Should I hire a car in Aberdeen? The Granite city sits in a geographically remote corner of the UK, but once you get there, can you get around easily using public transport? Or is a hire car all but essential? What are the main Aberdeen car hire options? There are many reasons to rent a car in Aberdeen, but the city and its surroundings can also still be explored using local public transport options, even if your journey choices will be a lot less flexible:
Welcome to Carornocar, where we provide answers to questions about whether or not it’s worth renting a car when on holiday / vacation in 300 key destinations around the world.
These questions typically boil down to three key areas:
- Do I need a car in Aberdeen? This is based on service comparison with public transport.
- Is it worth renting a car in Aberdeen? We look at value for money – hire costs v transit ticket costs.
- Should we hire a car in Aberdeen? Ultimately, this is a simple yes or no, based on which we think will give you the best experience.
Would you hire a car in Aberdeen?
Based on conversations with people who have visited, or who are thinking about visiting Aberdeen, these are typical “first impressions” on the question of car hire:
Typical initial reactions:
- “Do we need a car in Aberdeen”? YES
- “Is it worth renting a car in Aberdeen? MAYBE
- Should people hire a car in Aberdeen? YES
This gives us a starting point to look at the car and non-car options in Aberdeen. Are general expectations here about right, or can we offer some surprise suggestions on reasons why you might be better off with or without a car?
We’ve reviewed 300 cities around the world – exactly half of these are places where we do advise car hire, and the other half are places where we don’t – so you’ll get an honest answer each and every time!
For full details of how we review each city, please see our ratings guide.
Some key city data
Should I avoid hiring a car in Aberdeen because of congestion?
High levels of congestion can be a serious irritation when you are trying to get around as a tourist. These congestion levels apply to the urban area, not the roads outside it.
Fuel prices in Aberdeen
Should I avoid hiring a car in Aberdeen because of fuel prices?
|€ / LITRE||$ / GALLON||£ / litre||Relative SFO|
- Prices compared in $/litre in August 2017.
- Conversion to € and £ are at mid-market rates.
- Prices rounded to nearest 5c/p. The aim is to show a comparison between cities, rather than an exact price.
- There will always be variations within the same city, and these are usually larger than variations at a national level, except for countries like the USA, where fuel prices vary from state to state.
- “Relative SFO” = fuel price relative to San Francisco. We use this as it’s an example of somewhere that has a relatively high fuel cost compared to other places in the USA, but a low cost compared to European prices.
Is it worth hiring a car in Aberdeen, or are public transport options good enough?
A tram network is a useful means of getting around a city. For small to medium sized cities, it’s often the fastest way of moving through the city. In larger cities, trams may supplement more comprehensive underground or other rapid transit systems.
Even if you do hire a car in Aberdeen, staying near a busy public transport stop on the edge of town can be a good value option, as you’ll often get free hotel parking, and you can easily commute into the centre.
- NO TRAMS
Do I need to hire a car in Aberdeen, or can I get around using the metro and other train or bus services?
A metro system, also known as an underground, subway, rapid transit (or tube in London) can provide very fast local transport around a city, and often into the suburbs around it. For visitors, a metro system can be extremely useful for getting to major places of interest, and also for getting to and from hotels which are away from the centre.
- NO METRO.
A high cycling rate is a good indication of a city with a well balanced transport system.
Cities with high levels of cycling are usually easy to walk around too, and you can also expect excellent public transport in most cases.
|Rank||Global Rank||Cycling Rate||Notes|
|57||248||2%||Respectable rate when compared with other Scottish cities. Compact city centre, but poor cycle path provision.|
- Usually, cycle hire is an option to consider alongside local buses, trams and trains, but in some cases it might be the best means to get around for most or all of the time.
Is an ideal place from which to start a road trip?
|SCOTTISH INTRO||Edinburgh, Glasgow, Burrell Collection, Loch Lomond, Oban, Mallaig, for William, Isle of Skye (Old Man of Storr), Kyle of Localsh (Eilean Donan Castle), Inverness, Carrbridge, Aviemore / Cairngorms NP, Killin / Falls of Drochart, Forth Bridges, Edinburgh||1,135||18||63|
- Any suggestion above may be for a sample one week road trip from Aberdeen.
- If no road trip is mentioned, this might just be because we haven’t researched one yet.
- Suggesting a road trip from Aberdeen doesn’t mean we do or don’t think renting a car here is a good idea (compared to other options) – it’s just a suggestion for where you might want to go if you do.
- By “road trip”, we mean renting a car from Aberdeen, driving it around in a circuit, and then returning it to the same place, usually around one week later.
Why should you rent a car in Aberdeen?
Aberdeen rental basics
There's a lot more to renting a car than the cost of the hire alone, but it's a good place to start when trying to decide whether or not it's worth hiring a car in Aberdeen.
How much will a week's car hire in Aberdeen?
The table below looks at the lowest price we've found and then compares it with the costs of a typical one week's summer peak time car hire in Aberdeen. The very cheapest economy cars are often only 2/3 door models, so we've also included a guide price for one week of peak time rental of a "reasonably" sized car - but nothing too large or too fancy, just a simple set of wheels to get a group of 4 or small family around in Aberdeen.
|Rental Type||Price (£)||Price ($)||Price (€)|
|Off peak||£97||$126||107 |
|Peak 4 door+||£132||$172||145 |
Notes - Cheapest price is usually spring or autumn. Prices researched in June 2017 for November 2017 (off-peak) or March 2018 (southern hemisphere). Peak is based on a last minute summer booking in August 2017.
These are basic sample rental prices, with full-full fuel deals, but with no extras of any kind. (user guide).
These prices are NOT an offer of car rental in Aberdeen, but merely an indication of guide prices for comparison.
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General tips on car rental in Aberdeen
Reasons why you should I hire a car in Aberdeen
- Remoteness — although you will have no problem getting around the city itself, public transport routes starts to thin out massively once beyond the central city area.
- Limited train routes — Aberdeen is right at the end of the East Coast route from London via Edinburgh. The only other train service is a limited frequency (one train every two hours) route to Inverness. Whereas even Inverness by comparison is a rail hub, with routes fanning out on each of the major compass points, Aberdeen really isn’t a great base for exploration by train.
- Backed into a corner – the simple reality is that Aberdeen sits in a corner, and only has one railway line running through it. Of course, the roads are also constrained by this geography, but you can at least drive in your own time, and not wait hours for a train. This is a key reason why Aberdeen car hire is strongly advised as the better option.
- Limited attractions — there are relatively few points of interest in Aberdeen itself, whereas the surrounding countryside offers plenty of places to visit, including the famous Balmoral Castle. Without a car, these places are difficult to get to.
Will your Aberdeen hotel have free parking?
We've compared hotel listings from 300 cities to see which places tend to have the most hotels with free parking. We've compared Aberdeen here with the average, the highest and the lowest ratings.
|61||116||53%||MEDIUM||AVERAGE||It's easy enough to find a hotel here around the edge of the centre - it's then compact enough to walk into town.|
For full details and notes see - free parking notes.
Why not? Aberdeen without a car
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Visiting Aberdeen without a car
There are very few reasons not to hire a car for a visit to Aberdeen, unless you’re making a very brief stay in the city itself, and aren’t planning on venturing very far beyond city limits.
- Balmoral by bus: Hardy public transport users can go by bus to Balmoral Castle, which is just next to the village of Crathie on the A93. Allow around 3 hours, up to 8 buses each way per day, but you will have to change at least twice outside the summer season.
- Orkney and Shetland — Aberdeen offers both onward flights and ferry services to the Orkney and Shetland Islands. You can take a hire car onto the ferry services, but is much cheaper to go as a foot passenger, and take advantage of local bus services, where you are also likely to pick up a good deal of local knowledge from fellow passengers.
- Scenic coastal rail route — the train route from Edinburgh up to Aberdeen has a number of particularly scenic stretches, especially as it hugs the coast for much of the route. Flying into Aberdeen and out through Edinburgh would be one way to enjoy this route, although the availability of flights there is generally much better than it is to Aberdeen anyway. Another option is just to pick return flights to Edinburgh and take the train in both directions. If you are flying in and out of Aberdeen, then this train route is still worth exploring at least down to Stonehaven, where it goes inland.
- Start at Dyce: A very quick shuttle bus (or taxi) is available from Aberdeen Airport to nearby Dyce station, from where most trains heading south start. Dyce is also the best place to board trains heading to Inverness, as this avoids going into Aberdeen city centre and back out again. However, your journey options are still limited to the route heading west to Inverness, and the coastal route heading south beyond Aberdeen.
Specific Aberdeen Car Hire Questions
Is it worth renting a car in Aberdeen just for part of my stay?
Not really – Aberdeen makes a great base for exploring the Highlands, but there are only limited points of interest within the city itself. Unless your plan is to get around the Highlands entirely by bus and train (in which case, make your connection at Dyce and don’t go into the city centre), then you really should hire a car in Aberdeen for the whole duration of your stay.
Is it worth renting a car in Aberdeen even for backpackers, students and other travellers who are on an extremely tight budget?
Probably not – based on price alone, you will get better value travelling by train and coach, especially if you book well in advance. It’s also easy enough to arrange coach or minibus tours of the Highlands or of the Isle of Skye from Inverness, and even if none of these options will give you the same flexibility as renting a car, they will almost certainly still be better value.
Do I need a car in Aberdeen if I am planning on staying in the city / downtown?
Yes – even if you are staying right in the centre of Aberdeen, you will want to go out of the city, and in particular you want to go and visit the Cairngorms National Park. You really should hire a car for this.
Bear in mind that reaching places like, for example, Aviemore is usually going to mean going through Inverness and making a change, so it will be quicker to drive. Hotels right in the city centre are unlikely to provide free parking, but Aberdeen is sufficiently compact that you should be able to find a hotel with free parking around the edge of the city centre that is within easy walking distance, or short bus ride from the centre.
For example, the Village Hotel group are one chain who are known to provide free parking on all of their sites, and they have a location on the western side of the city. In total, about half of all hotels in Aberdeen will have free parking for guests. 156
I usually try to avoid driving if I can – so should I hire a car in Aberdeen?
No – we would rate Aberdeen is the most car focused major travel destination in the UK, but you will still find far more options for onward travel by bus and train then you will in many other places in Europe. If you are visiting Aberdeen from North America, then you will probably find that the choice of public transport (or transit) in Aberdeen is actually quite good, and you will also find a much wider range of onward connections via Inverness.
I am a train enthusiast – do I still need to hire a car in Aberdeen?
Absolutely not – you may well have already taken the train up to Aberdeen via Edinburgh, a route which takes you across the world famous Forth Bridge as well as the rebuilt Tay Bridge. Further to the west, you have a choice of three of the most spectacular train rides anywhere in the world; the most impressive one being the Kyle line from Inverness. Heading south from Inverness, you also have the Highland mainline which can take you back towards Perth, whereas the West Highland mainline can be joined at Fort William by taking a coach connection from Inverness. However, if you only plan to take one or two train trips, then you should still hire a car in Aberdeen, and then just use park-and-ride at local stations. Other than in the centres of Aberdeen or Inverness, you should be able to park for free at most stations in the Highlands and Aberdeenshire.
I am mainly interested in history and architecture and urban/cultural attractions – should I still hire a car in Aberdeen?
Probably – Aberdeen is a wealthy city, and this means that it has an impressive range of cultural attractions relative to its size, but the real star here is still the scenery, so as per the general advice above, you’re probably will still want to rent a car. If you’ve tried looking up the bus schedules to get to Balmoral Castle (you will have to change twice, eventually back on to the same bus, due to shift restrictions), then you will agree that you really do need to get a car in Aberdeen if you want to see any castles other than those in the city centres!
How many people would we need in the car before a rental becomes better value than using transit?
If there are two or more of you travelling together, you are probably going to find that it’s worth hiring a car in Aberdeen. The only real exception would be for much younger travellers who may have difficulty obtaining a rental car package without paying a substantial supplement. Generally, for solo travellers, it is going to make more sense to travel around by scheduled bus, tour bus or train, but renting a car might still be more convenient.
We are senior citizens, should we rent a car in Aberdeen?
There are no particular reasons why senior citizens shouldn’t hire a car in Aberdeen, at least up until the age limits imposed by the rental companies, usually around 70 to 75.
However, UK residents who have a Senior Railcard will be able to get one third off all train travel, and this will apply in Scotland as it does in England and Wales, even though English concessionary bus passes are not valid here. Travelling by train from Aberdeen is also usually quite stress free – the lines in this part of Scotland are nothing like as busy as they are in the central belt, and reliability is usually quite good, but service patterns are often very irregular, especially if you want to travel over to Inverness and then try and find a connection from there.
Do I need a rental car if I am flying into Aberdeen airport but staying in another destination outside Aberdeen?
Probably, yes. Even if you are staying in another town which has a good bus service, or which is on the main railway line, you will then still be quite restricted in terms of where else you can visit from there.
If I’m planning on touring around, is this best done in a rental car?
Generally, yes – the Scottish Highlands and Islands are naturally very popular with touring motorists, but getting a rental car isn’t the only way of moving around. Travelling by train and bus, you can still see places like the spectacular done robing Castle further up the east coast, you can continue deep into sky by bus, and combine this with a train trip on the Kyle line if you want, and there are usually buses integrating at both ends of the island ferry routes. The roads in the Highlands tend to be very winding, with many smaller roads often using passing places, and some drivers will find this quite stressful. If you travel around the Scottish islands by car ferry, you get to benefit from the “Road equivalent pricing” fair capping (see above), but many car rental companies will still require you to take out daily ferry insurance, and this can be an unwelcome extra expense.
Should we try to visit Aberdeen without a car because that’s better for the environment?
It’s difficult to make the environmental case for train travel on very rural Scottish routes, which often have very low passenger occupancy rates, so fuel consumption per person would be much higher than on busier routes further south.
It’s not unreasonable to point out that none of these Highland lines would be built today if a so-called “business case” had to be made based on current usage, yet the trunk routes between Aberdeen and Inverness and the Central Belt still have an important role to play in terms of providing an alternative to the heavily congested main highways (A9/A90). There are no electrified lines north of Falkirk, so all of the mainline trains you take will be using diesel.
Should I hire car in Aberdeen to start a road trip?
Absolutely – we’ve included a suggestion for a sample Scottish Road trip which could start in either Edinburgh or Glasgow and then taking in the West Coast and the Isle of Skye. This route would certainly pass through Inverness, and it would be easy enough to include Aberdeen in this loop. You may also find a better combination of flight and car hire deals in Aberdeen if you are making a comparison with Inverness. If you are planning on taking a road trip which includes more places to the south, then generally speaking, the best Scottish car rental deals are in Edinburgh or Glasgow. This is also where you will find a much wider choice of inward flight, including direct long haul flights from the USA and Canada. However, by starting your road trip from Aberdeen, you do at least have direct access to the Cairngorms.
Should I rent a car in Aberdeen and return it somewhere else?
Advice on One Way Rentals from Aberdeen
Maybe, especially if you have a driving route in mind which starts in Aberdeen and then ends up in another major Scottish city, in particular in Edinburgh or Glasgow. However, I would usually expect this to be cheaper if you do it the other way round, since the one-way fee is often determined on a mileage basis, whereas the actual rental fee is going to be more competitive further south. On the other hand, depending on your flight or train options, it might be worth hiring a car in Aberdeen and then dropping it off in Inverness. Any one-way rental fee could be better value than having a long drive back to where you started (but that is still only going to be about 2 hours, so not really long by North American standards!).
Should I rent an RV / camper / caravan in Aberdeen, instead of a car?
Yes, touring with a camper is very popular in the Scottish Highlands, especially with the recent promotion of the NC500 coastal touring route. Many visitors with campervans simply bring their own vehicles over from the Continent, but there are also several places which will provide campervan rentals in Aberdeen.
Needless to say, if you are visiting from North America, then you will find that fuel prices in the UK are significantly higher here, and you should also be warned that prices tend to rise further still as you head north or west from Inverness. However the cost of fuel should be balanced against the cost of staying in hotels or bed and breakfasts – something that can be extremely difficult during the July and August peak season. Remember as well that even roads classified as “A” roads (i.e. trunk roads) can still be single-track in some places, including on some recommended scenic drives (like the NC500). Always observe local etiquette and signs which advise any slower vehicle to pull over and allow faster drivers to pass. In some cases, the roads will not be suitable for a large camper van.
Should I hire a car from Aberdeen Airport, or from the city centre?
Generally, in the UK, you will get a better deal from on-airport car hire. This is because airports tend to have much bigger parking lots, as land is cheaper than in the city centre. You should not expect to pay an extra airport facility fee like you do at some airports in the USA.
If you do rent a car in the centre of Aberdeen, you do at least have the advantage that the major hotels, railway station and the port are all close to each other, so there are a few car hire options within this area. However, some rental offices are further out, and some may be at the airport, so make sure you specifically request “Aberdeen STATION”.
I’m moving to Aberdeen – do I need a car to live here?
Commuting in Aberdeen is very different to being a tourist. The city is compact enough that you can get to most places using a combination of bus and walking. This is not a very cycle friendly city, and you will need a car in Aberdeen if you need to commute to any of the major office locations around the edge of the city – this is an oil town after all!
 Technically the City of Aberdeen is separate to Aberdeenshire.
So should you hire a car in Aberdeen? As Scottish cities go, when it comes to train networks, Aberdeen is certainly the weakest link, so to get to other places you would almost certainly end up needing to go by bus. This is not our view of travel enjoyment — buses should be there to supplement train journeys, not as a preferred method of transport in their own right. There are also no truly “world class” scenic railway routes heading out of Aberdeen, whereas there are out of Inverness or Glasgow, and to a lesser extent, Edinburgh.
For this reason, Aberdeen gets our strongest verdict of all Scottish cities that a car is necessary to get the best out of your trip.
What do we think? Our ratings:
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Aberdeen Road Ratings
So, is it worth hiring a car in Aberdeen?
Swingometer Scale (Relative)
Star Ratings (Absolute)
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Aberdeen Car Hire Comments
This advice is based on a combination of visiting Aberdeen and additional online research, including looking at maps, streetview, driving directions and public transport timings.
Aberdeen was last visited by Carornocar in . Updated research has been ongoing throughout 2017.
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When is it worth hiring a car in Aberdeen?
Do you feel that car hire in Aberdeen is good value for money, or do you think other options are better value? Would you answer the same, regardless of time of year? If you were visiting here for the first time, would you rent a car in Aberdeen?