Practical information for renting a car in San Diego

San Diego city centre
Lindbergh Field (SAN): 4 km from city centre

Rental cars in San Diego

Where to rent a car in San Diego

Welcome to “America’s Finest City!” San Diego is bursting with top-notch attractions like it’s world-famous zoo, it’s famous beaches and it’s unrivaled weather. Now that we’ve got your attention, it’s time to start planning your trip.

A rental car in San Diego is essential. Pick one up at the airport in the arrival’s lounge; there are dozens of companies to choose from including Budget, E-Z Rent-A-Car, Enterprise, Midway Rent A Car, National Car Rental and Pacific Rent-A-Car, among others.

Lesser known brands will likely be cheaper but it’s a good idea to use a car search engine, like liligo.com, to compare offers and find the best price. You’ll find all the major brands also have offices in the city, so you don’t necessarily have to pick up your rental at the airport upon arrival from your flight to San Diego.

Driving in San Diego: what you need to know

Driving is the easiest way to get around San Diego, especially if you plan to visit the North County beaches, the mountains and the nearby Anza Borrego Desert. Driving in and around the city is pretty painless, as most of the city’s attractions are within a few miles of the coast. Avoid the I-5 and the I-15 between the I-805 and Escondido during rush hour; it’s bumper-to-bumper traffic.

There is plenty of parking available on the street. It costs between 50¢ and $1.25 an hour. Just be careful during rush hour, as some on-street parking areas become tow-away zones. Parking downtown in the evening can be tricky, as it gets very busy so it may be better to leave your rental car at your hotel and grab a taxi. Parking is hard to find in La Jolla and Coronado but it’s plentiful in Balboa Park and Mission Bay.

Road trips from San Diego: what to see and do

Balboa Park

Balboa Park is the center of tourism in San Diego. This is where you’ll find most of the city’s finest attractions including museums, parks, gardens and arboretums… plus the San Diego Zoo with more than 3,000 animals. The zoo is home to some creatures that aren’t on display is any other zoo in the world and is a must-see while you’re here. Arrive early in the day, as the animals are most active in the mornings. A park map will be helpful for finding your favourite exhibits easily… which way to the panda enclosure?

Anza Borrego Desert

Explore more than 1,000 square miles of desert and mountain country in the beautiful Anza Borrego Desert State Park. If you’re looking for more than a day trip, this is one of the only parks in the country where you can pitch a tent just about anywhere you like. There is over 100 miles of hiking trails here, through canyons and past scenic vistas. It’s a 2-hour drive from San Diego and makes a perfect side trip if you want to explore some of California’s great outdoors.

Tijuana

Why not jump across the border for a little trip to Mexico while you’re in San Diego? Tijuana is a mere 30-minute drive from downtown San Diego but the easiest way across isn’t to drive; it’s to walk. Park your car rental at the border and walk across. It’s only a few more minutes to downtown Tijuana where you really can’t beat the Mexican food on offer.

Best car rental deals in San Diego

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  • January 2017
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  • price
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Economybookings
$15 per day Verify
  • 5
  • 2
Hyundai Accent Economy, 2/4 Door, Auto
CarHireLabs
$19 per day Verify
  • 5
  • 3
Nissan Altima Fullsize, 4/5 Door, Auto
Wisecars
$21 per day Verify
  • 5
  • 2
Toyota Corolla Intermediate, 4/5 Door, Auto
Economybookings
$21 per day Verify
  • 5
  • 2
Toyota Yaris Compact, 2/4 Door, Auto
Economybookings
$23 per day Verify
  • 5
  • 1
Advantage Choice Compact Special, Special, Auto
Economybookings
$23 per day Verify
Mitsubishi Mirage Economy, 2/4 Door, Auto
BSP-Auto
$24 per day Verify
  • 4
Chevrolet Aveo Economy, 4/5 Door, Auto
Degrifauto
$25 per day Verify
  • 5
  • 2
Kia Rio Economy, 4/5 Door, Auto
BSP-Auto
$25 per day Verify
  • 4
Chevrolet Spark Economy, 2/4 Door, Auto
Wisecars
$26 per day Verify
  • 5
  • 3
Nissan Versa Compact, 4/5 Door, Auto
Holidayautos
$29 per day Verify
  • 5
  • 3
Chrysler 200 Standard, 2/4 Door, Auto
Degrifauto
$40 per day Verify
  • 5
  • 2
Ford Fiesta Economy, 2/4 Door, Auto
Voyages-SNCF
$49 per day Verify
  • 5
  • 3
Compact Special, Special, Auto
Wisecars
$57 per day Verify
  • 5
  • 5
Nissan Maxima Premium, 2/4 Door, Auto
Autoescape
$61 per day Verify
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Chevrolet Sonic Economy, 2/4 Door, Auto

Find a cheap flight to San Diego

outbound: Mar 7, 2017
direct (4h18m)
Spirit Airlines
return: Mar 10, 2017
direct (4h05m)
Spirit Airlines
outbound: Apr 21, 2017
direct (2h22m)
Frontier Airlines
return: Apr 28, 2017
direct (2h35m)
Frontier Airlines
outbound: Feb 3, 2017
direct (1h05m)
Spirit Airlines
return: Feb 5, 2017
direct (1h13m)
Spirit Airlines
outbound: May 20, 2017
direct (1h29m)
United Airlines
return: May 27, 2017
direct (1h21m)
United Airlines
outbound: Mar 1, 2017
direct (6h22m)
JetBlue
return: Mar 14, 2017
direct (5h23m)
JetBlue
outbound: Feb 18, 2017
1 stop (20h05m)
Alaska Airlines
return: Feb 24, 2017
1 stop (6h40m)
Alaska Airlines
outbound: Feb 14, 2017
direct (1h25m)
Southwest Airlines
return: Mar 2, 2017
direct (1h30m)
Southwest Airlines
outbound: May 20, 2017
1 stop (9h30m)
Spirit Airlines
return: May 27, 2017
direct (3h34m)
Spirit Airlines
outbound: Mar 12, 2017
1 stop (15h57m)
Spirit Airlines
return: Mar 18, 2017
1 stop (11h40m)
Spirit Airlines
outbound: Apr 11, 2017
1 stop (10h38m)
Spirit Airlines
return: Apr 18, 2017
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Spirit Airlines
outbound: Jun 22, 2017
direct (6h10m)
Southwest Airlines
return: Jun 25, 2017
1 stop (6h05m)
Southwest Airlines
outbound: Feb 22, 2017
direct (6h15m)
American Airlines
return: Mar 4, 2017
direct (5h)
Alaska Airlines
outbound: Mar 5, 2017
1 stop (8h30m)
Spirit Airlines
return: Mar 12, 2017
1 stop (6h39m)
Spirit Airlines
outbound: Mar 16, 2017
direct (5h24m)
Alaska Airlines
return: Mar 20, 2017
direct (4h50m)
Alaska Airlines
outbound: Feb 17, 2017
1 stop (7h37m)
United Airlines
return: Feb 19, 2017
1 stop (7h15m)
United Airlines
outbound: Feb 22, 2017
direct (6h)
Alaska Airlines
return: Mar 4, 2017
direct (5h)
Alaska Airlines
outbound: Feb 14, 2017
1 stop (7h20m)
Virgin America
return: Feb 22, 2017
1 stop (6h15m)
Virgin America
outbound: Mar 29, 2017
1 stop (14h09m)
JetBlue
return: Apr 3, 2017
1 stop (18h08m)
JetBlue
outbound: Feb 17, 2017
1 stop (14h41m)
Frontier Airlines
return: Feb 19, 2017
1 stop (16h23m)
Frontier Airlines
outbound: Mar 18, 2017
direct (1h25m)
Alaska Airlines
return: Mar 25, 2017
direct (1h25m)
Alaska Airlines