In planning a trip to Las Vegas, one of the things you’ll want to decide is whether you need to rent a car. Making this decision is easier once you have some of the parts of your vacation already planned, for example, lodging and activities.
Should you rent a car in Las Vegas? When deciding if you should rent a car, it is important to consider these 3 things:
- the location of your lodging
- the activities you want to do
- the availability and convenience of other options
Knowing in advance your locations, activities, and other options will allow you to determine how much you will need a car to get from place to place. Once you know if a rental car is truly required, you can more easily decide if you actually want to rent one. Below are some of the things you’ll want to consider.
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Location of Your Hotel
Deciding on lodging can be the first step in planning a major Las Vegas vacation. It is important to know where home base is going to be when deciding on activities and transportation. Knowing your hotel allows you to gauge distance, availability of transportation options, and cost when deciding on how you are going to get where you are going.
(See our source for the best hotel deals on our website here)
Is Your Lodging Within Walking Distance or Do You Need a Car?
In Las Vegas, many of the major resorts, casinos, and attractions are located right on the famous Vegas Strip. Walking can be a fun way to see all the sights, take in a free show, and get a real glimpse of the culture of the Strip that cannot be seen from a moving car. For a day of attractions away from the Strip, Vegas offers many options making a car unnecessary for such limited use.
However, the area around Las Vegas offers many other excellent places to stay. Lake Las Vegas resort area is only about thirty minutes from the Strip. It offers some stunning and luxury vacation spots. This area offers many vacation options, but for those wanting to visit the Strip daily, a car would be a must.
Activities & Destinations Near Las Vegas That You May Want a Car For
Las Vegas has been known as Sin City and a gambling haven for years. However, over time, the resorts and casinos have developed many family-friendly activities and other alternatives to attract a larger and more diverse population of vacationers. Many of the popular tourist destinations in the city of Las Vegas can be easily accessed through walking, Uber, Lyft, or public transportation.
However, not all the sights are confined to the Strip or even the city of Las Vegas. Many different activities are within driving distance of Las Vegas, but they would require a car or other paid-for transportation to get to them. Some of the more popular destinations you’ll want to consider visiting are:
- Hoover Dam
- Seven Magic Mountains
- Spring Mountain National Recreation Area
- Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area
- Tule Fossil Bed National Monument
- Lake Las Vegas
- Valley of Fire State Park
- River Mountains Loop Trail
- Nearby Ghost Towns
- Lake Mead Recreation Area
Some tour companies do offer shuttle service to various attractions outside of Vegas, but if you are going to be visiting several of them, have a large group, or really want the freedom to set your own schedule, this option will not work for you.
If, however, you think a tour would be a better option for you, you’ll want to check out the top Las Vegas tours offered at vegas.com to get an idea of what nearby tour destinations are available.
Las Vegas Transportation Options
Vegas offers a wide variety of transportation options, including some that are free. Uber and Lyft are also available along with regular taxi services. When planning a trip, you want to determine which of these options would help decrease your need for a car.
Las Vegas Monorail
This rail system provides a basic and very handy service along the section of Las Vegas Boulevard called the Strip.
- Trains are available from 7 am to 2 am Monday through Thursday.
- They run until 3 am Friday to Sunday.
- Many of the major hotels and resorts have stations located in them.
- Trains run every five to ten minutes.
- Tickets can be purchased for single-use, day passes, or multi-day passes.
Tickets can be purchased at any station. The monorail is quick, clean, and safe. (We show you a couple of ways to get discounted monorail tickets in this article here).
Security guards are on duty at each station nightly. One downside is that the monorail is paid for by the casinos. So, they have placed the stations where you have to pass through the casino itself as you get on and off at each stop in order to get to the Strip. Of course, they want to tempt you to open your wallet to buy, play and shop on your way through the property.
Las Vegas does have a bus system that provides services along the Strip, downtown, and out to the surrounding areas.
- One route, The Deuce, runs along the Strip only and is offered 24 hours daily. Buses typically run every 12 to 30 minutes with stops at almost every resort.
- The second route, Strip and Downtown Express, contains the Strip and downtown. This route takes you to the transfer terminal allowing you to access other routes and also to the Las Vegas Premium Outlets shopping center. This route only runs 9 am to 12:30 am. Buses typically run every 12 to 15 minutes.
- A new express route provides a fast and convenient service between Harry Reid International Airport (formerly McCarran Airport) and the Strip. However, it only stops at the Tropicana on the Strip. It operates every 20 minutes during peak hours and hourly during other times. Buses run from 6 am to 11 pm.
Prices for buses are relatively inexpensive. But exact fare is needed when boarding and some require advance ticket purchases.
Shuttle services are available from several resorts free of charge. The purple bus from the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino has the most extensive service. It runs from 10 am to 7 pm and stops at various other Strip resorts.
Some hotels offer complimentary shuttles to other properties they own. The wait can often be 30-40 minutes, especially during peak times.
- Off-Strip / Boyd Gaming – Complimentary shuttles between sister properties on the Strip and Downtown.
- Rio to Bally’s, Paris, and Harrah’s – Services are offered every 30 minutes between 10 am, and 1 am daily between Rio and its sister properties.
- Sam’s Town has a free shuttle from downtown properties, California and Fremont casinos to those on the Strip, Tropicana, Barbary Coast, Rivera, and Hooter’s Harrah’s.
Properties under common ownership often have free trams connecting them, especially on the west side of the Strip. Some of the trams stop at different resorts depending on if they are traveling north or south. It is important to remember; they often only stop at mutually owned properties. The resort can help provide information about locations, stops, and times.
Taxi cabs can be selected at almost any resort. Safety laws prevent them from picking up passengers on the side of the street. They have designated parking areas and cab stands, usually in front of resorts where anyone can get one. Taxis can offer freedom of being on-demand and personalized but can also be spendy if you are traveling very far. They are the best options for infrequent short trips.
For more information about how to get around in Las Vegas without a car (options and prices) check out this article on our website.
Rental Car versus Uber in Las Vegas
One idea to consider when deciding whether to rent a car or not is the availability of ride-sharing, such as Uber. Las Vegas does have a strong Uber network of drivers. Each option offers some advantages and disadvantages.
Renting a Car in Las Vegas – Advantages & Disadvantages
Driving in Vegas offers some unique experiences, but also some unique challenges. Before renting a car, it is important to know what these are.
- Advantages – You cannot beat the convenience and freedom that renting your own car gives you. Even using an Uber, depends on driver availability and time to arrive.
- Convenience – You don’t have to wait on any mass transit, wait for a driver, or hail a cab.
- Freedom – You can leave when you want and go where you want. You don’t have to do your activities around a set schedule.
- Privacy – You do not have to share your ride with anyone else, unlike a bus or monorail — even a taxi or Uber you have another person in the car with you.
- Avoid Traffic – With modern GPS, you can find an alternative route and avoid getting bogged down in heavily traveled areas.
- Travel Outside of Vegas – If you want to get out of the city and check out some of the attractions in the surrounding area, a car provides a nice option.
- Stylish Rides: In Vegas, you have diverse options for rental cars. If you have the money to spare, you can ride in a luxury or sports car of your choice.
- Disadvantages – Driving in Vegas is not for everyone. The streets, especially downtown or on the Strip, can be crowded with cars and pedestrians alike.
- Parking – Can cost up to $50 per day. It also can be difficult to find if you do not use the valet service, which adds an additional cost.
- Cost – If you are staying mostly on the Strip and keeping your car for when you need it, you may be paying for several days’ use of your car and parking, when you really only need it for one. Las Vegas also often has some of the highest rates for rental cars.
- Driving – Traffic can be pretty terrible, especially near any tourist area. In general, try to avoid driving on the Strip when possible and allow yourself extra time. Also, try and plan trips during off-peak times.
- Drinking – Vegas is not known as Sin City for no reason. Many casinos and attractions have free or low-priced alcohol. Make sure if you drive anywhere, you do not drink.
- Pedestrians – Even if you are driving, many others will be walking. Pedestrians are known for stumbling out into traffic as they check out the sights. This is especially a problem if they’ve been drinking.
- Shuttle services – The car rental service is not located at the airport, and you will need to take 1 or 2 shuttles to get to your rental car office.
Uber in Las Vegas – Advantages & Disadvantages
Uber has struggled to be allowed to operate in Vegas since 2015. After finally winning that fight, they have become well organized in the city. Uber can be an option for when you do not want to walk or use public transport.
- Advantages – Uber frees you from fighting traffic, worrying about drinking and driving, and lets you just relax and take in the sights as you drive by.
- Limited Use – Using an Uber or rideshare allows you to only pay for car service when you need one. If you’re not using a car every day, you are not paying for it to sit in the parking lot.
- Cost – For most trips, using an Uber when needed will cost less than several days of rental expenses, parking, and gas.
- More Relaxing – Allowing someone else to do the driving, decreases the hassle and headache of Las Vegas congestion. You also don’t have to worry about getting lost trying to avoid traffic.
- Airport Terminal Drop Off – Don’t want to take 1-2 shuttles after you drop off your car? An Uber ride to the airport can drop you right at your terminal.
- Disadvantages – Uber rates vary depending on the place and pick up. They are not available for out of town trips. And, they are sometimes limited in the areas they can pick up and drop off.
- Surge Pricing – Prices do rise when it gets busy and/or large events are happening in town. Wait times also increase when demand for rides increases. However, sometimes, if you walk a couple of blocks away from a busy area, you can get an easier and cheaper pick-up.
- Designated Pick Up Spots – Unlike in some cities where Uber will come wherever you are, in Las Vegas, many resorts and hotels have designated pick up points. This can be an advantage of helping decrease confusion when finding the right car but can also lead to having to walk or ask for assistance in finding the location.
- Wait time Estimates – Due to the crazy traffic, the estimated wait times can often be completely inaccurate. If you are following your driver on the map, you will often see the car just sitting in traffic not moving for long periods of time.
- No Airport Terminal Pick Up – Taxicab companies have fought hard to keep the rideshare programs from being able to pick up right as you walk out of the terminal. Because of this, to get an Uber at the airport, you will have to go to one of two designated areas in the parking garages.
What it Costs to Rent a Car in Las Vegas
I wanted to see what it would cost to rent a car on average in Las Vegas on a daily or weekly basis, so I did some research on Expedia and found the following. These numbers were based on renting an economy level car and include taxes but do not include any additional insurance or services.
Again these are the average prices between all the car rental companies and prices may depend somewhat on the time of year.
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Tips for Renting a Car in Las Vegas
If you decide to rent a car, some planning can help your trip go smoother.
Picking up Your Rental
When picking up your rental car, be prepared. The rental car center is not at the airport. After collecting your luggage, you will have to catch a shuttle bus to an off-site location about 10 minutes away. However, not all rental car companies operate at this site. Some are at a different facility.
The rental companies that operate at this site are:
- Advantage Alamo
- Avis Budget
- Dollar Enterprise
- E-Z Hertz
- National Payless
- Thrifty Zip Car
You can quickly compare the going car rental rates in Las Vegas from the top auto rental companies at Expedia.com.
Other companies, such as ACE, and Economy, operate at a more remote facility. Once you arrive at the first rental center, you will have to walk across the driveway near the taxi stand. There you will be picked up by a shuttle for your rental car company.
The process will need to be done in reverse when dropping off your vehicle, so allow plenty of time to get from the rental center to the airport.
For more information about renting a car in Las Vegas you can visit vegas.com.
- If you do decide to rent a car, one problem to consider is parking. Casinos used to offer free parking, but that is no longer typical. Tacking on extra fees, much like with airlines, is one way that resorts/hotels continue to feed the bottom line. Parking can vary between $15-50 per day at the resorts.
- If you plan ahead, you may be able to stay at one of the few that don’t charge a parking fee, but this is getting more difficult.
- Many of the other attractions and shopping malls have latched onto parking fees as a way to increase revenue. Las Vegas Premium Outlet charges $5 for parking. The Mob Museum also charges. If you don’t want to pay extremely high parking fees, try to choose locations and attractions that do not charge them.
- A recent list of places offering free parking was posted in the Las Vegas Sun:
- The Venetian and Palazzo Resorts and Casinos. These are “all suites” properties affiliated with IHG hotels.
- Circus Circus – Not the most luxurious, but it is cheap and very kid-friendly.
- SLS Hotel Las Vegas – The last stop on the northern end of the monorail.
- Tropicana – This is the best free parking located right in the middle of the Strip near the T-Mobile Arena and the MGM resorts.
- Treasure Island – Parking or staying here, you can connect by free tram to the Mirage.
- Planet Hollywood Hotel – Located conveniently right in the middle of the action on the Strip.
- Fashion Mall – Located across the street from Treasure Island.
For a full list of free places to park on the Strip, be sure to read the article Bryan wrote on our website here.
Combine Renting and Uber
One final option is to do a combination, especially if you only need a car for one or two days of your vacation. Rental cars can be rented and returned to various places on the Strip. This can allow you to only rent one for the days that you want to make out of town or long-distance trips. Uber, walking, or mass transit can be used on all other days. In this way, you get the best of both worlds.