Car camping in Steamboat Springs, Colorado.

Steamboat Car Rental: Everything You Need to Know in 2024


First of all, congratulations! By planning a trip to Steamboat Springs, you will be visiting one of the most amazing places on Earth. Tucked away in the lush Yampa Valley in northwest Colorado, we like to think of Steamboat as one giant playground.

First and foremost, Steamboat is known for its iconic winter ski mountain and world-class hiking in the summer. But there is so much more! Like mountain biking, horseback riding, river floating, hot springs soaking, snow tubing, boutique shopping, fine dining, and rocking out to live music.

If you’re staying more than 2-3 days, you should definitely rent a car and tick more activities off your list. In this blog post, we’ll explain how to find the best car rental deals in Steamboat and provide some helpful tips for driving around Colorado safely.

Renting A Car In Steamboat Springs

If it’s your first time in Steamboat or you’ve visited before but never rented a car, here are the answers to some common questions about Steamboat Springs car rentals.

We’ll tell you everything you need to know before getting out on the road, including:

➡️ Rental car pick-up locations
➡️ Necessary documents
➡️ Cheapest rental company
➡️ Insurance options

Do I need a car when visiting Steamboat Springs, Colorado?

Ideally, yes. Having your own set of wheels will truly give you the freedom to explore all that this enchanting Rocky Mountain town has to offer.

Mike and Laura sitting at Salt and Lime on the rooftop patio.

While there is plenty to see and do in downtown Steamboat, some of Colorado’s best beauty spots and hidden gems can be found in the surrounding areas, and you’ll need a car to get there.

And you don’t just have to stop at local attractions; if you rent a car in Steamboat Springs, you can go on day trips and mini road trips too.

What’s the cheapest car rental company in Steamboat Springs?

We highly recommend EconomyBookings car rental. We have used them ourselves, and all our friends and family have found the best rates with them too.

You can either collect a car at their Hayden Airport location, in downtown Steamboat or at the Steamboat Springs Grand Resort Hotel.

NOTE: If you’re flying into Hayden airport but have booked a car for pick-up in town, you will need to arrange a ride or hire an airport shuttle. Hayden Airport is 22 miles west of Steamboat along Highway 40.

You can hop on the Steamboat Express shuttle, but you need to book your spot at least 4 days in advance.

And, if you are collecting a car at Hayden Airport, be wary of Hertz car rental!
We definitely wouldn’t recommend them, as we’ve had two awful experiences with them before.

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

The cost of a rental car can vary quite a bit. It depends on whether you book a car during the peak summer or winter season and what type of car you select.

👉 In general, car rental costs can run from $100 per day for an economy car to $182 per day for an SUV. Check prices here!

Obviously, if you book a car over a weekend or at the height of ski season, prices will be at the higher end. So, if you’re trying to keep your Steamboat getaway within a tighter budget, try looking at off-season dates.

We also recommend booking your rental car as far in advance as possible; this way you can lock in the best rates… and also guarantee that you will get a car.

During Steamboat’s peak seasons, rental cars are in very high demand, and you won’t always be able to secure the vehicle you want if you book too late.

What kind of car should I rent in Steamboat?

This depends on the type of activities you plan on, but an SUV will always be your safest bet.

When it comes to car rental in Steamboat, we opt for an SUV.

SUVs with four-wheel drive are safer in the winter months when contending with all the snow and ice. But SUVs are also more convenient in the summer if you’re planning many hiking excursions.

Many of the best trailheads are located off of forest roads in wilderness areas. These dirt roads can be rough and uneven, so you’ll need a vehicle with more ground clearance.

Also, if you’re an avid outdoor enthusiast, an SUV would come in handy if you decide to rent mountain bikes or kayaks.

What are the top Steamboat car rental companies?

EconomyBookings is the best and easiest. Not only do they offer the best rates compared to other booking companies, but their website is easy to use, and the customer support staff are friendly and helpful.

Through the booking portal on EconomyBookings, you will be able to choose one of many popular rental car dealers like Hertz, Avis, Budget, or Alamo.

⚠️ Whatever you do, don’t book with Hertz at Hayden Airport. This particular Hertz branch has caused us several problems in the past (unfortunately).

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

Just visit the EconomyBookings website and fill in the information fields with your desired booking specifications:

  • Select your pick-up location – either Hayden Airport, downtown Steamboat or the Steamboat Springs Grand Resort.
  • Specify your drop-off location (if different from the pick-up location).
  • Select your pick-up/drop-off dates and times.
  • Indicate your country of origin (where you’re traveling from).
  • Indicate the driver’s age.
  • Select which type of vehicle you want, e.g., Compact, Fullsize, SUV, Van, etc.
  • Select which rental company you want to use if you have a preference, e.g., Avis, Budget, Alamo, etc.
  • Lastly, you can select add-ons like a navigation system, roadside assistance, and cancelation protection before confirming your booking.

What do I need to rent a car in Steamboat Springs?

Renting a car in Steamboat Springs is pretty straightforward. Rental car companies will require basic information and documents, such as:

✅ Name
✅ Address
✅ Contact details (phone and email)
✅ Valid credit/debit card
✅ Valid driving license
Optional: if you’re flying into Hayden Airport and collecting a car, you can also provide your flight details if you wish. This way, your rental dealer can be aware of any delays.

NOTE: If you hold a license from China, Japan, Russia, or another country that does not use the Roman alphabet, you will need to get an International Driving Permit to rent a car in Steamboat Springs and anywhere else in the United States.

Also, if you’re under the age of 25, there might be additional charges like “young driver fees.” This is at the discretion of each rental car company so if you are a young driver, you might want to call their customer service number and check.

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

No, you don’t need your personal car insurance.

These are the types of places you can access with a car in Steamboat.

When you book a rental car, you will be given the option to select “Full Coverage.” This is an extra cost for insurance you will pay daily for the duration of your rental period. This is temporary car insurance you can pay just for your rental car.

If you opt out of the Full Coverage option, the rental car company will block a deposit on your credit card at the pick-up counter. You will not get your deposit back if the car gets damaged in any way.

But if you decide to purchase the Full Coverage package, your deposit will be 100% refunded, even if the car gets wrecked or stolen.

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

In most cases, yes.

All major credit card providers like Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express should provide car rental insurance as a perk to all cardholders.

If you use your credit card to book a rental car, your credit card provider should cover the optional Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) insurance. Hopefully, this is the case, and you won’t be talked into paying an additional $9-40 per day for CDW.

To double-check whether your credit card provider offers rental car insurance, just log into your account and view your “Benefits” or call the customer service number on the back of your card.

How do you get around Steamboat Springs without a car?

There is a free bus system that operates along a fixed circular route, connecting most areas of Steamboat. The buses run every 20 minutes until 10 pm each day.

And if you’re staying downtown, many places of interest are within walking distance.

NOTE: Ubers do exist in Steamboat, but they are few and far between and can get pretty pricey if you are lucky enough to track one down.

There is also the Core Trail that runs along the Yampa River. If you’re the active and outdoorsy type, you can rent a bike and cycle around most of Steamboat Springs on this cycle and walking path.

Steamboat Springs has some of the best skiing in the world.

And out of all the seasons, winter is the easiest time of year to visit Steamboat without a car. Thanks to the ski mountain being open, there are shuttles that run from the gondola area to downtown. Most hotels and condo rentals also provide private shuttle services for their guests.

You can even get a shuttle to the incredible Strawberry Park Hot Springs!

All in all, you certainly don’t have to rent a car, but we genuinely believe you’ll get so much more out of your Steamboat Springs vacation if you do hire your own set of wheels and explore.

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

Sure! Why not?

Steamboat Springs is located in the northwestern corner of Colorado, so it’s close to the Wyoming and Utah borders.

You could always plan a road trip that starts and ends in Steamboat. You could drive up to Yellowstone National Park and Grand Teton National Park or down to Moab in the breathtaking Utah desert to explore Arches National Park and Canyonlands National Park.

Further west, Salt Lake City is a 6-hour drive from Steamboat Springs, and Park City is 5 hours and 30 minutes away.

Or you could get up early and visit Dinosaur National Monument on a day trip. Straddling the Colorado and Utah state line, here you can see incredible dinosaur fossils and footprints embedded in the rock.

Important Colorado Driving Tips

Now that you’ve got the rundown on booking a rental car in Steamboat Springs, you should know some safety guidelines about driving in Colorado before you hit the open road.

Here are 7 important do’s and don’ts you should remember when driving through Colorado. This mountainous state is beautiful, but it can also be treacherous:

1. Avoid driving at night in Colorado

When possible, you should really avoid driving at night in Colorado.

A view of downtown Steamboat Springs, Colorado at night, a time when you should not be driving your car.

First of all, many Colorado roads go straight through the middle of nowhere. This means that there is absolutely no street lighting for hundreds of miles, making it more difficult to see.

Second, nighttime is when the wild animals are most active – and there are a lot of wild animals. Herds of 15 elk could jump right out in front of you, or you could drive around a dark bend and find a moose right in the middle of the road.

Many people have totaled their cars and even died from hitting wild animals.

Lastly, during winter, temperatures will plummet at night and get dangerously cold. Driving at night, you will have more risk of hitting thick layers of ice. Or worse, if your car breaks down, you could get hypothermia if you’re not prepared with warm emergency blankets.

2. Check weather conditions before driving anywhere, even in the summer

Roadtripping through Colorado is an enchanting experience for the most part, but the weather can be changeable due to the elevation, especially at high mountain passes.

You could hit sudden downpours of rain or blizzards. Even in the middle of summer, there tends to be an odd snowstorm.

When extreme weather hits, you can expect traffic jams and long detours.

3. Bring chains for your tires if you’re visiting Colorado in the winter

Local Coloradans feel one of their biggest pet peeves is sharing the road with tourists who don’t know how to drive in winter conditions. You will hear locals complain that driving home took them forever because “some idiot from Florida or Texas” got stuck.

The winter road conditions can be so harsh in Colorado all-weather tires or even full-on snow, and ice tires won’t cut it – you should always keep a set of chains in your car. Don’t be that idiot!

4. Avoid mountain passes during snowy days

During the winter, it snows a lot in Colorado. But luckily, because of this, the state is very well-equipped to handle snow. Snow plows will operate 24 hours when necessary, so usually, roads will get cleared up pretty quickly.

You should avoid driving over mountain passes during a heavy snowstorm. Take another route or wait it out if necessary.

The I-70 interstate highway runs straight through the center of Colorado from the Great Plains on the east to Grand Junction on the west. This road is notorious for being troublesome during the winter.

PRO TIP: There are more bottlenecks and accidents around the two major tunnel systems on the I-70.
👉 Twin Tunnels, located 32 miles west of Denver near Idaho Springs
👉 Eisenhower Tunnel at Dillon, about 60 miles west of Denver

At 11,158 feet (3,401 m), the Eisenhower Tunnel is the highest vehicular tunnel in the United States and one of the highest in the world. So be extra careful and plan ahead of you’re thinking of driving through the Eisenhower tunnel in winter.

You should also be wary of driving over the iconic Rabbit Ears Pass when approaching or departing from Steamboat. Rabbit Ears is a gateway to the beautiful Yampa Valley, and its a fantastic recreation area for snowmobilers and snowshoers during winter… But you definitely don’t want to get caught in a blizzard on this pass!

NOTE: If you’re planning on driving from Steamboat Springs to Denver (or vice versa), you can take an alternate route to avoid some elevated passes.

Leaving Steamboat, take Highway 131 towards Oak Creek instead of going straight over Rabbit Ears Pass. Then follow this road all the way through Yampa, State Bridge, and down to Wolcott. Then you’ll hit the I-70 and follow it east to Denver, passing Vail and Frisco.

5. Download an offline map for driving

Before you set off on your Colorado road trip, we highly recommend downloading an offline map from your navigation app.

Colorado is blessed with some of the most stunning mountains in the world, but these majestic mountains also tend to block phone and internet service.

So to avoid getting lost in the middle of nowhere because you’re in a dead spot and Google Maps isn’t responding, download a map to be safe.

6. Don’t text and drive, especially in Colorado

Obviously, texting and driving is a bad idea in any case, but when driving in Colorado, you really do need to keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel.

Hahn's Peak Hike - Steamboat Springs

A sunny, warm day with perfect visibility won’t change the fact that Colorado roads are constantly winding and full of twists and turns. Then consider other important factors we’ve mentioned, like changeable weather, wild animals, and inexperienced drivers…

There is absolutely no excuse for texting while driving in Colorado.

7. Don’t drive under the influence of alcohol or cannabis

This should be a self-explanatory rule to live by, but just to make sure, let us tell you how serious driving under the influence (DUI) is in Colorado.

Mountain towns are huge party places, there are 446 breweries in Colorado, and cannabis is legal in this state, too. So Colorado is the place to have a good time, but you need to have fun responsibly.

Because of the party culture, there is a lot of police activity in Colorado towns.
If you get charged with a First Offense DUI in Colorado, you will face a minimum of 5 days in jail, expensive fines, and a suspended license for at least 9 months.

A DUI is pretty darn serious in Colorado, so consider yourself warned.

The Wrap-Up: Steamboat Car Rental

Renting a car to visit Steamboat Springs’ hidden gems and explore more off the beaten track is a wonderful idea. You will feel the ultimate sense of freedom and adventure!

After reading this blog post, we hope you feel confident about booking your rental car in Steamboat. We also hope you’ll take some of our Colorado driving hints and tips on board to ensure you have a safe and fun road trip.

So what are you waiting for? Set the dates for your Steamboat getaway or Colorado driving tour now!