply ordering a ride from your phone or smart device. Rideshare can be pricey, especially if you are doing a lot of traveling, but if you are only going short distances or just need a ride from time to time, this is a great choice.

Taxi Services in Orlando

If you prefer a traditional taxi service compared to rideshare services, there are certainly plenty of taxis available in Orlando.

Similar to rideshare, taxi services are convenient but can become pretty pricey if you travel around the city, and not always the most convenient for families if you have more than 4 passengers.

Public Transport in Orlando

Another option to consider for traveling around Orlando would be public transport. There are both ground and rail public transportation options in Orlando, including the SunRail (commuter rail service) and Lynx (Public bus transportation).

These options are very affordable but may not be convenient if you are on a tight schedule, as you will have to match up your rides to the routes associated with each service.

Driving in Orlando

Things to be aware of when driving in Orlando:

Traffic

If you do not like to drive or has trouble driving in heavy traffic areas, you may be concerned with the thought of having a rental car. Orlando is a huge tourist city, so it is expected that there will be traffic, but it may not be as bad as you would anticipate.

A lot of the guests visiting Orlando are staying on-site at resorts within Disney and Universal Studios, so there is actually not as much traffic out on the roads as you would think. Sure, the roads are busy, and there is a good flow of traffic at most times of the day, but in my experience, you don’t get stuck in dead stop, bumper-to-bumper traffic like you may in a city like Los Angeles or New York.

Tolls

The state of Florida is one that, as you travel through the state, is nearly impossible to make it through without being stopped at at least one toll station. Tolls can be inconvenient, but if you are not doing a lot of traveling during your stay in Orlando, you shouldn’t have to worry about a huge fee with toll stations.

You can find more detailed information about toll locations and rates here.

Where Can You Hire a Car in Orlando?

Hiring a rental car for your vacation is fairly easy in such a busy city like Orlando. There are a number of options from the moment you enter the city. Where you choose to book will be what works best for your trip itinerary, but some of those options include:

At the Airport

Both the Orlando International Airport (MCO) and the Orlando Sanford International Airport (SFB) offer the opportunity for passengers to hire a car on-site. This option is obviously very convenient as you can simply pick up and drop off your vehicle as you are arriving and departing Orlando.

Still, we have found that because of the convenience, renting at the airport can be a bit higher cost-wise. Popular rental services available at both locations include Enterprise, Hertz, Alamo, and more.

See our detailed transport guides here for traveling Orlando (MCO) to Universal and Sanford (SFB) to Disney World

Disney Car Care Center/Car Rental Facility:

If you decide to wait until you are on Disney property to rent a car, or maybe you just want to rent a car for a day or two during your trip, you can always visit the Disney Car Rental Facility.

The facility is located on Disney property near Magic Kingdom and offers shuttle services to and from all Disney resorts as well as all Disney World parks. You can book your vehicle online or by calling 407-824-3470 or inquire at the Front Desk at any Disney World resort lobby.

Local Orlando Rental Companies

If you need to book a rental car during your stay and you are not staying at Disney World resorts, there are also a number of local rental companies in the area, and I’m certain you will have no trouble finding an available vehicle nearby.

Popular options include Miles Car Rental Orlando, National Car Rental, Enterprise Rent a Car (several locations), Alamo Rent a Car, and Hertz Car Rental.

Pros vs Cons – Having Your Own Car in Orlando

So based on all the above, do I need a car in Orlando? Whether you’re weighing up driving to Florida so you have your own car, or picking up a rental car in Orlando, here’s what you need to consider:

Pros of having a car in Orlando

  • Convenience/Freedom – You can jump in the car and travel the city whenever is convenient for you, and you can vacation at your own pace. Particularly if you won’t be just doing theme parks and want to visit lots of places in Orlando, this method is more convenient than relying on other forms of transport.
  • Cost-Effective – If you are traveling a lot during your trip or if you have a large group, not needing to pay person but just per vehicle will work out cheaper.
  • Storage – If you are traveling with luggage or purchase a lot of souvenirs at the parks, you won’t have to worry about lugging them around on public transport or shuttle services. Having a vehicle for storing those extras is convenient.

Cons of having a car in Orlando

  • Cost – If you don’t plan to drive a lot during your trip, the cost of a rental vehicle for the entire duration may be a burden and not worth adding to your trip budget. Typical costs for a week-long vacation are around $250-$400 per week for a small vehicle and $350-$500 for a full-size minivan (prices vary based on season and availability).
  • Parking Fees – When using rideshare or public transport services, they likely will drop you near the entrance of the park/attraction that you are visiting, and you don’t have to worry about parking fees, but if you choose to drive yourself, you will be subject to parking fees that are typically $25+ per destination, per day.

We discuss the exact costs for both parking at Disney and Universal parking tips over here

Top Tips for Hiring a Rental Car in Orlando

  • Compare Prices – Take your time and look around at several companies. Prices can vary greatly depending on the time of year, car availability, and company promotions. We have found Discovercars.com to be an excellent way to compare prices on US rental cars, give them a try:
  • Book in Advance – You can almost always save a good amount of money by booking/paying in advance compared to the last minute. If you wait until the day you need a vehicle, you are stuck with what’s available, and prices may be more than if you made a prior reservation.
  • Do a Partial Vacation Car Rental – If you don’t anticipate doing a lot of driving during your trip but maybe you want to take a day or two to do some further sightseeing, consider booking a rental only for those days you need to travel. This can save you hundreds of dollars (and is the way we’ve always done it, splitting our time between theme park accommodation and using shuttles, then getting a car to explore more of central Florida)!
  • Look for discounts – A lot of companies offer discounts for members of certain organizations, including military personnel, senior citizens, etc., so don’t be afraid to look for a discount where you can find it.

Is it worth hiring a car in Orlando?

Okay, we’ve made it to the big question… is hiring a rental car worth it when visiting Orlando? Well, in our opinion, it really boils down to the specifics of your vacation.

  • If you are a family that plans to spend your whole trip on Disney Property or Universal Property, there is certainly no need for a rental car as there is Disney or Universal onsite transportation to get you around the theme park properties.
  • However, if you are one who enjoys exploring the whole city or you like the convenience of hopping in the car and making a trip to the grocery store or local fast food restaurant, then a rental car is a great asset to include in your trip.
  • If you only plan to make one or two day trips during your time in Orlando, it makes financial sense to only hire a car for the days you need as parking and rental costs for days when the vehicle is not in use can be prohibitive.

We hope that this guide has given you some clarity on what it is like to rent a car in Orlando and has provided you with the information to make the right choice for your family.

More Disney & Orlando Family Vacation Advice

Planning your first trip (or any trip for that matter!) to Orlando can be a huge task. It is one of those family trips of a lifetime but DOES require an intense amount of pre-planning, both for your budget and to ensure you maximize family enjoyment.

Before your family trip to Florida, we recommend you check out some more of our planning advice, including:


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