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Car hire in California

Hiring a car in California

The most populated state in all of the USA, California is one of the most popular places for tourists from around the world to travel each year. More than 250 million people each and every year come from both domestic and foreign locations to visit the state, largely thanks to its sun, sea and sand, and a number of other highlights that give it a variety and diversity that goes unmatched in most of the other 50 states nationwide.

So whether you want to head into the Pacific for a spot of surfing or shark diving, go into the city to see the fast-paced way of life in Los Angeles or visit the mountains and hills that take you so far from the city, it will be hard to believe you've travelled only a short distance, California really has it all. From movie star lifestyles to nature in its finest form, driving holidays in California are the best way to experience the USA.

What you need to know

Such is the variety in terrain and scenery, that the only way to really see the most of what California has to offer is to hire a car. Not only will this allow you to visit as many amazing sights as possible, but also to partake in some of the best Pacific coastal routes imaginable.

At Holiday Autos, our easy to use booking tool allows you to compare prices from 1,500 suppliers before you go, both major international firms and local independent companies, so you know we will find the right deal for you, no matter what part of California you arrive in.

For those driving across the state on holiday, most of the companies we work with also let you conveniently drop your car off in a different place from where you collected it, making your holiday even more hassle free.

Where to pick up your car

There are car hire companies located in all major cities and towns in California, and depending on which of these you will be flying into, you can mostly always find that your car will be available at, or near, the airport.

There are many airports in the state serving all of the major cities in California. Some of the most popular in the whole state will include Los Angeles International (LAX), San Francisco International (SFO) and Oakland International Airport.

Each of these airports have a good number of car hire companies available at the airport itself. And even for those that don't, shuttle bus services and meet & greet collection from firms make picking up your hire car in California so easy that you'll be on the road before you know it.

Best Car Hire Companies California


Car Hire Reviews California

  • “The pick-up was easy, it took 5 minutes from arriving at the desk to driving out the car, and the return took even less time.”
    Diane T

Where to go

More than five million people have booked in advance with Holiday Autos over the course of the last 20 years, so you know that booking with us will allow you the freedom you desire to explore all that Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose and beyond have to offer.

The road system in California means that regardless of where you want to go, you will find both attractive and fantastic routes. Highways and freeways mean that it's easy to find your way to some of the best locations in the state, while west coast Pacific Ocean coastal routes can allow you the most breathtaking drives as you cruise along at the side of the water, soaking up the majesty of the ocean.

Driving in California

When driving around California, it's important to remember that it's very different to driving back at home in the UK, and can take some time to get used to. For a start, you will be driving on the right hand side of the road, and the left hand side of the car, and chances are your vehicle will be automatic. Take your time to get used to these changes because they will all feel wrong at first, and there's no shame in being tentative for at least the first few hours.

In California, the age for driving a hire car for foreign tourists will be a minimum of 25 years old. Other things to remember is that you will be required to have your car hire documents, insurance information and full driving licence on you every time you go out on the road. Officers can stop you and ask for these at any time. For those driving with a family, it's important to know that kids up to the age of eight must be secured in a child seat.

And remember, in the USA drink driving rules are very strict, so if you plan to drive, it's advisable to have nothing to drink at all beforehand.

Longer drives

One of the best reasons for hiring a car in California is the fact that it opens up so many gorgeous long-distance road trips for you to try. Not only are the destinations glorious, but the journeys themselves, in one of the country's most scenic states, make it all the more worthwhile. One great example of this is the Big Sur Coastal drive, which goes from Monterey and travels to San Luis Obispo, stretching 137 miles down the coast. As well as hitting a number of great places on the route, including Pebble Beach and Carmel City, this drive is perfect for its coastal views, with cliffs and a surprising amount of green framing the power of the Pacific.

Another great Californian road trip to embark on will be the Jacinto Reyes Scenic Byway, which at 34 miles is a far shorter, but equally impressive, prospect. Heading through the Los Padres National Forest and the Santa Ynez Range from Ojala to Ozena, this is a twisting, meandering two-lane drive that is as much of a challenge as it is a sightseeing excursion. Along the way, you will see mountainous rock faces that take your breath away, and beautiful forest spaces that are simply spectacular. Stop off at Sespe River Road and Piedra Blanca for some wonderful hiking spots too.

Top attractions to visit in California

California offers a great mix of cityscapes, great drives and excellent scenery and natural beauty, but what should you visit while you are here in the country's most populated and third-biggest state?


Down where the best of the beaches are, Southern California, or SoCal, offers you the chance to top up your tan, relax or hit the water for an afternoon of surfing. There are so many to choose from down this end of the state, and all are wonderful, but it's advisable to hit Huntington Beach, Moonstone Beach and Santa Monica for the best of everything.


The most infamous of all prisons in the world, Alcatraz is also home to one of the best audio tours in the world. Enjoy the short boat trip from San Francisco out to the island, before learning all about the history of the jail, including hearing what it was like day in, day out for the haunted residents of Alcatraz.

Mariposa Grove

Located more inland than most of the major cities in Yosemite National Park, Mariposa Grove is high-rise sequoia trees of legend. To describe their height to someone is to undersell the true majesty of these trees, and their home at Mariposa Park does a fantastic job of showing them off, with more than 500 mature trees towering high over 250 acres. Fantastic walks and even better views make this the place to be.