Hiking up to Fish Creek Falls in Steamboat Springs, Colorado in winter

Renting A Car In Denver: Everything You Need to Know in 2024


Renting a car is the best way to travel around Denver and other mountain towns surrounding the city.

More often than not, people planning a trip to Denver also hope to explore the rocky mountains. This could mean taking a road trip to Colorado’s National Parks, heading to one of the many ski towns, or simply hiking and camping in nature.

No matter why you visit Denver, this article has everything you need to rent a car there! We have you covered from where to book your car rental, driving tips, legal reminders, and a list of our favorite places to visit around the city!

Renting A Car In Denver: FAQs

Renting a car in Denver is almost always the best way to see the city. 

Access to your own vehicle also gives you easy access and the flexibility to visit hiking trails, ski resorts, and mountain towns all around the Mile High City.

But deciding on the right rental car and budgeting for your trip can be stressful. So here are the answers to some of the most common questions people have when renting a car in Denver.

Do I need a car when visiting Denver, Colorado?

Yes, most people need a car when visiting Denver, Colorado, especially if they plan to visit other regions outside of the city.

Best Hiking Trails In Colorado

Denver has public transportation, including bus routes and a light rail system to the surrounding suburbs. You can get to neighborhoods like Boulder, Westminster, Aurora, and even the Denver International Airport. 

But the city developed its public transportation system with local commuters in mind, not tourists.

Travelers who want to visit Rocky Mountian National Park, Red Rocks Amphitheater, Mt. Evans, or any famous ski town near Denver will find that renting a car is the most efficient and affordable way to go!

What’s the cheapest car rental company in Denver?

The cheapest car rental company in Denver is Discover Cars. This is an online company we actually use, and they compare the rates of all local and international companies available to give you the best price!

You can also add full coverage to your car rental in Denver for less than $10/per day, which covers the rental car plus some extra expenses that most personal insurance companies won’t cover. 

Usually, the lowest prices for renting a car in Denver are through large national agencies like Thrifty, ACE Rent a Car, or Dollar Car.

Important Tip When Using Discover Cars!

When booking with Discover Cars, each listed rental car shows ratings that will help you choose a vehicle. Unfortunately, Discover Cars’ ratings are… OFF. Big time. So, be sure to double-check that each rental car company has high user ratings through Google search.

Here’s an example: this car rental company shows a 7.9 user rating on Discover Cars. They even mark it “Very good”.

But, if you Google “Thrify Car Rental Lihue”, you’ll see that they have horrible ratings.

I want to be very clear, Discover Cars is still the best car rental aggregator for Denver travelers because you can expect the lowest prices. But do your due diligence and check that the car rental company you are choosing has good ratings on Google, too.

Always choose a highly-rated car rental company
➡️ BOOK NOW ⬅️

How much does it cost to rent a car in Denver?

The cost of renting a car in Denver depends on the size of the car you want, the length of your rental period, and if you choose to add full coverage insurance. 

Generally speaking, you can expect a 3-day rental in Denver to cost between $70/day for an economy-sized car all the way up to $120/day for an all-wheel drive SUV. 

If you book the car for more days, the daily price will slowly get even cheaper. 

For example, extending a 3-day car rental to a 7-day car rental will drop the price from $70/ per day to just $52/per day.

Note: All of these prices are for drivers over the age of 25. If you are younger than 25, the cost of a car rental will be significantly higher. 

What kind of car should I rent in Denver?

If you are visiting in the summer and plan to stay on well-paved roads, then any compact car will work fine for you and your travel companions. 

Car camping in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

But in the winter, you should really consider booking an SUV or Crossover vehicle with All-Wheel drive. These are so much safer to drive in snowy conditions, and they have room to fit ski/snowboard equipment. 

Occasionally, the rental agency will offer ski racks for compact cars on a first-come-first-served basis. But there is no way to reserve a ski rack ahead of time, so we don’t recommend taking the risk.

What are the top Denver car rental companies?

Denver’s top car rental companies are all multinational companies or smaller organizations with parent companies like Hertz/Enterprise. The most affordable companies in Denver are; 

  • Thrifty (Operated by the Parent Company, Hertz)
  • ACE Rent a Car (Operated by the parent company, AVIS)
  • Dollar Car Rental (Operated by the parent company, Hertz)

Each company has competitive prices, a large selection of cars, and great customer service, and one is not consistently lower than the others. 

That’s why using a price comparison tool like Discover Cars to find the most affordable car rental in Denver for your specific travel dates is so helpful. 

What’s the easiest way to book a rental car for Denver?

The easiest way to book a rental car for Denver is through DiscoverCars.

The company is one of the leading online car rental agencies and regularly gives us the best prices available between all local and international car rental companies.

In addition to the convenience, this platform also offers free cancellation (up to 48 hours before pick-up) and verified user reviews to reference so that you know you are getting the right car for your trip to Denver. 

What do I need to rent a car in Denver?

Renting a Car in Denver (especially if you are from the U.S.) is relatively easy, but there are a few requirements to be aware of;

  • You much have a valid license held for at least one year.
  • You much be at least 21 years old.
  • You must hold a Valid U.S Driver’s License. (Non-U.S. citizens need an  International Driver’s Permit, along with a valid license from their home country).
  • You much use a Credit Card in the name of the Primary Driver.

All of these documents will be requested upon arrival. The only information you need to give to make the car rental booking is your name, age, phone number, and credit card information.

Do I need my own car insurance if I rent a car in Denver?

No, you do not need your own car insurance to rent a car in Denver, but it is a good idea. 

Blue Lakes Trail To Mount Sneffels

The rental agencies always have the minimum state-required insurance that covers liability coverage and property damage in case of an accident. This basic insurance does NOT cover your rental car vehicle, so you are responsible for any damage to the rental car if you do not have extra insurance. 

Discover Cars offers full coverage that will cover the rental vehicle as an add-on for less than $10/day, so it’s a no-brainer. It covers your deductible for damage/theft, all repair costs to the windows, mirrors, and wheels, and any towing expenses, lockout fees, or administrative charges!

Does my credit card insurance cover my rental car in Denver?

Most people don’t know that many consumer or business credit cards actually do offer rental car insurance. This rental insurance only applies to personal vehicles. This basic insurance does not cover exotic cars, passenger vans, and other obscure vehicles.

👉 A few of the best credit cards with primary coverage on rental vehicles include the Chase Sapphire Credit Card (Preferred and Reserve), United Explorer Card, and Capital One Venture X Credit Card.

How do you get around Denver without a car?

Getting around downtown Denver without a car is easy. The beautiful destinations slightly outside of the city are so challenging to reach without a car. 

Denver has an efficient bus and light rail system that can get you to different neighborhoods and attractions in Denver, like Coors Field, the Denver Zoo, and Boulder city center.

You can also use rideshare services like Uber & Lyft, which provide convenient transportation within the city. 

Other destinations on the outskirts of Denver, like Estes Park, Red Rocks, and Winter Park have shuttle busses, but they are unfortunately inconsistent and expensive (up to $100/per person).

For people just looking to explore a small neighborhood in Denver, another fun way to get around is by bicycle. You can find many bike rental companies in town, such as Evo Bike. They offer daily, weekly, and monthly bicycle rentals to visitors. 

Can I rent a car in Steamboat and drive out of state?

Yes, you can rent a car in Steamboat and drive out of state. Most rental agencies allow you to drive vehicles to other states within the U.S. and Canada, but they will require an additional fee for dropping off the vehicle in a different state. 

Make sure to read the fine print before booking a rental car so you don’t get any unexpected charges.

Best Places To Visit In Colorado From Denver
(With A Car Rental)

Within just a few hours from Denver are tons of beautiful places to visit in Colorado. If you have a rental car, you can visit three national parks, premier ski resorts, and lots of quaint mountain towns with a car rental. 

These are some of the best places to visit in Colorado from Denver with a car rental. 

📍Rocky Mountain National Park

Rocky Mountain National Park is the closest national park to Denver, just 75 miles northwest of the city center (1.5 hours by car). 

The tallest mountain in Colorado: Mount Elbert on a sunny day.

It’s a popular destination for hikers and nature lovers, especially in the summer. The national park is known for its diverse landscapes, including some of Colorado’s most beautiful mountains, valleys, and lakes. 

If you have a rental car, you can access the park via Trail Ridge Road, which is a 48-mile-long road that runs through the park at an elevation of over 12,000. The most popular 

A few of the most beautiful hikes in Rocky Mountain National Park are Alpine Ridge Trail (0.6 miles), Lake Haiyaha (4.2 miles), Mills Lake (5.4 miles), and Mt. Ida (9.4 miles). 

Don’t forget to add space to your itinerary to enjoy Estes Park. This village is the ‘gateway’ to Rocky Mountain National Park and has great shopping, restaurants, and an interesting visitor’s center where you can learn more about the park. 

Note: From May – October 2024, Rocky Mountain National Park will operate under a ‘timed-entry permit system.’ This means that before you are able to drive into the National Park, you must reserve a time slot. There are two separate reservations; one for Bear Lake road Corridor and another for the rest of the park, including Trail Ridge Road. You can make reservations on the National Parks Service Website.

📍Steamboat Springs

Steamboat Springs is a picturesque mountain town located about 150 miles northwest of Denver. It’s very easy to get from Denver to Steamboat Springs, especially if you rent a car in Denver, with an average drive time of just under 3 hours. 

Hahn's Peak from Steamboat Lake State Park

As one of the top ski towns in America, in the winter months, you will find that that’s what 95% of visitors are there for. The most accessible mountains are Steamboat Ski Resort and Howelsen Hill Ski Area (Colorado’s oldest continually operated ski area), but you can also drive to Granby Ranch, Beaver Creek, or Loveland Ski Area in less than 2 hours. 

While Steamboat Springs is known for its ski trails, there are also tons of things to do in the summer. You can find live music at the local restaurants, go on a hike, book a campsite, or even visit one of the secluded hot springs nearby! 

📍Crested Butte

Another classic Colorado Ski town is Crested Butte. This town is much farther from Denver at 230 miles southwest (roughly 4 hours by car).

It’s the perfect place for outdoor adventures all year round for outdoor adventurers looking to explore Colorado’s breathtaking landscapes! 

Crested Butte Hiking and Camping Near Lake Irwin

The area also provides plenty of opportunities for skiing, hiking, world-class mountain biking trails, fishing, and summer festivals. Additionally, the town of Crested Butte has a rich history, a vibrant arts scene, and eclectic restaurants to enjoy if you are looking for a more relaxing day around town.

If you are renting a car in Denver, a trip to Crested Butte is well worth the drive!

Important Colorado Driving Tips

Driving in Colorado is different than in other U.S states. The mountainous terrain and unpredictable weather conditions create additional risks, and there are some specific tips to help you stay safe driving your rental car in and around Denver. 

1. Carry tire chains in winter – it’s the law

In Colorado, it is actually the law to carry tire chains in your vehicle if you plan to drive in the mountains during the winter. 

This law is in effect from September 1 – May 31 for all travelers on I-70 between Mile point 133 and Mile Point 259. 

This law is because conditions can change quickly in Colorado, so roads may become icy or snow-covered quickly. Having chains on hand ensures you are prepared for any unexpected winter weather.

The fine for breaking this law is between $150-500, depending on if you cause a closure in any lanes as a result of not using tire chains. You can check the Colorado Department of Transportation website for more information.

2. Always check driving conditions, even during the summer

Even during the summer months, the weather in Colorado’s mountains can be unpredictable. Flash floods and mudslides are not uncommon in certain parts of the state, so it is crucial to check the weather and road conditions before any long road trip. 

You can do this very quickly via any weather forecast app or website.

3. Texting and driving is a NO GO

Along with nearly every other U.S. state, it is strictly illegal to text or talk on the phone while driving.

Colorado is full of sharp turns and very steep highways with deadly dropoffs. For your own well-being and the safety of others, please wait until you have parked or pulled over before using your device. 

4. Beware of driving over Colorado mountain passes

Colorado has some of the highest mountain passes in the US, so you must be aware of your surroundings while driving into the mountains from Denver. 

Views from Lily Lake in Rocky Mountain National Park are to die for. They are especially beautiful in winter.

Driving along the Trail Ridge Road in Rocky Mountain National Park or to the top of Mt. Evans will make even confident drivers a little white-knuckled as they ascend the mountain. Be sure to stay well-rested, especially before heading out on a long journey, and always drive at a safe speed. 

Another important note is to keep your gas tank full. Gas stations become sparse in less populated parts of Colorado, so it is a good idea to fill up, even if you still have a quarter tank left. It’s not worth getting stranded. 

5. Cannabis is legal. Driving high is not.

Colorado is one of the first US states to legalize cannabis, but that doesn’t mean you can drive while under its influence. 

Driving with more than 5 nanograms of active THC in your bloodstream is prosecuted as a DUI, with hefty fines and potential jail time. 

If you plan on consuming cannabis, make sure you have a designated driver or alternate transportation option back to your hotel/campsite. 

6. Have a driving map downloaded offline

Since cell service can be spotty in the mountains, one of the best tips we can give you is to download a driving map of your route before leaving. You can do this on your phone or print out directions at home. This way, you won’t get lost if you ever lose service.

👉 Offline Road Maps with Google Maps: This is an incredibly useful feature for travelers and road trippers around the world. Maps downloaded offline cannot give you accurate traffic data, but they can still give you directions and show you a Geo-spot of your location without cell service. It hardly takes up any space on your phone, and it has been essential for us during road trips through Colorado.

👉 Offline Trail Maps with AllTrails: If you plan to do any hiking or camping in Colorado where there is no service, consider purchasing AllTrails+, which allows you to download hiking trail maps and other off-road trails for offline use. You can see all of the trails available in Colorado on Alltrails.com

7. Watch for animals crossing the road

Animals are protected on government land in Colorado, and the state has over 1 million acres of land governed by BLM (Bureau of Land Management). Animals in the national parks and national forests have become accustomed to humans and vehicles, so there is a good chance you may see some deer or even bighorn sheep on the roads. 

Hiking up to Fish Creek Falls in Steamboat Springs, Colorado in winter

Therefore, it is super important to stay alert while driving to watch out for animals on the roads, especially at night when it is more difficult to spot animals on the road. 

If you do come across one, don’t swerve quickly around it. Slop and allow it to move, then proceed slowly around the animal when it is safe. 

The Wrap-Up: Renting A Car In Denver

Renting a car in Denver is the best way to see the best parts of the state. With your own vehicle, you have the ability to travel where you want without the restraints of bus routes. 

You will also save time with your car rental since you don’t have to work around bus/train/shuttle timetables. You can also get to popular trailheads early to miss the heavy crowds at Rocky Moutain National Park!

After reading to the end of this article, renting a car in Denver will be a breeze, and following these essential driving tips will ensure that your Colorado road trip is safe and enjoyable!