Car Rental in Phoenix
Cheapest Car Rental Rates
Most Popular Car Rental Deals
Why rent a car in Phoenix?
Phoenix is the largest city in Arizona and the American Southwest, 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 the summer you can land you great deals on resort stays.
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 more remote locations is like (hint: non-existent). Very few travelers dare to attempt to see Arizona without renting a car.
One-Way Car Rentals in Phoenix
The most popular one-way rental options for pick up in Phoenix and drop off in another city include:
- From Phoenix to Los Angeles - 19 offers from US$ 56.57 per day
- From Phoenix to Las Vegas - 19 offers from US$ 56.57 per day
- From Phoenix to San Francisco - 19 offers from US$ 56.57 per day
- From Phoenix to Dallas - 19 offers from US$ 93.74 per day
Top ways to enter Phoenix
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.
Unfortunately, no Amtrak trains service Phoenix directly. The only way to reach Phoenix by train is to stop in Maricopa or Flagstaff via the Sunset Limited and Southwest Chief trains, respectively. It is difficult to get from Maricopa to Phoenix with a taxi being the best option. Flagstaff, though further away, provides much better options. You can either pick up a rental car or take a frequent bus to Phoenix.
In most cases, you can drive a rental car picked up in one of the surrounding states to Arizona. In fact, you are likely to even be able to drop off the rental in Phoenix. Multiple major Interstate highways run through Arizona. Travelers can reach Phoenix from southern New Mexico, El Paso, or Los Angeles via I-10.
Useful city facts
The area that is Phoenix was home to the Hohokam people for some 2,000 years. They built various irrigation canals, some of which were made into the Salt River Project which helps bring water to the city today.
The city was founded by Jack Swilling, a Confederate Civil War Veteran, in 1867 as a farming community. The city would grow with the arrival of the railroad in the 1880s and would become the capital of the Arizona Territory in 1889. Arizona would become a state in 1912.
The city would not see large scale growth until after World War 2, with many soldiers that trained in it moving to it after the war. With air conditioning becoming widely available, the city was able to grow throughout the second half of the 20th century with many large companies and people moving to it. It would be the sixth-largest city in the country by 2010.
Phoenix is one of 13 U.S. cities with teams in all four major sports leagues. Two of the teams host their home games in neighboring Glendale. For that reason, they are referred to by the name Arizona rather than Phoenix. These are the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL which moved to Arizona from St. Louis, thus the mascot, and the Arizona Coyotes of the NHL.
The Arizona Diamondbacks of MLB host games at Chase Field in Downtown Phoenix. Also located in Downtown Phoenix is the Talking Stick Resort Arena, home of the Phoenix Suns. Of the four teams, the Diamondbacks are the only one to have ever won their league’s championship while located in Arizona.
Phoenix is both a destination and place to avoid because of its weather depending on the time of year. The city is extremely popular for visitors in the winter and spring months, with January to April seeing the highest hotel costs. The mild winter makes for a perfect escape for those from places with harsh winters. The typical spring moths see the beginning of summer, with pool seasons starting much earlier than in other places.
Visitors typically avoid the city during the summer due to the extreme temperatures. May through July are somewhat of a shoulder season while August and September see so few visitors that many attractions scale back their hours or close altogether. Summer is a great time to find great deals at resorts and hotels, though, if you can stand the heat.
Phoenix 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.
Top destinations and activities
- Camelback Mountain - Two mountains are popular hiking destinations located in the city. Camelback Mountain is probably the more popular of the two, its peak being slightly higher than the other. It gets its name from its shape which looks like a kneeling camel’s head and hump. Two trails are available to reach the peak. Of the two, the Echo Canyon trail is more traveled. It is a 1.25-mile steep trail with handrails at some points. There is parking for a limited number of cars and more parking half a mile away (don’t park on the street, you will be towed). The Cholla Trail is slightly longer and parking is further away. Plan to hike up the mountain on weekdays, if possible.
- Piestewa Peak - The other mountain in the city that is popular to hike is Piestewa (or Squaw) Peak. This trail is 1.25 miles long and is considerably easier than that of Camelback Mountain. Parking can be found at the trailhead, though again, plan to hike on a weekday, if possible. Otherwise, try to get to the trail as early as possible or you won’t be able to find a parking spot.
- 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.
- Scottsdale ArtWalk - The downtown area of Scottsdale is unique for the Phoenix area in that it is actually walkable. Though you can see the historic part of downtown or go bar crawling anytime, one of the more unique opportunities is the ArtWalk. It is held every Thursday evening from 7 PM to 9 PM. The galleries are all located on Main Street and Marshall Way and entrance to all of them is free. There are also two museums which are open and free of charge during the ArtWalk, the Scottsdale Museum of Contemporary Arts and Western Spirit: Scottsdale’s Museum of the West.
- Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesin West - Frank Lloyd Wright, the most famous American architect, built his winter home in Phoenix. It was named after his summer home in Wisconsin, Taliesin. Completed in 1937, it would be his personal winter home along with the winter home of his school. The School of Architecture at Taliesin is still located in the complex. Different tours lasting from one hour to two and a half hours are available, the longer more thorough tours requiring reservations.
- Musical Instrument Museum - Phoenix isn’t exactly known for its museums. However, this one gets rave reviews and is rated the #1 thing to do in Phoenix on Tripadvisor. It is located a ways from Downton Phoenix, so it is one of the places that require a car to get to. Don’t plan to spend a short amount of time at the museum. In fact, there is so much to see it even offers 2-day passes. Free parking is available, too.
- Desert Botanical Garden - A unique botanical garden located between Downtown Phoenix and Scottsdale, the Desert Botanical Garden has been in its current location since 1939. It has a rich collection of plants, specializing in species which are native to the Sonoran Desert surrounding the city, many of which are threatened or endangered. The garden as a great place to see agave, in particular, with more than 4,000 of them of many taxa. Unsurprisingly, cacti are also well-represented in the garden. In addition to normal admission to the garden, various events are held in it. The Dueling Pianos concert evenings are the most popular of these events.
- Arizona Biltmore Hotel - The famous landmark hotel is located north of Downtown Phoenix below Piestewa Peak. It was built in 1929 and has hosted many famous guests including U.S. Presidents. It is now operated as a Waldorf Astoria resort. Even if you don’t want to chuck out the money to stay at the hotel, history tours are available on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday mornings with a small fee for those who aren’t resort guests. On Friday nights at 6 PM the hotel hosts Happy Hour History Tours. Tour guests get two cocktails included with the admission price.
- Wrigley Mansion - Yes, this mansion is named for the man of chewing-gum fame who built it. It is located to the Arizona Biltmore and sits in a spot that provides great views of the Phoenix skyline. The mansion if there ever was one with 24 bedrooms and 12 bathrooms. Though the mansion has to operate as a private club due to zoning restrictions when it comes to dining and tours, it offers convenient one-month memberships at a token price for tourists. Its yearly fee is also more of a token fee and is not a real club membership costing hundreds or thousands as one might expect.
- Japanese Friendship Garden - The perfect place for a relaxing afternoon stroll is located just north of Downtown Phoenix. The Japanese garden is 3.5 acres and includes more than 1,500 hand-picked rocks, stone footbridges, lanterns and many varieties of plants. There is also a tea garden and tea house. The garden's water, including streams, a waterfall, and a Koi pond is very relaxing. Tours are available on Wednesdays and Thursdays and cost just a little more than the admission. Note that the hours are greatly reduced during June and July and the garden is closed in August and September due to the heat. Free parking is onsite and the neighboring park is a great place to have a picnic (food is not allowed in the garden). Plan to spend at least 30 minutes, but probably more, in the garden.
- Pueblo Grande. Designated as a Phoenix Point of Pride, Pueblo Grande Ruin and Irrigation Sites is dedicated to the pre-Columbian cultures native to the area. Located within the city limits, about a 15-minute drive east of downtown, the site includes a fascinating historical canal system, ceremonial ball courts, and Pueblo Grande Museum.
Traffic and parking tips
Infamous amongst Phoenix residents are the “suicide lanes.” On 7th Street and 7th Avenue between McDowell Road and Dunlap Avenue, the middle lane becomes a third lane for the rush hour traffic on weekdays, that is for traffic heading south toward Downtown between 6 AM and 9 AM and traffic heading north away from Downtown between 4 PM and 6 PM. It functions as a normal center turning lane at other times. Though this scheme has been around for more than forty years, locals still find it confusing. The best thing you can do is stay in the right-hand lane to avoid those swerving to either side to avoid cars incorrectly driving in the center lane.
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.
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. Neither are there any in neighboring New Mexico, Nevada, or West Texas. There is only one toll road in Utah that is unlikely to be traveled on by tourists. Colorado and California are the only states with toll roads that may be encountered by tourists. See their respective articles for information on toll roads in those states.
Ideas for a day-trip
- Four Peaks - If the peaks in Phoenix weren’t enough for you, head 40 miles north of the city to the Four Peaks. Of them, only the tallest is actually named, being Brown’s Peak. Unfortunately, the road to reach the trailhead is an unpaved forest road. Though many people attempt the road with a car, you should not with a rental car unless you want to be stuck paying for any damages or if the car breaks down. ATVs and high-clearance 4x4 vehicles are best for the road. In any case, other trails throughout the area can be hiked. One such example is the Ballantine Trail, the trailhead of which is located on state road 87 near the Four Peaks Wilderness Area and whose parking lot is right off the main road.
- Lakes - Multiple lakes, most of which are actually reservoirs, can be found within an hour’s drive of Phoenix. They provide great opportunities for respite from the hot weather. In addition to swimming, you can rent boats and jet skis. Three of the lakes are actually on the Salt River, which itself is a popular destination, particularly for tubing. Rent a tube, float down the river for the afternoon and a bus will take you back to your car.
- 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.-
- Grand Canyon - The second most visited national park in the U.S., the Grand Canyon National Park is a must for any Las Vegas visitor who hasn’t been before. 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 longer trip to enjoy the canyon without the crowds. From Phoenix, head north to Flagstaff on I-17. From there, if heading to the South Rim, take U.S. 180 to Arizona 64. If heading to the North Rim, take U.S. 89 north from Flagstaff to 89A.
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.
- Estrella Mountain Regional Park. Located just a 30-minute drive southwest of the city, Estrella Mountain is the right place for those who want to enjoy the typical Arizona landscape but don’t have time to travel to one of the state’s larger national parks farther away. The area is home to a number of hiking and biking trails that offer great views of Maricopa County below. In addition to the mountains and desert, the area is also home to the beautiful North Lake.
Some renters may want to be able to take their rental vehicle across the southern border of Arizona to Mexico. Unlike in some other states, this is possible if renting in Arizona. Here is a list of rental companies located in Phoenix and where they allow their cars to be taken.
- Europcar - All states are allowed but not Mexico
- Alamo - All states and Mexico (if the renter is over 25 and purchases Mexican insurance)
- Dollar - All states and Mexico (if the renter purchases Mexican insurance)
- Thrifty - All states and Mexico (if the renter purchases Mexican insurance)
Arizona, and Phoenix specifically, is a great place to begin (or end) a road trip through the Southwest of the United States. One-way rentals from and to Sky Harbor Airport are readily available. Below is a description of the surrounding states and why they are worth including in a western road trip itinerary. See our article on Arizona for more about the state as a whole.
West Texas - Though the eastern part of Texas is 1,000 miles away from Phoenix, West Texas is actually pretty close and should certainly be in the running to be part of any western road trip. Once you reach El Paso, head south to Big Bend National Park which is one of the least visited national parks in the country due to its remote location. Neighboring Big Bend Ranch State Park makes for a great scenic drive and a great place to camp and hike. To the north of those parks, stop by Marfa to see its famous lights (even if they are just car headlights or small fires), visit historic Fort Davis, enjoy the stars in the night sky at the McDonald Observatory and finish at Guadalupe National Park.
New Mexico - Located east of Arizona, New Mexico is similar in many ways. Though there are many other sites and a traveler could spend weeks in the state, here is a quick set of highlights as if starting from the Texas border. Just north of Guadalupe Mountains National Park is Carlsbad Caverns National Park, where you can experience the crowds of bats emerging from Carlsbad Cavern at sunset from May to October and enjoy walking down to the Big Room at that or any other time of the year. From there, a short drive north will bring you to Roswell, famous for an alleged UFO crash. Even the McDonalds in town is alien-themed. A great place if you can take it tongue in cheek.
From Roswell, head west along US-380 to Lincoln, famous for its ties to Billy the Kid. Further along, you’ll pass by historic Fort Stanton. And not far after that is Captain, the hometown of Smokey the Bear. Of course, this route skipped White Sands National Monument, though you can head south once reaching US-54 to get to it. If skipping it, then continue to I-25 and go north until you reach US-60. Head through the quaint town of Magdelena to the Very Large Array, a radio astronomy observatory which can be toured.
At this point, you could return to Arizona or turn around and go back to I-25 to reach Albuquerque and Santa Fe, the largest city and the capital city of the state, respectively. Sante Fe is particularly interesting for its arts and cultural scene. This part of the state is also where the Rocky Mountains begin to rise up out of the desert. Taos is the most famous resort town in the mountains in New Mexico. From there, it’s time to head into Colorado.
Colorado - The northeastern of the four corners states, Colorado is famous for the high peaks of the Rocky Mountains. From the southern border with New Mexico, travelers can go to any part of the western part of the state and find incredible mountain scenery. The first stop when coming from New Mexico for travelers will probably be either the town of Durango, with the famous Durango-Silverton railroad, or Great Sand Dunes National Park.
From there, head north to the center part of the state and climb one of Colorado’s 58 peaks over 14,000 ft. (4,200m) which are known as the 14ers. The peaks in the Sawatch Range (including the tallest in the Rocky Mountains, Mt. Elbert) are mostly non-technical requiring just an intense hike. State Route 82 cuts through the center of the range.
Though the state is popular for its mountains, it also has one of the country’s major cities, Denver. Most travelers will want to stop in the Mile-High City at some point. The city has long been famous for its brewing and craft beer fans won’t have to settle for just Coors. Of course, any beer aficionado would be well-served by going north to Fort Collins to visit the New Belgium brewery, one of the first craft breweries in the country.
While most will stick to the west side of Denver, the east side of the state, though perhaps boring plains, is not without sites. These include Bent’s Old Fort, Pawnee National Grassland, and the Royal Gorge. Two historic trails also pass through this part of the state. The famous Pony Express, even though it only lasted 18 months, is a well-remembered part of the history of the West. The Sante Fe Trail also passed through the state on the way from Missouri to Sante Fe. The American Army would use it to invade Mexico. Both of these are now National Historic Trails.
A trip to the West likely won’t include Kansas, so you’ll have to circle back along I-70 to go west to Utah.
Utah, the Mormon state, is an outdoor paradise. If entering from Colorado, you’ll likely arrive on I-70. Though the capital of the state and most of its population lie in the northern part, most of the tourist attractions can be found in the southern part. Of particular note in the northern part are the Uinta Mountains with the highest mountain in the state (Kings Peak), the ski resorts clustered around Park City, and the Great Salt Lake.
While all of these are worth the detour north, the five national parks are all located south of I-70. The first you’ll come across when arriving from Colorado is Arches National Park known for its plethora of natural arches including the famous Delicate Arch. From there, it takes only a short drive to reach Canyonlands National Park full of canyons and buttes carved by the Colorado River and its tributaries. The town of Moab between the parks makes for a great place to spend the night.
Next when heading west along I-70 is Capitol Reef National Park. This park is defined by the Waterpocket Fold, a geological warp in the earth’s crust that is about 100 miles long. It gets its name from a line of white domes that remind of the United States Capitol building. From there, travelers can leave the Interstate behind and take the scenic State Road 12 southwest to Bryce Canyon National Park which is centered around Bryce Canyon which is actually a group of natural amphitheaters and not a canyon. Finally, you should head further southwest to Zion National Park, whose prominent feature is Zion Canyon. From there, take I-15 to reach Sin City.
Of course, this only scratches the surface of the natural beauty of the state of Utah. Many National Monuments, state parks, and monuments on Native American land can also be enjoyed. Visitors could easily spend weeks to months enjoying the state’s nature or come back time and time again.
Las Vegas was once just a gambling town but is now a resort mecca. Travelers flock from all over the world to partake in the cuisines of celebrity chefs, lounge by the luxurious pools, shop in high-end shops, experience the plethora of entertainment options, and do things that you can do nowhere else. Head northwest of Phoenix on US-60 along the Joshua Tree Parkway to reach it in about five hours.
After Las Vegas, the next convenient point for a road trip is Southern California. The natural starting point would probably be Death Valley National Park, home to the lowest point in the United States, Badwater Basin. This point is just 85 miles from the highest point in the lower 48, Mount Whitney which is in Sequoia National Park.
After this, travelers should head to Los Angeles and experience the hip city and the home of the television and film industries. From there, a trip down to Orange County including possibly Disney Land is warranted. San Diego is also a popular place for travelers, after which they can stop by Joshua Tree National Park on the way back to Arizona.
Car Rental Prices in Phoenix
- Convertibles - from $209 per day
- Large cars - from $130 per day
- Medium cars - from $121 per day
- Vans - from $156 per day
- Premium cars - from $151 per day
- Small cars - from $117 per day
- SUVs - from $161 per day
How can I save money on my rental car?
If planning a road trip in the West, it may be cheaper to rent a car in another city, for instance, Las Vegas, than Phoenix. A large reason for this is the amount that the rental companies have to charge for using the airport facilities at Sky Harbor in Phoenix.
Depending on the season, though, this may not be true. Las Vegas’ high season is summer, but Phoenix’s high season is January to April. This means that a rental might be more expensive from Las Vegas in the summer.
Additionally, given the distances involved in travel in the West, you are very likely to want to pick up a car in one location and drop it off in another. Returning to the original location could require a drive of hundreds of miles. Luckily, it is pretty common and simple to return a car rented in Phoenix to another location in a major city. While there is usually a fee for dropping off the vehicle in another location, this can often be less than the fuel required to make the return trip in addition to saving you a day of driving.
Top 4 Locations near Phoenix
Phoenix Sky Harbor Int.Airport Car Rentals from $60.19 per day
Phoenix–Mesa Gateway Airport Car Rentals from $103.35 per day35.7 km / 22.2 miles away
Tucson Airport Car Rentals from $67.08 per day177.5 km / 110.3 miles away
Flagstaff Pulliam Airport Car Rentals from $103.35 per day192.3 km / 119.5 miles away
Map of Car Rental Locations
Which is the cheapest month to rent a car in Phoenix?
What’s the usual rental length in Phoenix?
What's the most popular month to rent a car in Phoenix?
Most Popular Car Models of Rental Suppliers
|Thrifty||Mazda 3||5||3||Large cars|
|Dollar||Ford Focus||3||2||Medium cars|
|NUCarrentals||Kia Forte||4||3||Large cars|
|Europcar||Toyota Yaris||4||2||Small cars|
|Dollar||Mazda 3||2||2||Large cars|
|Thrifty||Nissan Pathfinder||4||2||Large cars|
|Thrifty||Ford Focus 3d||3||2||Medium cars|
Our Customers Reviews
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