Car Rental in Boston
Why rent a car in Boston?
Boston is the cultural and financial center of the New England region of the United States. One of the most important cities in the country historically, Boston is a prime destination for tourism. Millions visit the city every year to walk the Freedom Trail and experience the history of the place.
Though there is a lot to see in Downtown Boston, no trip to the area is complete without also venturing to other historically important locations. These include Plymouth, where the Pilgrims landed and started a colony; Salem, famous for its witch trials; and Lexington and Concord, where the Revolutionary War began. The best way to get to all of these places is by car, particularly due to the fact that many of the sites in the towns are spread out.
As you might not want to have a car while spending time in the city, it is possible to pick up a rental car in the city in order to drive to other historic towns, beach towns, Cape Cod, or even further to the other states of New England.
One-Way Car Rentals in Boston
The most popular one-way rental options for pick up in Boston and drop off in another city include:
- From Boston to New York - 33 offers from US$ 64.95 per day
- From Boston to Los Angeles - 19 offers from US$ 108.39 per day
- From Boston to Chicago - 50 offers from US$ 61.37 per day
- From Boston to Toronto - 13 offers from US$ 113.06 per day
- From Boston to Buffalo - 14 offers from US$ 122.46 per day
Top ways to enter Boston
Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) is the main gateway to not only Boston but New England as a whole. It is the largest airport in New England and hosts many international flights. The airport has a rental car center that can be reached from all terminals via a blue-and-white shuttle bus found on the lower level of each terminal.
The most direct routes into Downtown Boston are I-90 and the IA via the Ted Williams and William F. Callahan Tunnels, respectively. These tunnels are both tolled. It is possible to reach Downtown without paying a toll, though this adds about 10 minutes to the journey are requires a considerable amount of turns.
Manchester-Boston Regional Airport (MHT) is located south of Manchester, New Hampshire. Rental cars can be picked up at the airport. Even though it is in another state, it is only about an hour away from Boston. This is particularly useful for those whose final destination is north of Boston.
T.F. Green International Airport (PVD) is a major airport in Providence, Rhode Island. It is also a good alternative for reaching Boston, particularly the southern part of the city. Rental cars can be picked up at the airport. Expect an hour drive or so to reach Downtown Boston from the airport.
Boston is the end of the line for the two most popular Amtrak routes, the Acela Express and the Northeast Regional, both of which connect the city to New York City and Washington D.C. The Downeaster goes between Boston and Brunswick, Maine via Portland and the coast and the Lake Shore Limited goes between Boston and Chicago via Albany and the other major cities in Upstate New York. Most trains arrive at South Station, which is located in the southern part of downtown. The Downeaster arrives at North Station which is located underneath the TD Garden. Rental cars can be picked up at the downtown locations of suppliers of which some are within walking distance of North Station and all are only a short cab ride away from either station.
In most cases, it is possible to drive a rental car from surrounding states to Massachusetts. Boston is, unsurprisingly, well-connected to all of the other states of New England along with New York. I-95 is the main route through the entire eastern seaboard. It takes drivers from New York City to Boston, though doesn’t enter the city but instead allows for transit around it. I-90 provides connections from the east including Albany and Buffalo and does make it all the way to the city. I-93 connects I-95 with the city both from the south and north. It also provides a connection from the city to New Hampshire. Of these, only I-90, the Massachusetts Turnpike, is tolled.
Useful city facts
The city of Boston was one of the most historically important cities in the United States. From its prominence in colonial times to its major role in beginning the American Revolution, the city played a major role in forming the country. After the founding of the United States, Boston was a major center of culture throughout the 19th century. It served as a major location for the Abolitionist Movement prior to the Civil War. All of this gives tourists an immense amount of history to see and learn about when visiting the city.
Boston is a sports city if there ever was one. Boston has teams in all major sports leagues, all of which have an illustrious history. All of the teams in the four major sports leagues have won championships in the last fifteen years.
All of the teams except the New England Patriots host homes games in the city of Boston.The Boston Bruins of the National Hockey League and the Boston Celtics of the National Basketball Association both call TD Garden in Downtown home. The historic home field of the Boston Red Sox, Fenway Park, is the oldest baseball stadium in the country.
The New England Patriots’ home stadium, Gillette Stadium, is located southwest of Boston in the town of Foxborough. It is 22 miles from Boston and just 18 miles from Providence, thus why the team’s name is New England rather than Boston. The team is incredibly successful having won five conference championships and three Super Bowls in just the past decade.
Boston has a traditional sports rivalry with New York City. Particularly, the Yankees and Red Sox rivalry dates back a long time. Though this is not usually violent, it is a good idea to avoid fans that have been drinking on game days and not to wear New York jerseys around them.
An interesting twist on a sport known by most exists in Boston and the rest of New England. Candlepin Bowling is similar to what most know as bowling but is actually much more difficult. The pins are taller and skinnier and the ball is smaller, such that the ball can pass through pins without hitting any. This makes knocking all of them down a difficult task which is why players get three bowls per frame. Bowling alleys offering this game can be found throughout the city of Boston and further throughout most of New England. It is certainly a unique opportunity for travelers.
Boston, being one of the most populous and historic cities in the country, has been the setting for many movies and television shows. Most of the movies set in Boston are of various genres of crime movies. Of particular note when it comes to films is Martin Scorcese’s The Departed which won an Academy Award for Best Picture. Ben Affleck, having been raised in Cambridge, has both acted in and directed movies set in the city. These include Good Will Hunting, The Town, and Gone Baby Gone.
When it comes to television shows set in Boston, anyone over 35 certainly knows of Cheers. The bar in the TV show was actually based on a real-life bar in the city. There are now two locations that can be visited, the original and another that is a replica of the set of the bar. Younger people may remember Sabrina the Teenage Witch from the late 1990s which was set in a fictional suburb of Boston. One of the more recent shows to be set in Boston was Boston Legal, a critically acclaimed dramedy based on a Boston law firm starring William Shatner, Candice Begen, and James Spader.
The most popular time to visit Boston is during the summer, which lasts from the second half of May until the end of September. Most summer days are warm and sunny, though on some days the temperature may exceed 90°F (32°C). Humidity is generally high in summer, too. While a swim in the ocean is certainly refreshing on hot days, do not expect the water temperature to be warm even at the height of summer.
Fall and spring are generally cool with more rain. Winter in Boston is cold, though the ocean moderates the temperature so the city is warmer than locations further inland. The same is true with respect to snowfall, the city sees less snow than inland locations.
Boston is a hub for higher learning. Though located across the Charles River in Cambridge, the city is well-known as the home of Harvard University and the Massachusett Institute of Technology, which are both always ranked in the top-10 universities in the world. In the city itself, Boston University and Northeastern University can be found. Additionally, Boston College, Tufts University and Brandeis University are all highly ranked and located in the metropolitan area.
Top destinations and activities
- Freedom Trail - A 2.5-mile-long (4km) path located in Downtown, the Freedom Trail takes travelers 16 historical sites all of which played important roles in the history of the country. It begins at the Boston Common Visitors Center and ends in Charlestown at either the USS Constitution or Bunker Hill. The trail is marked with red bricks and passes by sites that are mostly free. The Old South Meeting House, Old State House, and the Paul Revere House all charge entrance fees. While the route contains some explanations, an app is available for purchase that gives an audio guide supported by GPS (when you reach points of interest, the audio starts).
- Black Heritage Trail - A compliment to the Freedom Trail, the Black Heritage Trail is a path leading tourists past sites that were important in African-American history. The trail intersects the Freedom Trail near the State House which is its start. From there, it goes through the Beacon Hill neighborhood, which is where many freemen and escaped slaves lived between the time Massachusetts outlawed slavery until the Civil War. Boston was in many ways the center of the abolitionist movement, thus why it became a destination for blacks.
- Faneuil Hall and Quincy Market - Faneuil Hall was built in the 1740s as a marketplace and meeting hall. After Boston was incorporated as a city in the 1820s, the market needed to expand. Quincy Market was built behind it and came to be used mostly for selling food and produce. Both of them and the surrounding buildings now make up what is called the Faneuil Hall Marketplace which functions as a festive marketplace as the traditional vendors have since moved to other spaces. Quincy Market is still focused on food, however, with various food stalls, fast food options, and restaurants. Faneuil Hall is a prominent stop on the Freedom Trail but also has shopping and dining options. Street performers are hired by the Marketplace after auditions and provide great entertainment.
- USS Constitution - Old Ironsides is the oldest commissioned naval ship still afloat. It is docked in Charlestown Navy Yard, a National Historic Park. The ship was built after the American Revolution and saw service in the War of 1812. She was in service until 1881 and became a museum in 1907. The ship is one of the ends of the Freedom Trail. Tours of the ship are all year long. If you are extremely lucky and both come at the right time of year and win the lottery draw for tickets, you can sail on the ship during her yearly “turnaround cruise” in which she is towed and turned around to make sure she weathers evenly.
- Franklin Park Zoo - A great destination for any traveling with children, the zoo is located in the northeast section of Franklin Park, a large park and forest southwest of Downtown Boston. The zoo is home to many exotic species of animal. It has exhibits areas that include the Tropical Forest, Serengeti Crossing, Kalahari Kingdom, Outback Trail, Giraffe Savanna, and the Bird’s World. It is, though, only the second largest zoo in New England behind Southwick's Zoo in Mendon, Massachusetts which is itself worth the hour-long drive from the city.
- Cheers Bars - One of the most popular American television series of all time, Cheers, was set in a bar in Boston. The show’s bar was inspired by a real-life bar in the city that was known as Bull & Finch at the time. The bar, located in Beacon Hill, is still open having since changes its name to Cheers. The owners have also opened a second location in Quincy Market. This new location is a reproduction of the set of the television series. Both locations have food, drinks, and gift shops where visitors can purchase Cheers- themed souvenirs.
- Brewery Tours - Boston has been a beer town since colonial times. The city now has multiple brewpubs and breweries. The most famous is, of course, Boston Beer Company which produces Samuel Adams. Tours can be taken of the brewery which is located about 4 miles southwest of downtown. Harpoon Brewery, started by two Harvard Students, also gives tours of its Boston brewery which is located just outside of downtown in the Marine Industrial Park.
- Boston Symphony Orchestra - One of the Big Five major American symphony orchestras, the Boston Symphony Orchestra is historic and prestigious. Through most of the 19th and 20th centuries, Boston was one of the prime cultural cities in the United States. The BSO had a lot to do with that status. The is currently directed by Andris Nelsons of Latvia. Its home is Symphony Hall, built in 1900 and located near the campus of Northeastern University not far from the Back Bay neighborhood. The BSO performs at Tanglewood in the summer. The BSO website is the best place to view its schedule of events and purchase tickets.
- Prudential Center - The tallest building in Boston, the John Hancock Tower, is only 790ft (241m) tall. Its observation deck was closed after the attacks of September 11, 2001. This left the Prudential Tower as the tallest building in the city with an observation deck open to the public. The Skywalk Observatory is located on the 50th floor of the building. A restaurant, the Top of the Hub, is located on the 52nd floor.
- Boston Harbor Islands National Recreation Area and State Park - The state and national protected areas of the Boston Harbor Islands are made up of 34 islands and peninsulas. Ferries leave from Long Wharf in Boston to Georges Island and Spectacle Island. In the summer (June 21 - September 2), you can connect from Georges Island to Peddocks, Lovells, Grape, and Bumpkin Islands for free. In addition to beaches, boating, hiking, and camping the islands also offer a look into history. Fort Warren, which once defended the harbor, is on Georges Island. There are many historical lighthouses on the islands, too. You also may recognize Peddocks Island from the movie Shutter Island.
- The New England Aquarium - Well over one million people visit the New England Aquarium every year. It is located in the Central Wharf in Downtown Boston, a short walk from Faneuil Hall Marketplace. The aquarium has some special exhibits in addition to the typical aquarium tanks with sea life. There is an IMAX theater showing films about sea life. The aquarium also, in cooperation with Boston Harbor Cruises, offers whale watching cruises from March through November.
- John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum - The 35th president of the United States, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, was born in suburban Boston. After graduating from Harvard and serving in the Navy, he would represent the city in the House of Representatives and later the state of Massachusetts in the Senate. After his assassination, plans for his presidential library were made, though with various setbacks. It was eventually decided to build it on Columbia Point near the University of Massachusetts Boston. Unlike other presidential libraries, it is also a museum as Kennedy requested that his staff keep effects, both official and personal. The first floor of the library contains the museum with these artifacts and an orientation film and documentary about the Cuban Missile Crisis. The library and museum can be reached from Downtown Boston via I-93 and parking is available.
Traffic and parking tips
Traffic in and around Boston is quite famously bad. If arriving from the midwest or Canada, be prepared for a different style of driving. Drivers in Boston are often called “Massholes” due to the manner in which they drive. This means not using their turn signals, tailgating, switching lanes erratically and the like. The only good thing about their driving is their ability to reach their destination quickly and therefore get off the road quickly. This type of driver is particularly disliked in the other states of New England.
As is usual for a large American city, be aware of rush hour traffic and try to avoid it as much as possible.
Parking, as one would expect, is either difficult, expensive, or both. Parking in the very center of downtown can be extremely expensive. The further away you park and therefore walk, the cheaper it will be. Be sure not to park in residential zones. Other zones are metered and typically have a 2-hour time limit, not great if you plan to spend the entire day in a section of a city. The times of the week when street cleaning takes place, the different zones, and other places where you’re not allowed to park can be confusing, too. Therefore, you are best off finding a garage, of which there are many in downtown.
All tolls in Massachusetts are cashless. The only methods for paying for tolls are EZ Pass and Pay by Plate. While those in their own vehicles can have a picture of their license plate taken and an invoice sent to them in the mail which can be paid online, those in a rental car, unfortunately, can not since the invoice is sent to the rental company. Note that if you attempt this, the rental company is likely to charge an additional penalty fee that is likely to be quite high in addition to the cost of the toll. It is, therefore, best to take the rental car company’s plan for tolls which usually comes with an EZ Pass transponder and a daily fee.
All of the highway tunnels and one bridge crossing the Boston Harbor are tolled. These are, from east to west, the Ted Williams Tunnel, the Callahan Tunnel, the Sumner Tunnel, and the Tobin Memorial Bridge. Additionally, the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90) is tolled throughout the state.
Ideas for a day-trip
- Cape Cod - The easternmost arm of Massachusetts that sticks out into the Atlantic Ocean, Cape Cod is a popular summer destination for both residents of Massachusetts and those from other states. Provincetown, where the Mayflower originally dropped anchor and wrote the Mayflower Compact, is the most popular resort town and offers exceptionally calm waters for swimming. The outer side of the island facing the Atlantic Ocean is mostly part of the Cape Cod National Seashore. Its main attraction is its long, pristine beach. Old King’s highway, Highway 6A, is the most scenic way to reach the cape along with being one of the best scenic roads in the country.
- Martha's Vineyard - An island located about 8 miles off of the southern part of Cape Cod, Marth’s Vineyard is a popular summer destination for celebrities and New England residents. This is due to its mild summers when it is warm enough to swim but not overbearingly hot. The moderating influence of the Atlantic Ocean causes this. The island can be reached year-round from Woods Hole, MA, an hour and a half drive from Boston. Though this ferry carries cars, it is unlikely your rental supplier will allow your rental car to be taken onboard. In the summer, the island can be reached from other places in New England and New York City. Of course, flights are also available.
- Nantucket - A smaller island east of Martha’s Vineyard and about 30 miles south of Cape Cod, Nantucket is also a popular summer getaway spot. It can likewise be reached by ferry or by air, but don’t count on being able to take your rental car there. The island has everything one would expect from a New England island: beautiful harbors, nice beaches, many lighthouses, and gorgeous homes and landscaping.
- Salem - Famous for the Salem witch trials in 1692-1693, Salem is a popular tourist destination. It is only a thirty-minute drive from Boston. There are multiple museums that cover the history of the witch trials. The town is still a great destination for those that might not care about what they may deem as tourist traps related to the trials. The town was once one of the largest and richest in the colonies and during the early part of the country’s history. After Independence, it slowly lost its status and therefore would not develop as other cities would. This left behind an abundance of historic architecture for visitors to enjoy. So forget about the “witches” for a little bit and enjoy the town’s multiple historic districts.
- Plymouth - Famous as the landing place of the Mayflower and the second English colony in North America, Plymouth is an extremely popular tourist town just an hour's drive south of Boston. Its most famous attraction is Plymouth Rock, traditionally where the Pilgrims disembarked from the Mayflower. Don’t be shocked when you find that it’s actually just a small rock with the year 1620 inscribed on it. Plymouth Plantation (sometimes spelled Plimouth in the Old English way) is south of the main part of town and is a major attraction. It is a recreation of a 17th-century village in the colony and includes actors that play the role of villagers going about their daily tasks. The entrance fee also includes entrance to a replica of the Mayflower ship in the harbor of the main part of town.
- Kennebunkport - Located on the coast in southern Maine, Kennebunkport is a popular destination for Bostonites. It takes less than two hours to drive there from Boston. Kennebunkport is popular for its seaside town for the wealthy and is thereby one of the richest places in Maine. It is worth noting that you must obtain a parking sticker to park anywhere at Goose Rocks Beach from Memorial Day weekend through Labor Day weekend.
- Concord and Lexington - Where the Revolutionary War began, the first battle (or rather skirmishes) of the war took place in Lexington and Concord. In Lexington, the Battle Green in the center of the city is where the opening shots of the war were fired. In Concord, the Minutemen and British Regulars had a brief skirmish at the Old North Bridge. Ralph Waldo Emerson called the first shot here “the shot heard round the world.” In between the cities lies Minute Man National Historical Park which contains the battlefields and structures of the opening battle. In the summer, a trolley runs between the towns and passes most of the tourist sites. It is also very easy to drive between them all.
- Springfield - The center of the Pioneer Valley of the state, Springfield is the largest city on the Connecticut River in Massachusetts. It is an hour-and-a-half drive from Boston. The city is well known for its Victorian architecture. Springfield was the childhood home of Theodor Seuss Geise, more commonly known by the pen name Doctor Seuss. The Dr. Seuss National Memorial Sculpture Garden was opened in the city in 2002 and includes sculptures of various characters from his books. As Springfield is where James Naismith invented the game of basketball, it is the home of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
Most popular rental types and cars
The most popular class of rental car in Boston is the economy class of which the Toyota Yaris is an excellent example. Many families visit Boston and New England for vacation. They choose to rent larger cars, such as standard and intermediate classes, of which the VW Jetta and Hyundai Elantra are great examples, respectively.
- New York, New York - The Big Apple is THE Global City. It is an essential destination for both Americans and those from abroad who have never experienced it, as it is like no other. Just a four-hour drive from Boston, it would be a shame to miss it. You can even return a rental car you picked up in Boston here (for an additional charge), which you may very well want to do rather than attempting to drive in the city. The list of attractions the city has to offer is entirely too long to list. But one should certainly be sure to make it to the other boroughs besides Manhattan, as the also have a lot to offer.
- Upstate New York - The state of New York is much more than just New York City. All parts of it north of the city and Long Island are considered upstate. It is within a reasonable driving distance of Boston thanks to the Massachusetts Turnpike (I-90) which first leads travelers to Albany, the state capital. From there one can head south to the Catskills for outdoor adventures or north to the Adirondacks for absolute wilderness and the highest peaks in the state. The largest tourist draw, of course, is Niagara Falls. Remain on I-90 all the way to Buffalo then head slightly north to the border of Canada to reach them.
- Rhode Island - Further into New England, Rhode Island is the smallest state but is certainly worth a visit. Providence is the capital and largest city and is located in the center of the state. Though it may feel like the rest of the state is just one large suburb, unspoiled coastline can still be found. The beach is the main draw in summer. Of course, New England seafood is also worth it. Calamari is very popular as are lobster sandwiches. But, of course, don’t visit the state without trying New England’s famous clam chowder.
- Connecticut - One of the states that make up New England, Connecticut is northeast of New York City, with parts of the state serving as suburbs of the city. North and East of the cities on the coastline, the state is rural. This is where to go for a quintessential rural New England experience. Many state forests and parks offer stunning scenery. Of particular note is Gillette Castle State Park. Of course, there is lots to do in the suburban regions too. Greenwich and Stamford now serve as a major hub for the finance industry and contain many great restaurants. The state line is less than an hour’s drive from the city, though allow more time to make it further upstate.
- Vermont - The hippie alternative to the libertarian neighboring state of New Hampshire, Vermont is quite liberal which is surprising considering its rural nature. The state is a popular destination with those from the cities, particularly in fall when its foliage is just stunning. The state is known for the Green Mountains and Lake Champlain in the north of the state. Outdoor activities are extremely popular, with hiking and camping to be had throughout the summer. In winter, there are also many opportunities for skiing. The state is also well-known for its maple syrup, so you don’t have to go all the way to Canada to get some.
- New Hampshire - North of Massachusetts, New Hampshire is a state known for its fiercely independent residents. It is a popular weekend getaway destination for Boston residents as its southern parts are just a short drive from the city. Many lakes with cottage bed and breakfasts on their shores can be found all over the state. If the nature in the south doesn’t satisfy you, then the White Mountains in the northern part of the state surely will. Not only are these popular for hiking and camping in the summer, but also for skiing in the winter. Also within the mountains is Mount Washington, the tallest mountain in the Northeastern United States.
- Maine - The most eastern state in the U.S.A. is also one of the most sparsely populated. Its Atlantic coastline is very popular, particularly amongst those who live in Boston. It also has the only national park in New England, Acadia National Park located on Mount Desert Island. Its scenery is simply stunning. Baxter State Park hosts its highest mountain which is also the end of the Appalachian Trail. The northern part of the state is mostly wilderness with a very low population, a great place to experience some peace after spending time in the bustling city. And as you are likely to be able to take your rental car to Canada, it is definitely worth at least thinking about going further to New Brunswick.
Car Rental Prices in Boston
Map of Car Rental Locations
Most Popular Car Models of Rental Suppliers
|Budget||Toyota Camry||4||2||Large cars|
|Budget||Kia Rio||4||2||Small cars|
|Budget||Ford Fusion||4||2||Large cars|
|Budget||Hyundai Elantra||4||2||Large cars|
|Thrifty||Ford Focus 3d||3||2||Medium cars|
|Thrifty||Jeep Wrangler||2||2||Large cars|
|Budget||Ford Focus||4||2||Medium cars|
|Budget||Kia Soul||4||2||Medium cars|
|Thrifty||Chevrolet Malibu||2||2||Large cars|
|Alamo||Ford Fusion||4||2||Large cars|