I'm travelling to SF in February and would like to hire a car at some point to drive out-with the city, however I'll be staying in a hotel in the middle of the city and the hotel change $30 a night to valet park the car.

How easy is it to get around SF without a car? and ho easy is it to get parked in the city?

TLDR: Is it worth hiring a car for my week long journey, or should I just hire on on the days I'm likely to need it?

  • Randomish related: Do you know the way to San Jose? -> Take the 101! A very nice drive. Jan 14, 2014 at 12:21
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    @RussellMcMahon It's boring and slow for my taste and I think Palo Alto is a better place to visit.
    – Karlson
    Jan 14, 2014 at 13:30
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    Using public transport in San Fran is something you should do, even if you had a car. Obviously no visit is complete without a ride on a cable car, but some of the bus rides are great, e.g. to the east end of the harbour area. And to get to the Golden Gate bridge, rent a bike, bike over it and get the ferry back from Sausalito. Jan 14, 2014 at 14:08
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    @RussellMcMahon: Or, Caltrain! Anyway, for my money, 280's a nicer drive than 101 - more scenery and less traffic. Jan 14, 2014 at 16:01
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    SF to San Jose definitely take the 280. It's more scenic and less traffic usually, though a bit longer. In SF, avoid using car unless really have to. Parking is insane, both in location and pricing.
    – StasM
    Feb 17, 2014 at 7:13

2 Answers 2


TL;DR: Hire only on the days you're likely to need it.

You'll almost certainly want a car if you want to get out of the city (Marin, Santa Cruz, Napa, redwoods etc), but if all you're doing is exploring the city, a car is unlikely to be worth the hassle. Getting around the city center with a combination of public transport, Uber and your own feet is easy, and virtually all major attractions in the SF/Oakland/Berkeley area are reachable by public transport.

  • Wouldn't he get a better deal if he just rented it for the month (or the entire period/weekends) instead of on the days of need ? Also OP needs to remember he will be paying quite an amount of insurance to the rental co. if he doesn't already have one on his car in the US. Jan 15, 2014 at 0:17
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    The OP is saying he's staying for one week, and his hotel wants $30/day for parking. I'm pretty sure renting the car for just the weekend, or two weekends, will be cheaper than renting it for the whole week, esp. since agencies often have good deals for weekend rentals. Last April, my two weekend rentals were $50/2 days at Hertz and $20/2 days (!) at Enterprise, plus insurance etc etc. Jan 15, 2014 at 1:04

Last time we toured the Bay Area, we rented a car at SFO and drove to and stayed in the outlying areas (San Jose, Napa, and Monterey) before we explored downtown SF. Once we returned to SF, we returned the rental car to the airport, took transit back to our hotel, and "finished" our vacation.

Like any other major city, getting around by car is an exercise in futility having to worry about parking (and then paying for parking).

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    I was reading elsewhere, in SF, anything bigger than a mini cooper is a pain in the butt to park. Jan 15, 2014 at 0:19

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