Renting a Car at Walt Disney World



By Dave Shute

(This page is one of a series explicating Walt Disney World lingo, abbreviations, and FAQ for first time family visitors to Walt Disney World.)

PLANNING DISNEY PARKS ADVENTURES

Welcome to those of you joining from Heidi’s Head as Magical Blogorail Teal focuses this month on different parts of planning Disney park adventures.

My focus is on car rentals and Walt Disney World.

RENTING A CAR AT WALT DISNEY WORLD

My basic advice for first time visitors to Walt Disney World is that they ought not to rent a car, but rather should use Disney’s Magical Express instead.

Why? First, you’ll save hundreds of dollars. Orlando rental car costs vary with the time of the year, the length of the rental, any discount or coupon codes you might have, and the size and capacity of the vehicle, but you’ll always pay more than you would for the free Magical Express, and then the free transport within Disney World itself.

Second, you’ll avoid getting lost. Disney World is pretty well signed given its complexity, but getting just a little bit off track can make it hard to find your resort if you don’t have a good mental map of where it is compared to some of the major, well-signed landmark locations.

That said, a rental car can make getting everywhere except the Magic Kingdom faster (if you don’t get lost), can make it easier to get to Harry Potter and to lower-cost shopping venues, and can make it easier to go from your hotel to another hotel—e.g. for dinner—which, depending on where you stay and where you are going, can be hard to do using Disney transportation.

So for those pursuing a rental car, here’s some thoughts

ONE LAST TIME DOUBLE CHECK WHETHER YOU REALLY NEED A RENTAL, AND FOR HOW LONG

Depending on the time of the year and how long you are staying, a cab, car service, or shuttle may be a cheaper way to travel from and to the airport, or to a grocery/liquor store, than a rental (and their prices are usually the same year round, rather than skyrocketing during the busy times.)

If your issue is just getting back and forth for Harry Potter, consider a shuttle— some are even discounted.

If you just really need a car for a day or two—for Harry Potter, restocking the chardonnay, visiting the outlet malls–Disney’s on site car rental service will rent you a car for a day or two—and pick you up from your Disney resort to get to the car, and drive you back to your hotel when you are done.

TARGET THE SMALLEST RENTAL CAR YOU CAN FIT

While there are sometimes exceptions, in general the smaller the car, the less expensive it is.

You won’t be spending more than 20 minutes in your rental on most of your trips—and on only one of them will you have your bags. (Just one—the trip from the airport—because you can check your bags at your Disney World resort for your flight back.)

Given this, you likely can rent a smaller car than you are used to at home—although this may mean that due to lack of trunk space, the drive in from the airport may require some bags to ride in laps.

CHECK YOUR INSURANCE COVERAGE

You will be pressed to buy insurance from the rental company which can be inordinately expensive.

In almost all cases this is an expensive waste of money, as your current insurance policy will cover you for normal accident costs while you are driving a rental car, and you should firmly say that you are declining all coverages. (But see below for “LOU”.)

Your insurance, however, may not cover you in rental cars—unlikely, but possible–or may have exceptions for certain fancier or speedier options. So call and double check before you go.

Also check for coverage of “Loss of Use” (“LOU”) charges.

If you are in an accident, some rental car companies will threaten you with additional penalties that most insurance won’t cover–LOU. These are charges to your credit card of the car’s daily (undiscounted) rental rate while it is being repaired, to make up for the revenue lost to the rental car company from its inability to rent the car while it’s being repaired.

As far as I’m concerned, this is a scam meant to scare you into buying the rental car company’s overpriced additional coverage. But check to see if your policy will cover it—likely not—and consider your accident record, including dings that you may not care about but that a rental company would, before deciding to skip the coverage.

WORK AT FINDING A DEAL

When your dates are set, use a source like expedia.com to check base rates. Don’t even consider prices from companies you’ve never heard of, or that don’t have cars in the terminal. While I’m sure some of these are fine at least some of the time, I have yet to use an off-site rental that makes me think the cost savings was worth the inconvenience and hard-sell on insurance.

Then start looking for a deal. The basics are memberships, coupons, and codes.

Other have already covered this terrain—see MouseSavers.com for great stuff on renting cars and getting deals on them, and Steve Bloom’s post on TouringPlans.com that both covers the basics on getting deals and also adds a less common strategy.

And, as Mary notes, once you have a deal, keep checking, as an even better one may emerge!

SOME FINAL TIPS

If you are watching every penny and don’t have a tight schedule on the day of your return, don’t pre-pay your gas. Instead, stop at one of the Hess stations at Disney World to fill up before you return to the airport.

Inspect your car carefully—including the roof—for damage before you leave the rental lot. Report any you see. Some people even make videos to prove that damage was there when they rented their car. If you don’t note any existing damage before you leave the lot, you may end up paying for it.

The Orlando Airport has two terminals, A and B, and identical rental car facilities at both. When you return, follow the signs your departing airline’s terminal, and use the return facilities there.

MORE ADVICE AND HELP ON RENTING A CAR AND GETTING A DISCOUNT

MouseSavers.com has lots of great stuff on renting cars and getting deals on them.

Steve Bloom’s post on TouringPlans.com covers the basics on getting deals and adds a less common strategy.

MORE FROM MAGICAL BLOGORAIL TEAL

Thank you for joining Magical Blogorail Teal this month. We will be back Tuesday, March 27th with an all new theme.

Keep checking in with our blogs in between loops to keep up to date with our Disney info, photos and stories. If you are looking for more Disney magic, you can make your way over to The Magical Blogorail website to see all our members and their blogs, as well as all our previous loops.

Here is the map of our Magical Blogorail loop should you happen to have to make a stop along the way and want to reboard:

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40 comments

1 Heidi { 02.28.12 at 7:40 am }

Great thoughts on rental cars. This is something I had never considered because we always drive to WDW (and I love having my car so I can get around on MY time, rather than Disney’s). However, we’re hoping to fly next time – and I think I’m going to just go with Disney transportation and see how that goes.

2 Dave { 02.28.12 at 8:08 am }

Hi Heidi and thanks…your first time without a car will be frustrating at first, then you just have to go with the flow!

3 Beth D. { 02.28.12 at 1:17 pm }

We always have the rental car debate. One year we rented a minvan for $199 for a week. With the cost split between my parents and my husband and I, it was worth it. But we also had three kids ages 3 and under. Having the car to go to WalMart or grocery shopping was a great convenience. Even getting to and from the car with two strollers made it easier (except MK as mentioned, we always used Disney transportation to get there). Now that our kids are older and we no longer bring a stroller and no one is napping on the way out of the parks, we find we do not need the rental car. It is convenient, but definitely not a necessity. Great tips!

4 Mary { 02.28.12 at 1:46 pm }

Good tips. I would also add ‘keep checking’ . My husband rechecks the rates daily before the trip and he seems to always find one last discount.

5 Donna Kay { 02.28.12 at 3:01 pm }

I am like Heidi and always drive. Honestly, we usually park when we get there and the car isn’t moved again until we go home. Great advice!!

6 Dave { 02.28.12 at 5:55 pm }

Thanks Beth!

7 Dave { 02.28.12 at 5:55 pm }

Great point, Mary–I’m gonna add it right now!

8 Dave { 02.28.12 at 5:59 pm }

Thanks Donna!

9 Kathy Kelly { 02.28.12 at 7:47 pm }

One of the things my husband likes best about our WDW trips is that he doesn’t have to drive anywhere for an entire week! I agree with you, Dave, that guests should only rent a car at WDW if they absolutely must…Disney transportation is excellent!

10 Dave { 02.29.12 at 9:29 am }

Hi Kathy–especially first-timers!!

11 Izza { 03.06.12 at 9:31 pm }

Thanks for sharing your thoughts! I will be having my first Disney trip with my kids and I thought of Disney World stroller rentals. Someone suggested this most trusted company to me.

12 Dave { 03.07.12 at 7:30 am }

Izza, this looks kinda like spam but I’ll let in through…

13 Megan { 03.13.12 at 5:45 am }

Thanks! We are headed to our 1 week Disney vacation in a few weeks and your tips are helpful. We are thinking of renting a car.

14 Dave { 03.13.12 at 6:37 am }

Hi Megan, glad it helped!

15 Alexsandra { 03.23.12 at 11:07 am }

I’m going to WDW alone with 2 kids under the age of 5 (will have a double stroller). I was debating renting a car but the convenience of DME from airport is what is stopping me. My flight is arriving late and the hassal of retrieving the luggage, waiting for car rental, walking to car park, installing car seats, etc., with 2 tired kids is daunting! DME really make it easy for single parent like me: get off plane, board a bus, arrive at hotel and luggage is there waiting!
I wanted to stay at a resort with monorail access but it is too expensive for my budget, so I decided to stay at a Disney moderate so can still use bus transportation to park (especially to MK). The car would be handy for the times I want to stay late at the parks or if the kids fall asleep in their strollers. Also folding and lugging a stroller alone with 2 young kids on a bus is challenging but doable. I would rent car with reward points so the cost of renting is not an issue for me. I just don’t know if it is easier to rent or easier to use Disney Transport. What do you suggest?

16 Dave { 03.23.12 at 11:51 am }

Hi Alexsandra! If you can afford it, the easiest path is to do both. Use DME for in and out of the airport, and rent a car from the rental site near the Magic Kingdom while you are there. This site (Alamo/National) will pick you up and drop you off when you get/return your car.

17 Tom { 06.28.12 at 6:16 pm }

After visiting WDW three times I must say that “unless” we go to a discount mall, we never rent a car. We take DME from and to the airport, and while at Disney property take their buses. They take you everywhere you need to go, and if you plan to visit Universal you can call Mears.
As said before, in case you need to do some shopping, you can rent a car. Our first rental was with Budget, which had a pick up location at a hotel near Downtown Disney, and the second rental was with Alamo. Just call a day earlier and they will pick you up at your hotel and take you to the car rental next to MK for free.
But, as I said before, if you do not plan to go shopping, renting a car is not needed at all

18 Dave { 06.29.12 at 6:40 am }

Good stuff, Tom

19 Tom { 06.29.12 at 8:48 am }

You’re welcome! Good stuff is what you have gathered here! Awesome job

20 Dave { 06.29.12 at 11:05 am }

Thanks again Tom!

21 Maria { 08.03.12 at 1:19 pm }

Hi – I am considering renting a car while in Disney World because my son (14) and I are staying at the Wilderness Campground. We are arriving on a Monday evening and departing on Thursday so we only have two full days to visit parks (we have 2 two-day non-expiring park-hopper tickets). I am thinking by renting a car either at the airport or at WDW we will maximize our time. I’ve read the transportation from Wilderness Campground can take an hour to an hour and a half to get to Magic Kingdom. Any thoughts/advice on whether this is a good idea?

22 Dave { 08.03.12 at 4:05 pm }

Hi Maria, an hour and a half is not right. You wait (max 20 mins) for a bus near your campsite/cabin at Fort Wilderness, take that (max 10 minutes) to the landing, walk 5 minutes to the boat dock, wait max 15 minutes for the boat, and it’s about a 10-15 minute boat ride. That’s a maximum of an hour, and a minimum of 30 minutes…

Are you staying in a cabin?

23 mary { 12.29.12 at 12:31 pm }

We are planning on staying outside of WDW at Estate of Sandy Ridge in Davenport Florida, about 8 Miles from Kissimmee. Would we be able to catch WDW transportation from there or would we be better to rent a car. Do you have any idea how much getting a cab would be from that distance ? Thank you.

24 Dave { 12.29.12 at 6:04 pm }

Hi Mary, WDW transportation serves only WDW hotels. There may be a contracted bus serving your place, but you’d have to call it to find out…I’d advise renting a car even if there is, as they often don’t start early enough or go frequently enough…

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25 John C. { 02.26.13 at 4:38 pm }

Hello,

Great website -thanks for the amazing amount of useful info -this is my first time going. I will be staying at the Wilderness Lodge from May 11-18 with my wife and 2 small children (Ages 2 & 4). I am using the DME to/from the airport and originally was just going to rely on the resort buses to get around to locations other than Magic Kingdom (using the ferry for that one). And I am also having a double-stroller delivered to the hotel for the week, so I have to consider that and dragging that everywhere. My questions are 1) would a double stroller be very cumbersome/difficult to store on these buses ?2) from the Wilderness Lodge, do you have a ‘ballpark’ estimate of how long it would take to get to Downtown Disney, Hollywood Studios, and the waterparks? Again, I am going in the middle of may when it looks like the crowds may not be as bad – but was thinking of renting a car to drive to these parks because of the age of my kids and the double stroller. Thanks for any feedback you can provide!
John C.

26 Dave { 02.26.13 at 5:50 pm }

Hi John and thanks!

The ballpark is 20 minutes of rolling time–some will be a little better.

If you drive, you still have to get the stroller either from the car to the park, or from the car to a tram…and then from the tram stop to the park. Because the bus stops are much closer to the parks than the typical parking spots I think you’ll be better off with the buses!

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27 rhonda { 06.20.13 at 10:21 pm }

We got a great deal on a rental so we will have a car. do you have a suggestion on where to get the most appropriate map for wdw parks for driving to and from resorts we are going to all of them, no park hopper (we are booked in AOA now, but I’m hoping for a free dinning plan or room discount to come out for our dates and I hope to move to AKL, Wilderness Lodge or Caribbean Resort). I have early buffet reservations at 2 of the parks which will get me into the parks like an hour early – I read that the parking lots do not open until like 15 minutes prior to park opening. Is this true? Will I be able to get into the parks for my reservations?

28 Dave { 06.21.13 at 7:47 am }

Rhonda, I don’t think you need a map. Disney signage from the resorts to the parks is great. From the parks back to the resorts it’s not so wonderful–you do have to figure out where your resort is in relation to the major signed destinations. For example, AofA is near both Wide World of SPorts and the Epcot Resort Area, so you’d follow signs to one or the other and then start looking for AofA signs.

When the parking lots open varies, but it’s never “15 minutes before opening”–it’s always much earlier than that. But Disney runs special buses for morning park meals. Check with the resort concierge the day before to find out when and where to pick it up–that is, don’t drive to these…

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29 Wendy { 07.24.13 at 2:39 am }

It has been a bit since I last posted – but 4 months until the trip, so the questions will again start to fly.

I am concerned about the walking around in WDW for my mother-in-law. She is a great sport, but this summer, she seemed to get tired a bit more quickly. As are result, I am now thinking of renting a van to accommodate our group of ten (I found a rental for a van that seats 15 for under 400 for the week.) We are staying at Wilderness Lodge Nov 23 – 29th and I am concerned that the wait time for transportation will make the day longer than it needs to be ( we also have a 5 year old traveling in our group). I know for MK we will need to use transportation, but for the rest? We will not need to drive anywhere else (shopping or other non-Disney places) – this would be for getting to and from the parks only.

Do you think it might make it easier? OR will it make it more complicated? The money is not an issue if it might make the visit better for all involved. I am a seasoned driver – so that part is not a issue, either.

Thanks,

Wendy

30 Dave { 07.24.13 at 7:20 am }

Hi Wendy, I’ve missed you!

Two points on the van: 1. you will save time with ti–and also, I suspect, end up loving the fact that you can run off to the grocery store etc.–but 2. it won’t save your mother-in-law much walking.

The parking lot at WL is a further walk than the bus stops, and in many cases, the walk from where you park at the parks to the tram that takes you to the park entry will be longer than the walk from the bus stop to the park entry (this varies both base don where you are directed to park and on the layout of the bus stops within the parks–those at HS are closest to the entry, AK and EPcot not so much…)

31 Wendy { 07.24.13 at 3:38 pm }

It is nice to be missed – I have been reading, just not posting…most of my questions have already been answered by you!

I think we will use valet parking at the hotel. At the park, I will drop them off and go to park. They can get in line (we will be there before the opening time) and I will hike from the lot. That would make a difference, I think.?.

Thanks and love your info about free dining – you are so right that many people are putting it out online as fact when it is just a hope. It would be nice, however!

Wendy

32 Dave { 07.25.13 at 8:18 am }

Oh valet parking–I’m too cheap to use it, so I didn’t think of that! Great idea.

Drop and park should work, but may be a little complicated in that the traffic flows for this are designed as “drop and leave” not “drop and park” so you may end up having to exit the park and re-enter to finally park…

33 Wendy { 07.25.13 at 3:14 pm }

I have noticed they often have a way for people to drop of handicapped people and park that is a bit different from the regular dropping location (we have used this when my mom had her knee replaced)- maybe I will find those places! If I do, I will fill you in.

For valet it is 15 a day – with in and out. We are from the Bay area where we can pay that for 2 hours, so it does not seem bad to me.

Thanks for your opinion,

Wendy

34 Dave { 07.26.13 at 7:42 am }

Cool, Wendy, let me know how it goes. I know I’m being silly about the valet parking…but my family has no mobility issues so for us it just feels like setting money on fire…

35 Mark { 08.16.13 at 6:05 pm }

Hi Dave,

We have always driven to Disney World. I have always enjoyed parking at the resort and using the Disney Transportation System. Do you find it generally more or less convenient to drive from the resort to the parks, or is Disney Transportation more convenient? How much of a difference is there?

We are hoping to WDW 10/05-11/13 and staying at POP. On 10/08/13, we are planning on spending the day at AK, followed by a 7:00 PM dinner reservation at Whispering Canyon. Would it be more convenient to return to POP and drive, or to take Disney Transportatio to MK and take the boat to Whispering Canyon. Do buses run between AK and MK? Will there be any problem getting back to POP after dinner using Disney Transportation?

36 Dave { 08.17.13 at 9:03 am }

Mark, just on pure elapsed time from room to park, it’s always best to drive from your Disney hotel to the parks, with the exception of MK, when it’s always best to take Disney transportation.

For your AK-WL visit, you will save tons of time by driving from Pop to AK, and then driving from there to WL, and then driving from WL back to Pop.

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37 Mark { 08.17.13 at 8:55 pm }

Hi Dave,

Thank you very much for the information. I’ve not found a really good source that discusses Disney transportation and options in detail. The Disney web site gives very general information, and some of the non-Disney sites have only been slightly better. The best information I have gotten has been from this site. I greatly appreciate what you do.

38 Dave { 08.18.13 at 9:48 am }

Thanks, Mark, what a kind comment!

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39 Jill { 12.29.13 at 3:16 pm }

Hello Dave!
I am going to Disney for the first time with my husband and five year old daughter. My husband is not going to the parks but I am thinking about having him drop us off. We plan to go to MK and HS. Is this the best/only option? How would we find him when we want to leave for the day? We are most likely going to stay in a condo instead of hotel.
I look forward to your response,
Jill

40 Dave { 12.30.13 at 7:16 am }

Jill, there are drop off and pick up areas at each park, and they are pretty small, and hence easy for him to find you on pick-up. Your other option is to drive yourself…easier on him, but having him drop you off will save you a bit of time…

Finding the drop-off area at MK is a bit of a trick, so if you do go this way, let me know, and I’ll give you instructions…

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