I first visited Los Angeles 10 years ago. Since then the public transportation has improved. However in my view, it’s still best to hire a car here.
You can get some great deals. If you’re from outside the US, book on UK sites like Thrifty Worldwide, and get a car for around $200-300 a week, including insurance.
If you’re from the US and have your own insurance, you can get even cheaper deals.
Renting a car allows you to stay at cheaper accommodation.
I stay at the Motel 6 at the airport. By using a 10% discount code, which are easily found online, you can the room for $60 including tax.
In contrast, the more centrally located Motel 6 in Hollywood is $10-20 more expensive (the price increase on weekends). If you want to stay near the beach e.g., Santa Monica, you’ll pay even more.
If you’re over 50, join AARP and get free wifi as well.
If you’re not over 50, you’ll pay $2.99 for wifi.
If you want to visit Disneyland, there are some cheap motels out in Anaheim. Staying out there is the best option if you’re going to Disneyland.
If you can keep your car hire to under $20 a day, you will easily save that much money through a combination of cheap accommodation and other factors, like not having to spend money on public transport.
You’ll save on food costs. For example, you’ll be able to buy drinks and snacks from the supermarket. The Motel 6 doesn’t have in room mini-fridges but they have ice machines. I have a small soft cooler bag. I take a plastic bag to the ice machine a couple of times a day and fill the sink with ice for anything that doesn’t fit in the cooler bag.
Driving in Los Angeles isn’t too crazy. You can also select the “avoid highways” option on Google Maps while you are getting your bearings. Remember “tight right, large left” if you are coming from somewhere you drive on the left. You can turn right in California when the light is red if there are no cars coming and there are no signs prohibiting it.
Parking is also pretty easy in LA. Side streets often have free parking. I’m happy to walk 5-10 minutes so I never pay for parking in LA. Just read the signs carefully so you don’t get ticketed. Parking meters in Los Angeles charge much cheaper rates than in Australia and New Zealand.
Fuel is cheap. Fuel is under $1 a litre, so you can easily drive around lots and only spend a small amount on fuel. I usually only end up spending about $20 in fuel for my visit on a typical trip and less if it’s only a few days.
Exceptions to when it’s best to hire a car.
- If you’re coming to LA for a conference are are just going to be downtown, you can get the flyaway bus from LAX to downtown.
- There is also a bus from LAX that will connect you to the greenline metro. If you’re going to be fairly stationary while you’re in LA, these options allow you to get to your destination for a low cost. You could also just get a super shuttle (shared van).
- If for some reason you need to stay at a hotel that doesn’t offer free parking. One of the reasons I choose to stay at the Motel 6 at LAX is because the parking is free. I could probably Priceline a higher standard hotel for the same rate but I’d probably get stuck paying $20 a day for parking.
- If you’re an inexperienced driver.
Most companies charge a hefty surcharge for drivers under 25. There are some that don’t though, so shop around. While driving in LA is not too hard for someone who is accustomed to city driving, if you’re not used to city driving and have had your license only a short time, you might find it a bit intimidating.