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Key facts for hiring a car in California

  • Car hire locations

    There are over 73 locations where you can hire a car in California and the most popular city is Los Angeles.

  • Best time to visit

    Some parts of California see sun all year round.

  • Not to be missed

    The giant California redwoods, found in various national parks.

  • Average temperatures

    California has a huge range of temperatures. The desert can easily reach 45°C, while some northern areas at altitude will comfortably reach -22°C.

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Hire a car in California

From heavenly beaches to extraordinary mountain ranges, the Californian landscape is varied, contrasting and unforgettable.

California is built for a road trip. With such a diverse range of places to see and over 80,000 kilometres of road to help get you there, hiring a car is a seriously popular choice here. Whether the most renowned landmarks are at the top of your bucket list or you're seeking the West Coast’s most secretive corners, the pristine highways in this gorgeous American state will take you there.

Exploring California

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Driving tips

Plan ahead – California is bigger than people expect. Long drives can get tiring so come up with an itinerary well before you leave, ensuring you have enough stops planned on your way up or down the coast. This is not only as you'll want to rest regularly, but because you’ll miss you on so much if you don't!

Top up the tank – If you’re heading into remote areas such as the desert or mountains, have a petrol plan! It'll become tricky to fill up once you are well on your way into a vast expanse of not a lot – so fill up before hand. It’s also worth noting that gas stations expect you to pay before you fill up. Usually this means taking your card into the sales merchant first.

Get in lane – There are carpooling lanes in operation in California. These are sometimes known as diamond lanes to match their sign. If you aren’t solo travelling, make the most of these lanes as they can save you time.

Prepare for the junctions – Look out for four way stop signs. They will appear at intersections in and outside of cities and right of way is decided by who gets there first. So, if there are any cars already at the intersection, you must let them pull out before you do.

Parking up – Curbs are colour coded, indicating whether you can park there. Some rules of thumb are blue for disabled, red for no parking and various other colours (white and yellow) for restricted parking. Always check the signs!


What: Much of California is blessed with lovely temperatures year round. Lots of cities experience a an almost Mediterranean climate, so there’s plenty of sun to go around. However, the temperatures change drastically depending on where you are in the state.

Cooler climates –In the more northern areas (Monterey upwards) fog can make an appearance. Dense bouts of fog are fairly typical in San Francisco, but this component of San Fran’s strange microclimate adds to its charm. Half of the city can be enveloped in fog while the other half basks in the determined sun. It can get unpredictably cool here, so bring a jumper even in the height of summer.

Scorching sun –California’s Death Valley is home to the hottest US temperature on record. If you’re planning to explore isolated areas of the desert, you’ll need to be well prepared for the heat.

When: Peak season runs from June to August, these summer months seeing the majority of tourists. This is largely due to the great weather.

If this is when you are planning to go, don't worry. The great thing about The States is their vastness. Regardless of how many visitors California gets, it's easy to get lost in the quiet – especially out on the open road. The desert roads are incredibly peaceful, and even famous routes like Highway 1 are so extensive, you'll have endless stretches to yourself all year round.

One big, epic Californian road trip

  • San Francisco Airport

    The starting point for our monster road trip (we’d recommend making some smaller stops on the way and taking 2-3 weeks to complete this).

  • Yosemite National Park – 300km

    Breathtaking national park with curvaceous roads, tree-filled valleys and waterfalls.

  • Monterey – 320km

    Whale watching and sensational seafood dominate this quiet and historic coastal town.

  • Los Angeles – 500km

    The city of angels is impressively versatile from its hipster beach vibes to its Walk of Fame.

  • San Diego  – 200km

    Close to the Mexican border, near perfect weather and exciting attractions are guaranteed year round.

  • Palm Springs  – 200km

    The ultimate desert resort, this high-temperatured haven is ideal for those who love a poolside lifestyle.

General travel tips

Things to remember

  • California is in the Pacific Time Zone (GMT +1). It’s useful to know that – because of its size – there are many different time zones in the United States. If you decide to travel East (for example, into Arizona) the time may change.
  • Value Added Tax (VAT) isn't usually included in the retail price of things in America. This can come as a surprise to those who are used to the ticketed price being the price you are asked to pay at the till. It's worth remembering that the final bill will be more.
  • If you drive into areas with traffic (such as downtown LA) in a convertible, keep the top up and the air conditioning on. Stuck in a jam in the blistering heat is uncomfortable and you will burn in no time.

Route 66

The classic road trip

The Golden State is such a great starting point for a road trip, and there's a choice of excellent roads to try out. Here’s some inspiration if you want to narrow it down.

From: Los Angeles to the Mojave Desert
Distance: 370km
Time: 4 hours

Perhaps the most iconic road trip in the world, the end of Route 66 lies in Santa Monica, Los Angeles. You can pick up a piece of the trail in LA, or die hard road trippers who want to experience a slice of American history can visit this historic route way out in the Mojave Desert (Highway 40). In a few hours you’ll be cruising past the many ghost towns that exist on this desert trail.

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Highway 1

The scenic road trip

From: San Francisco to Santa Barbara
Distance: 523km
Time: 5 hours

Highway 1 is picturesque driving perfection. Roads don't get much better than this. Running along the state’s coastline, connecting cities like San Fran and Monterey Route 1 indulges you with an infinite supply of sublime scenery. Highlights include Carmel, Big Sur and Morro Bay. You can even veer off from the highway to visit Disneyland in Anaheim, just south of LA.

NOTE: Check before you set off, as recent landslides have caused the partial closure of sections of this coastal road. Other roads like the 101 are a suitable alternative.

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Show-stopping cities