Answers from Our Experts (3)
Remember all that talk about "carmageddon" in the City of Angels? Well, it was only a bit of a hyperbole. Of course, shutting down a wide stretch of any highway (much less the 405) is bound to cause more traffic. It just goes to show that if you live in Los Angeles or any neighboring towns, you drive. And for visitors, the case is the same. It's rather difficult to get around the spread out city without your own car. Cabs cost a small fortune — I recently took one from LAX to The Ritz-Carlton, Marina Del Ray and it was upward of $30 (for six miles). Unfortunately, because Los Angeles has such a large surface area, public transportation is tricky. Over the last couple of years, the light rail has gotten better, creating routes between some of L.A.'s top attractions (think Universal City and Hollywood). Bottom line is, if you want to explore all that Los Angeles has to offer — and you do — rent a car.
Some of the top-notch hotels offer house car services, but that's in a limited area; and to be honest, unless you're staying in Beverly Hills and are only going to Rodeo Drive (not a bad idea), the house car options are limited.
The short answer is yes, especially if you want to experience all that Los Angeles has to offer—from exceptional restaurants and night spots in downtown, Hollywood and West Hollywood to shopping in Beverly Hills and beach fun in Santa Monica and Malibu.
If you're set on staying local in a specific neighborhood, you might be able to get away with taking cabs, or utilizing L.A.'s subway/lightrail Metro, which now hits some of the city's best attractions from Universal City to Hollywood, to downtown, and Culver City. But, even with extensive improvements in recent years, L.A.'s metro isn't as comprehensive as you would find in cities like New York, San Francisco or Paris. Metro plans on expanding into Beverly Hills and to the sea in Santa Monica, but that won't happen for another two years at least.
Another car alternative will be Bike Nation, which will soon start service in downtown, with plans to expand their solar-powered rental kiosks stocked with GPS-enabeled bikes to Westwood, Hollywood and Venice Beach.
For the full experience, you'll most likely want to explore Los Angeles on four wheels. You can find agencies for renting a car at Los Angeles International Airport and Bob Hope Airport in Burbank. If you're looking for a luxury experience, pick up exotic models at Beverly Hills Rent-A-Car and Midway Car Rental.
To answer this simply – yes, visitors should definitely rent a car when they’re in Los Angeles. Los Angeles is a very spread out and very large city. Unlike New York City or Washington D.C., there isn’t much public transportation that’s easily available for visitors. If you’re planning on staying in Beverly Hills, but have a meeting in Santa Monica, it makes more sense to rent a car as opposed to spending $60 on a cab (one way). Los Angeles is a very big city and very spread out – nothing is really within walking distance and it’s definitely not a “walkable” city like New York City or Chicago.
There are plenty of car rental places at the Los Angeles airport and shuttles at the airport that can take you right there. For a smooth and stress-free trip to Los Angeles, renting a car is definitely the wise way to go when visiting this beautiful city.