How to Hire a Car in London + Tricks & Tips

Car hire in London

Disclosure: I may earn a small commission from the companies or products mentioned in this post.

This post was written in collaboration with Discover Cars.

Thinking about hiring a car in London? Whether you’ve got errands to run around the city or you’re planning a UK road trip starting from the capital, there are loads of reasons a hire car may be the right choice for you.

This is how to hire a car in London, plus tips and tricks to make your experience as hassle-free as possible…

Should I hire a car in London?

First thing’s first, is hiring a car the right decision for you?

There’s not a yes or no answer to this question. It really depends on what you’re doing and where you’re going.

If you’re visiting London for a limited amount of time and want to explore the city’s main sites and landmarks, you won’t need a car. Tubes, trains and busses are cheaper and quicker methods of transport in central London.

A general rule of thumb is that if you’re staying and travelling within the London congestion zone, don’t bother hiring a car. Not only will you need to pay a £15 daily congestion charge to drive in this area between 07:00-22:00, but traffic is a nightmare and parking is scarce and expensive.

However, some reasons that you might consider hiring a car in London are if:

  • You’re staying right on the outskirts of the city where public transport is more limited
  • You’re staying in London but planning multiple day trips to nearby attractions and towns
  • You’re planning a UK road trip starting from London
  • You’re a London local taking a UK weekend break

Most large UK cities can easily be reached by train or other forms of public transport from London. However, many of the country’s scenic countryside villages, charming historic towns, and stunning natural landmarks can only be reached from London by road. This is when a hire car will prove most useful.

Is Hiring a Car Cheaper Than Trains?

Within central London, probably not.

But when travelling from London to elsewhere in the UK, car hire can certainly work out cheaper than the train. While convenient, trains within the UK are known for being on the pricey side.

For example – for my upcoming weekend trip from London to Bristol I compared car hire and train tickets.

Three-day car hire from Fulham would cost me just £35 (via Discover Cars), while the cheapest I could find a Friday to Sunday return train journey was around £65 (via National Rail).

Yes, I would need to factor in the price of fuel which would bring the price of the car hire up by roughly another £40. But with 2 people in the car, the approx. £75 for car hire still works out much cheaper than the £130 for two return train tickets.

Plus with a car, there’s greater flexibility to travel at times that suit us and we can drive directly to our hotel rather than walking from the train station with luggage.

Tip: When hiring a car to travel within the UK, make sure your hotel or accommodation on the other end has free/cheap parking on-site or nearby to avoid any surprise costs.

Where Can I Hire A Car in London?

Hire companies such as Hertz, Avis, Alamo, Europcar and Budget operate at many convenient locations all across London, including most major airports and railway stations:

  • London Heathrow Airport
  • London Gatwick Airport
  • London Stansard Airport
  • London Luton Airport
  • London City Airport
  • Kings Cross/St Pancras Station
  • Euston Station
  • Victoria Station
  • Stratford Station
  • Paddington Station
  • Hammersmith Station
  • Edgeware Road
  • Fulham Broadway

How to Book Car Hire in London

The easiest way to book a rental car in London is by using a car hire comparison site such as Discover Cars.

Comparison websites search and compare multiple companies to find you the best and cheapest car hire deals in London. You can search for particular cars or hire locations, read reviews from previous customers, and see all mandatory fees, taxes, and extras that might otherwise be hidden away in the small print.

Tips and Tricks For Hiring a Car in London

A few simple tips for hiring a car in London without any hassle…

Think About Where You’re Going and Plan Accordingly

If you’re hiring a car in London to travel outside of the capital, make sure to plan your route in advance. Figure out the direction you’ll be travelling in to leave the city and pick a car hire location that’s on the way.

Even if this means you first need to jump on a tube, picking a car hire location in the right area of the city can help you avoid getting stuck in slow-moving traffic through the city or ending up gridlocked on the M25.

For example – If you’re travelling from London down to Devon or Cornwall in southwest England, hire your car from a location in west/south-west London, such as Victoria station, Hammersmith station or Fulham Broadway. But if you’re travelling north of London, towards Cambridge and further afield, hiring your car from Kings Cross or Euston is a better option.

Trust me, this little trick can save you a lot of time, hassle and fuel.

Don’t Fear Hiring From The Airport

On the same thread as above, don’t rule out picking up your hire car at one of the capital’s several airports.

If you’re flying into a London airport, it makes sense to pick up your car when you first arrive. But even if you’re already in the capital, you can still jump on the train back out to the airport to pick up your rental car. Airport outposts often have a greater variety of cars and offer cheaper deals. Plus, you’re already away from the congested roads of the city centre.

Hire For a Minimum of Three Days

When hiring a car in London, three days is the sweet spot for getting good value for money. In fact, you’ll often pay the same for three days as you would for one or two.

Instead of hiring a car for 24 hours to take a day trip from London, you might as well hire for longer and plan a couple of consecutive day trips or a long weekend away.

Avoid Rush Hour

If possible, avoid hiring your car and starting your journey during weekday rush hours.

Morning rush hour in London is between 7:30-9:30am, while peak evening rush hour takes place between 4:30-6:30pm. During these times, the roads in and out of London can get heavily congested. Save yourself the time and hassle by avoiding driving during these times.

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Emily is a born and raised London girl, starting life in the north of the capital then moving down to Fulham in the southwest. She has a master’s degree in Social and Cultural Anthropology from University College London and now works full-time running this blog and as a freelance travel writer, splitting her life between London and travelling the world as a digital nomad.

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1 Comment

  1. Alison
    January 14, 2022 / 6:51 pm

    Thanks, Emily! This is very timely as I’m planning my next family trip to England this spring. You’ve confirmed my intuition that Heathrow Airport would be the best choice for us, in between a stay in London and visiting the West Country. Thank you for all the tips!