Last Updated on April 16, 2024 by Kristin

Photo credit: Shutterstock

Planning a trip to San Diego? Whether you’re visiting “America’s Finest City” for a special event or to soak up some sand and surf, San Diego’s unique mix of historical sites and laid-back beaches make the city a top destination for visitors. But will you need a rental car in San Diego?

Ask AutoSlash for a Quote on a Cheap Car Rental

While the city does offer buses, taxis and bike rentals, renting a car makes sense here. San Diego’s free and cheap parking spots are plentiful, and the city is also a convenient place to embark on a classic California road trip. Here’s what you need to know about renting a car in San Diego.

How to Get to San Diego From the Airport

Travelers flying into San Diego International Airport (SAN) have several options for catching a ride, ranging from public transportation to rideshare services.

Renting a car at the airport is straightforward, thanks to its consolidated rental car facility. On-site rental brands at San Diego’s airport include Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Fox, Hertz, National, Payless, Sixt and Thrifty. A quick search showed rental rates starting at about $65 per day, but prices vary depending on the type of vehicle, time of pick-up and drop-off and date. AutoSlash will scour the internet for discount codes and coupons available to find the cheapest rate possible.

Here’s a breakdown of what other kinds of transportation costs from the airport to popular destinations:

Taxis: Taxi rates vary but a ride from the airport will generally set you back $17-$21 to the Gaslight Quarter or $26-$32 to Mission Bay.

Rideshare Services: Rideshare services including Uber and Lyft are available at the airport. It can cost between $20-25 to get downtown.

San Diego Public Transportation Options

Bus: The free San Diego Flyer shuttle offers service from the airport to the Old Town Transit Center. The San Diego Metropolitan Transit System (MTS) offers several routes through the city for $2.50 a trip or $6 for a day pass. The BREEZE bus system offers routes around North San Diego County for $2.50 as well.

Bike: San Diego currently has no citywide rental service.

Parking in San Diego

Parking in San Diego is usually easy, and the city offers many free parking spots.

Downtown hotels typically offer on-site parking for a fee. For example, the Holiday Inn Express San Diego Downtown offers parking for $35 per day, whereas the Courtyard San Diego Downtown near the Gaslamp Quarter charges $58 for valet parking. 

Let AutoSlash Track Your Car Rental for Price Drops

Parking garages and lots vary in price but are often much more affordable than hotel garages. San Diego offers many free lots across the city. As for street parking, San Diego’s port offers about 3,000 free public parking spaces.

Road Trips from San Diego

Renting a car in San Diego will allow you to explore several interesting road trips and scenic drives from the city at your leisure. Take an hour-long jaunt north to the bohemian city of Laguna Beach to browse oceanfront restaurants and galleries, lounge by the pool in the desert enclave of Palm Springs or embark on a bucket list drive to San Francisco via the Pacific Coast Highway’s oceanside cliffs.