What You Need to Know About Renting a Car at Walt Disney World

Rental Car Feature Image

Renting a car at Walt Disney World comes with its pros and cons, and if you’ve never experienced a trip to “The Most Magical Place on Earth” with your own car, you may be wondering if it’s worth the extra cost. We’re here to help, as we break down whether you need a car in the first place and what the best value would be for your next vacation.

Orlando International Airport (1)

Credit: Orlando International Airport

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Should you rent a car?

In years past, I would not have recommended renting a car as Disney’s complimentary transportation made it difficult for me to justify the cost. But things have certainly changed since Disney’s Magical Express was discontinued, and now that paying for your ground transportation from Orlando International Airport is part of the picture, it may make sense just to rent a car for the entire trip.

You may want to rent a car if:

You are traveling with the whole family (but not a large group). Think about the capacity of a minivan or large SUV. If this applies to you, the cost of transportation from the airport (whether rideshare, taxi, Mears shuttle, Mears Connect, or Sunshine Flyer) could lean toward the higher end prompting you to consider renting your own car instead. As an aside, however, the Sunshine Flyer can be an affordable option, especially as this motor coach service regularly offers promotions for families.

You are visiting more than Walt Disney World. The least expensive way to do just Disney World would be to pay for ground transportation from the airport rather than a car for your whole trip. If you are going to other theme parks like Universal Orlando or SeaWorld Orlando, or visiting downtown Orlando, the outlets, or anywhere else, though, you could end up spending more on taxis and rideshares than you would on a rental.

Enterprise Rent-a-Car

Credit: Enterprise Holdings

You have small kids. This is not the primary reason why I’d rent a car, because if a tight budget supersedes this, Disney’s complimentary transportation is totally doable. Still, if you have a stroller (or multiple strollers), and especially multiple kiddos who may need a quick break from the Parks, it can be helpful to have your own car to be able to come and go on your own time.

You are staying offsite. Whether or not staying at a Disney Resort or off-property makes the most sense for you is another article in itself. If you are staying off-property, though, renting a car can be a game changer. Some non-Disney Resorts offer complimentary transportation to and from theme parks, but these are often subject to schedules that may not be the most convenient. Additionally, these shuttles may have stops at other Resorts, or begin later or end earlier than Disney’s transportation. On top of all of this, they are often the furthest away bus stops and in some cases will only bring you to Disney’s Transportation & Ticket Center and not directly to the Parks.

Orlando International Airport Rental Cars

Credit: Orlando International Airport

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Where to rent a car

If you are flying into Orlando, we recommend renting a car at the airport. Rental costs at airports can be higher than other locations, but if you have no way of getting to another rental office (or if you value time vs. money on vacation), renting when you arrive from a company at the airport will be the most efficient way. Outside of Orlando International Airport, you may want to compare costs by rental office locations.

For Guests staying at a Disney Resort, be sure to compare prices with all rental car companies at the airport with Enterprise’s location near the Magic Kingdom. This Enterprise location offers complimentary shuttle services to the rental office from Disney Resorts, the Magic Kingdom, and Disney’s Hollywood Studios, so depending on the cost during your trip, this may be a more affordable way to rent a car.

Wherever you choose to rent your car, be sure to book in advance and make your reservation directly with the rental car company (not a third party.) Booking direct is a good tip to follow with any travel reservations because if there is ever an issue with your reservation when you arrive, it will be easier to resolve.

Orlando International Airport Rental Cars

Credit: Orlando International Airport

Additional costs

As you plan to rent a car at Walt Disney World, remember there are some additional costs to consider on top of the rental itself. These include taxes and fees, plus optional add-ons like insurance and additional drivers, and possible tolls or parking fees depending on where you drive to. Additionally, cars should be refilled with gas upon their return, and you could find yourself with added cleaning fees for things like smoking in rental cars.

In terms of parking, overnight parking is complimentary for Guests at Disney Resorts, as well as parking in the theme parks. If you are not staying at a Disney Resort, you may have parking fees at your hotel, and theme park parking will run you at least $25 per day.

Is renting a car worth it?

Like nearly any aspect of a Walt Disney World vacation, it depends. Consider all of the information above, then think about which Parks you’ll be going to and how much time you’ll be spending there.

I rented a car for the first time during my last Disney trip since my boyfriend and I drove to Orlando after visiting family in Miami. Since we stayed at Disney’s Pop Century Resort, we opted to take the Disney Skyliner to Hollywood Studios. (We would have taken it to EPCOT, too, but this was a short trip, and we did not make it over to EPCOT, unfortunately.)

We did take the car to Disney’s Animal Kingdom, and while the distance between Animal Kingdom and Pop Century is short to begin with, it was a nice convenience to have our own car rather than taking the bus.

Cinderella Castle in the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World

Credit: Brittany DiCologero

For the Magic Kingdom, we opted to take the bus from our Resort, and I’m glad we did. If we drove, we would have had to park at the Transportation & Ticket Center and take a monorail or ferry to the Park. Especially for short trip, I preferred waiting a short time in line for the bus to our Resort at the end of the night to waiting for a crowded monorail or boat ride only to have to still drive ourselves back.

In addition to the theme parks, we had a couple of dinner reservations at other Disney Resorts, and having the car was especially convenient for Resort to Resort transit. Without our own car, we would have had to pay for a rideshare, splurge on a Minnie Van, or spend more time going to a theme park to catch a bus (or monorail, boat, or Skyliner) to the other Resort for dinner.

Lastly, we were able to stop at Publix and easily stock up on water for our hotel room, and make a quick trip to the Orlando Premium Outlets to shop for some discounted Disney Parks merchandise.

It’s difficult to put a dollar amount on whether or not a rental car is worth it because the cost can vary wildly based on the time of year and kind of car you need, but if you have the room in your budget, especially with the removal of Disney’s Magical Express, I found the car to be a helpful perk during our last trip.

The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and may not reflect Disney Tips as a whole. 

About Brittany DiCologero

Brittany is a New England-based writer focused on the history of the Walt Disney World Resort. She is the author of "Red, White, and Disney: The Myths and Reality of American History at the Walt Disney World Resort," and "Brittany Earns Her Ears."