Car Rental in Arizona
Cheapest Car Rental Rates
Most Popular Car Rental Deals
Why rent a car in Arizona?
Arizona is a state in the Southwest of the United States that is famous for its nature. The state is essentially all desert, with the southern part being low desert and the northern part being high desert. Its capital, Phoenix, is a major American city. It also has long been the locations of luxurious resorts for those seeking to escape northern winters.
Other locations in Arizona that are popular with tourists are the Grand Canyon, the second-most visited national park in the country, and Sedona, a popular resort town nestled in an area with Red Rocks. Ghost towns are also something many visitors want to experience. In addition to the city and resorts, there are many areas of pristine nature to be enjoyed throughout the state. If solitude is what you seek, then the state can definitely deliver.
All of these locations and activities are best reached with a rental car. Phoenix, having developed in the latter half of the 20th century, is extremely reliant on cars. And if that’s the case in the largest city, you can imagine what public transportation between cities and to remote locations is like (hint: non-existent). Very few travelers dare to attempt to see Arizona without renting a car.
Some words of caution are necessary for those planning to drive and spend time in Arizona. The weather in the state can be extreme, from scorching temperatures to heavy storms that can cause flash flooding.
Arizona, while mostly desert, experiences large storms that can dump massive amounts of rain very quickly. This is dangerous both when hiking and driving. When driving in Arizona, avoid any road with water on it. The state has what is called the “Stupid Motorist Law.” Any driver that needs to be rescued after having driven around a barrier and into water will be billed for the rescue. If you see a storm coming, be sure to seek higher ground and avoid washes.
Arizona also sees extremely high temperatures at times, reaching up to 120°F (50°C). Travelers should be prepared whenever venturing into the desert. Be sure to have and drink plenty of water in addition to having protection from the sun, such as a hat and sunscreen.
One-way Car Rentals in Arizona
Here are the most popular one-way rental options for pickup in Arizona and drop off in another country:
- From Arizona to California - 38 offers from $56.37 per day
- From Arizona to Nevada - 19 offers from $56.37 per day
- From Arizona to Texas - 32 offers from $91.63 per day
Top ways to enter Arizona
Phoenix Sky Harbor International Airport is by far the largest airport in the state serving almost 45 million passengers every year. It is located between Phoenix and Tempe and hosts flights from more than 100 destinations including almost all major domestic cities and many international ones, primarily in Canada and Mexico. There are three terminals (Terminals 2-4, there is no Terminal 1) which are all connected to the rental car center, in which all major rental car companies have desks, by a shuttle. One-way rentals to and from the airport are quite popular and should readily be available from most companies with a reasonable fee.
The Phoenix Metro Area also has a second airport, Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport, that has been developed for passenger traffic to relieve congestion at Sky Harbor. Its primary carrier is Allegiant Air which flies to and from many destinations in the West and Midwest. The airport is located southeast of Mesa and is a pleasant alternative to the busy Sky Harbor. Rental cars are available from a few different suppliers, most of which have desks in the airport.
The other major airport in the state is Tucson International Airport. A few different airlines fly to and from large cities in the U.S, mostly in the West and Midwest. Though it is called an international airport, it has no scheduled international flights. Rental cars are available at the airport, with many major suppliers have desks in the terminal. The notable exception is Thrifty, which is located just outside the airport and requires a shuttle to reach (a courtesy phone can be found near the shuttle stop).
Flagstaff Pulliam Airport is the other notable gateway for airline passengers in the state. It is much smaller than the others, only having flights to four destinations: Phoenix, Denver, Los Angeles, and Dallas. The airport is a good entry point for anyone whose primary destination is the northern mountains, including Sedona, or the Grand Canyon. Though not all suppliers operate at the airport, five of the major ones do.
Two Amtrak trains serve the state of Arizona, though neither stop in Phoenix. The Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited passes through the southern portion of the station stopping in Tucson, Maricopa (south of Phoenix) and Yuma on its way between Los Angeles and New Orleans/Dallas. The Southwest Chief passes through Flagstaff in Northern Arizona on its way from Los Angeles to Chicago. Of the two options, The Sunset Limited’s stop in Maricopa is closer to Phoenix, but the transportation options including the ability to pick up a rent a car, are better from the Southwest Cheif’s stop in Flagstaff.
Many travelers visit Arizona on a larger road trip through the Southwest. The state is also a great beginning or end to a road trip with one-way rentals available to or from Phoenix. The state is well-connected to its surrounding states. I-10 connects southern New Mexico and Texas with Phoenix and Los Angeles. I-8 travels from I-10 south of Phoenix through Yuma to San Diego.I-40 runs through the northern part of the state connecting Albuquerque, New Mexico with Los Angeles. In the future, I-11 will connect the state to Las Vegas. Currently, U.S. 93 serves that purpose. Many more scenic routes can be taken between the states, too. Arizona is also connected to the state of Sonora in Mexico, which you can read more about in the Crossing Borders section.
Top cities and places to visit
- Phoenix - The largest city in Arizona and the American Southwest, Phoenix is most likely to be a visitor’s entry point into the state and certainly worth a few days’ stay. The city has long been a leader when it comes to Five Star resorts. This is due to its climate (save for summer) and location. Amazing hikes can be had right inside the city. The city also offers all that one would expect of a major metropolis when it comes to culture, dining, and entertainment. Given its location almost in the geographical center of the state, the city also serves as a good base from which to explore. Note that high season is in the spring. If you can take the heat (literally) then during summer you can land you great deals on resort stays.
- Scottsdale - While a part of the Phoenix Metro Area, Scottsdale is a separate city from Phoenix. It is a high-end destination that was called a “desert version of Miami’s South Beach” by the New York Times. It is famous for its glamorous nightlife, chic lounges and restaurants, luxurious hotels, and haute couture shopping. If you want to see and be seen, Scottsdale is the place for you.
- Sedona - This extremely popular resort town is roughly midway between Phoenix and Flagstaff. Sedona is reachable via I-17 from both Phoenix and Flagstaff, though if coming from the north, it is better to take Highway 89A for the jaw-dropping scenery. The town is surrounded by the Red Rocks. This makes for a perfect setting of resorts from which visitors can hike during the day and spend time at the pool afterward. The town is also known for its art scene with many galleries and resident artists. It can also remind of Taos being a popular place for new-agey people.
- Tucson - In the southeast part of the state, Tucson is the second-largest city in Arizona. It is slightly cooler than Phoenix due to its higher altitude. While Tucson’s cultures offerings are plentiful, its main draw is the surrounding Sonoran Desert. Saguaro National Park which lies on both the east and west side of the city must not be missed. The city also boasts the Tohono Chul, Tucson Botanical Gardens and Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum where visitors can learn about nature. Not far from the city is the famous Tombstone, Arizona where the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral to place. This historic town, while not exactly a ghost town, is visited by many to see the place where events like this took place. Also worth visiting are the Kartchner Caverns located southeast of the city.
- Yuma - Located in the southwestern corner of the state along the Colorado River, Yuma is much like Tucson in that the sunny weather and desert are the main attraction. Of course, the city’s rich heritage plays a part, too. The Historic Downtown, Colorado River State Historical Park and Yuma Territorial Prison are all prime attractions dealing with the history of the city. The city can also serve as a gateway to Southern California with the Salton Sea and San Diego just a short drive away.
- Grand Canyon - The second most visited national park in the U.S., the Grand Canyon National Park is likely to be the primary reason many visit Arizona. The majority of the amenities are located on the South Rim of the canyon. This means that the majority of the visitors go here. The North Rim is more remote and inaccessible during winter. However, if you are traveling during the summer, it may be rewarding to make the long trip to enjoy the canyon without the crowds. If heading to the South Rim, take US-180 out of Flagstaff. If venturing to the North Rim, head out of Flagstaff via US-89 towards Utah until you reach Bitter Springs. The take 89A to the national park.
Part of the Grand Canyon is located within two Native American reservations. One of the most popular attractions at the Grand Canyon, the Skywalk, is located within the Hualapai Indian Reservation. This is a glass walkway extending into the Grand Canyon. Although an interesting experience, some may find the entrance fees too steep.
- Petrified Forest National Park - One of the three national parks in Arizona, the Petrified Forest is located along I-40 in the eastern part of the state. It is named for deposits of petrified wood, parts of trees that have completely turned to stone. The main sites can be seen along the park’s Petrified Forest Road. An exhibit about the historic Route 66 lies along this road, also. The northern part of the national park contains part of the Painted Desert which one can probably guess from its name is known for its bright and various colors. To experience the desert, you must set off on foot into the hills. There are both easy, short hikes and longer, backpacking journeys available.
- Four Corners Monument - There’s not much to this tourist attraction except seeing the point where four states meet (Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah). If using your hands, too, you can be in all four states at once. There is even a platform for someone to be able to take a picture of you while doing such. The point is located within the Navajo Nation and thus is administered by their government. Admission is $5 per person. Unless specifically in the area to see other things, this is one place we’d suggest skipping.
- Ghost Towns - Like the rest of the Southwest, Arizona is littered with ghost towns. Some of them have been preserved. One such example is that of Jerome located between Sedona and Prescott. Once a copper mining town with a population of 10,000, it now has only about 40 residents. The city applied for and received National Historic Landmark status. Its old buildings are now open as a museum. This makes it the best-preserved ghost town. Other ghost towns are more of an adventure. Some, like Two Guns off of I-40, are easily accessible. Others are more remote and require traveling along unpaved roads to access. Many ghost towns are nothing more than foundations now, though many still have buildings left that are worth seeing.
- Prescott - Another city that, like Sedona, sits in the middle of incredible natural scenery, Prescott is surrounded by the Prescott National Forest. Also like Sedona, it boasts a growing art scene. It is perhaps best known for the Frontier Days during which it hosts the World’s Oldest Rodeo every July. A historic area of the city known for its saloons is Whisky Row. With many drinking establishments still located there, it is certainly worth a visit.
- Flagstaff - Located approximately 145 miles (233km) north of Phoenix, Flagstaff is right in the midst of the highest peaks in the state. Given its elevation, it is the only city in the state to experience a cold and snowy winter. It is, therefore, a popular winter sports destination. The Arizona Snowbowl is one of three ski resorts in Arizona and probably the most popular of them. It is also one of the oldest ski resorts in the country. The area is also popular for hiking in the summer, with Humphrey's Peak, the tallest in Arizona, easily reachable from the city. Access to some of the surrounding San Francisco Mountains is restricted due to the sacred nature of them to the local Native Americans.
Flagstaff is also well known for being the home of the Lowell Observatory which discovered Pluto in 1930. The observatory is within walking distance of Downtown Flagstaff, though you can drive up the hill as there is parking. Tours are available which include the Pluto Discovery Telescope. There are also other exhibits and activities along with a way to safely view the sun and nightly stargazing.
- Winslow - Once a hopping town due to Route 66 passing through it, Winslow fell into obscurity for some time after I-40 was built. It has since been put back on tourists’ lists thanks to the town playing off its fame in the famous Eagles song “Take It Easy” in which Glen Frey was “standin’ on the corner in Winslow, Arizona.” A statue of Frey is now standing on a corner in Winslow at Second Street and Kinsley Avenue. Located less than a block away, the Winslow Theater is a nice small-town movie theater. See if the movie it is playing the week you are there is for you and catch one of the nightlight or weekend matinee showings for a very reasonable price.
Nearby the town is the Meteor Crater that all though is on private land is preserved quite well, in large part due to having been made a tourist site. The 50,000-year-old crater has a diameter of nearly one mile. A visitors center complete with theater and viewing area is located at the rim from which visitors can take a guided tour into the crater.
- Lake Havasu City - Another popular tourist destination in Arizona is Lake Havasu City, which unsurprisingly lies on Lake Havasu on the border with California. The city is a popular resort destination. It has a plethora of opportunities for watersports, being on a lake. There is also a golf course in the city. But the main attraction is the London Bridge, which was an actual bridge in London that was taken apart, brought to Lake Havasu City and reassembled.
Driver license requirements
The minimum age for renting a car in Arizona, as in most other states is 21. An underage driver surcharge is charged by almost all car rental companies for those between 21 and 24. Drivers in this age category are also often restricted from renting luxury cars and larger vans.
If you are traveling from abroad and your driving license from your country of residence is in the Latin script, it is recommended, but not required, to have an International Driver’s Permit. If your driving license is not in the Latin script (for example, Russian, Japanese, or Arabic) then you must have an International Driving Permit or another certified translation of your license. Keep in mind that you must present your actual driving license in addition to the IDP and have it with you at all times.
In addition to being able to take a car rented in Arizona to neighboring states, in most cases, you can also take it to Mexico. For travel to Mexico, separate insurance must be purchased at the rental counter (be sure to ask for this when picking up the car if planning to travel to Mexico). Without this insurance, the rental vehicle is not allowed to be driven in Mexico.
It should be noted, however, that the states of Mexico bordering the U.S. are for the most part unsafe due to drug cartels vying for access to drug smuggling and human trafficking routes across the border. The state that borders Arizona is Sonora. The United States Department of State has issued a travel advisory regarding the state which says to “reconsider travel due to crime.”
If traveling near the border, one should be aware of the Border Patrol Checkpoints. These are not always open, but when they are you must pull over. If you are a U.S. citizen, the officers are only allowed to ask if you are a citizen and no documentation may be requested from you. If you are not a citizen, the officer may ask you to provide proof that you are legally allowed to stay in the country, which is usually just your passport with your entry stamp and/or visa.
Although the desert of Arizona may tempt you to drive off-road, rental vehicles are not allowed to be driven off-road. If planning to travel off-road, it is best you rent a 4x4 vehicle from a specialty rental company that specifically allows such travel.
There are no toll roads in Arizona. Unless you are planning to take your rental vehicle to Southern California or Colorado, you don’t need to worry about tolls nor how to pay for them in your rental car.
Most popular types of rental car
Given the popularity of western road trips beginning in Arizona, it’s no surprise that larger cars are preferred by renters. The most popular class is intermediate of which the Hyundai Elantra is an excellent example. Full-Size cars, perfect for families, are also popular. The Toyota Camry is a great example of this class. Finally, some travel to Arizona for business or shorter trips. These renters settle for economy vehicles like the Mitsubishi Mirage.
Top driving routes
Some roads both in Arizona and other western states are maintained but not paved. Specifically, part of the Apache Trail listed below falls into this category. Whether taking a rental car on these roads violates the rental agreements of suppliers is unclear. Different companies may have different answers to this. It is, therefore, best to avoid any unpaved roads, even if maintained, unless you have specific permission from the rental company, preferably in writing. Not heeding this warning may find your insurance voided and yourself liable for any damage caused to the vehicle on the unpaved road.
- Apache Trail - Following a stagecoach trail that took travelers over the Superstition Mountains, the Apache trail is now a scenic road. It connects Apache Junction, which is on the eastern edge of the greater Phoenix Metro Area, with Theodore Roosevelt Lake. The road passes through Tonto National Forest and has two other lakes aside from Roosevelt Lake along its route: Canyon Lake and Apache Lake. Shortly after Tortilla Flat, the last surviving stagecoach stop on the trail, the road becomes unpaved. Hiking trails began in the near Tortilla Flat and there is a campground, too. The road ends at Roosevelt Dam which can also be reached, though in a much longer time, by paved roads, for instance, US-60 through Top-of-the-World.
- Coronado Trail Scenic Byway - A mountain road in eastern Arizona, the Coronado Trail is a portion of US-191 between Morenci and Springerville. The road winds its ways through the mountains to an elevation of 9,370 ft. (2,743m) just south of Hannagan Meadow. In total, the route is well over 100 miles. Though there are some attractions on the way, such as the Morenci Mine, the road itself is the main attraction. Wind your way through pristine nature. Take your time, get out and enjoy the scenes at one of the many pull-offs. If coming from Phoenix, it’s best to plan an entire day for this, as the road itself will take at least three hours. You’ll be glad you did afterward, though.
- Route 66 - The historic Route 66 passed through northern Arizona. Much of its former route has been replaced with Interstate 40. There are many sections which survive and the route is certainly still worth traveling. In the eastern part of the state, the route passed through the Petrified Forest National Park, a worthy stop in its own right. The first glimpse of what the small towns along the road had to offer comes in Holbrook, with the Wigwam Hotel. Shortly after, a still existing part of the road can be found in Winslow. The road also passed through the now-ghost town of Two Guns.
In the western part of the state, Route 66 diverges from I-40 near Seligman and heads to the Kaibab Plateau. In this section, travelers pass the Grand Canyon Caverns which they can tour. The route meets up with I-40 again near Kingman only to diverge again, with the following section the most scenic portion of the route in the state. Cool Springs Stations is an old gas station turned tourist place that can be found along the way before the road climbs to the Sitgreaves Pass. After the pass, the road goes through Oatman, a strange mix between a ghost town and a tourist town. The route finally meets back up with I-40 to cross the Colorado River into California.
- Joshua Tree Scenic Road- The section of US-93 between Wikieup and Wickenburg is also known as the Joshua Tree Parkway. US-93 is the main route between Las Vegas and Phoenix. After Wikieup, the road travels through a section of desert that is just stunning. Surrounded by mountains in the distance on both sides, a fifty-mile section of the road passes through an area with Joshua trees, which are native to just a few areas of the desert in Arizona and California (most notably, the Joshua National Park area).
Car Rental Prices
- Convertibles - from $151 per day
- Large cars - from $113 per day
- Medium cars - from $94 per day
- Vans - from $203 per day
- Premium cars - from $132 per day
- Small cars - from $101 per day
- SUVs - from $145 per day
Top 7 Most Popular Locations in Arizona
Map of Car Rental Locations
Which is the cheapest month to rent a car in Arizona?
What’s the average rental length in Arizona?
What’s the most popular time for renting a car in Arizona?
Most Popular Car Models of Rental Suppliers
|Thrifty||Mazda 3||5||3||Large cars|
|Dollar||Ford Focus||3||2||Medium cars|
|Thrifty||Ford Focus||3||2||Medium cars|
|Dollar||Mazda 3||2||2||Large cars|
|NUCarrentals||Kia Forte||4||3||Large cars|
|NUCarrentals||Dodge Charger||4||4||Premium cars|
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