Do You Need a Rental Car in Palm Springs?

This blog post features links and information which have been obtained on a press trip. However, as always, all opinions shared in this post are my own.

Before my first trip to Palm Springs, I spent hours calculating whether a rental car would be worth it. I wanted to consider both the cost and the convenience. 

Now that I’m back from the trip, I understand when and why renting a car in Palm Springs is worthwhile.

When & Why You Need a Rental Car in Palm Springs

In most cases, renting a car is often not worth it if you stay in Downtown Palm Springs. But renting a car is worth it if you’re staying in Greater Palm Springs and want to explore outside the resort.

That’s because Downtown Palm Springs is very walkable. You’ll need an Uber or Lyft to/from:

  • Palm Springs Airport
  • Palm Springs Aerial Tramway 
  • Palm Springs Air Museum

However, you can walk from most Downtown hotels to:

  • Agua Caliente Cultural Museum
  • Architecture Tours
  • Palm Springs Art Museum & Marilyn Monroe

If you’re staying in Downtown Palm Springs but regularly plan to go out exploring, a rental car will be worth it. Nearby attractions in the Greater Palm Springs that you’d likely want a hire car for include:

  • The Living Desert
  • Desert Adventures Red Jeep Tours & Events
  • Indian Wells Tennis

These attractions are at least a 35-minute drive from Downtown Palm Springs. As such, the cost and convenience of renting a car is worthwhile. However, Uber and Lyft are still available if you prefer.

Unlike Downtown Palm Springs, the hotels in Greater Palm Springs are spread out from the attractions. This means a hire car is worth it if you stay in Greater Palm Springs and plan to explore outside the resort.

During my trip to Palm Springs, I barely used my hire car while in Downtown. However, when I spent a few nights at the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa in Indian Wells, the rental car was essential.


Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa

I chose the Renaissance Esmeralda Resort & Spa in Indian Wells for my stay because of its spacious rooms and incredible facilities.

While in Indian Wells, I visited The Living Desert and took a Red Jeep Tour. These are two major attractions in the area, roughly a 30-minute drive from the hotel.

Cost of a Rental Car in Palm Springs

With this in mind, it’s still essential to understand how much a rental car in Palm Springs might cost.

When budgeting for a rental car, most people only think about the cost of renting the car itself. However, the total cost of car rental is much more than that. Instead, the total cost of a rental car in Palm Springs is about $90 per night. You can break this down into four key components:

  1. Rental Car
  2. Parking
  3. Gas
  4. Extras

I hired a car from Palm Springs Airport and used it for four nights before returning it to Downtown LA. The cost was under $200 ($50 per night), which is very impressive considering there’s often a hefty premium for a different drop-off location.

The cost of parking at a hotel in Palm Springs varies depending on where you stay. However, if you’re not careful, it can often be as much as the rental car itself. In my case, I always opted for self-parking and paid an average of $25 per night.

During my four nights, I spent $47 on gas. This included driving 2.5 hours to Downtown Los Angeles and regularly driving around Greater Palm Springs.

I didn’t buy any extras. However, if you’re travelling with kids, you may also need to budget for car seats or premium insurance if you’re under a certain age.


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