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Car hire in San Francisco

Hiring a car in San Francisco

Few cities in the USA offer such a beautifully diverse mix of things to see and do than the relaxed, forward-thinking and outlandish city that is San Francisco. From the rolling hills that seem to surround the city and allow the fog to hang over it mystically, to the uneven Victorian rooftops that give it something of a unique skyline unmatched across the USA, San Francisco is one of those places that takes every opportunity it can to stand out from the crowd.

Best known for its steep inner-city hills, which have populated many an Instagram account, and the fabulous Golden Gate Bridge, San Francisco is a city that loves to innovate. From the forward-thinking leaders of extreme sports to the geniuses that bring technological advantages to a new level, San Francisco's residents are never a group to rest on their laurels, and it gives the entire city a wonderful aura of energy.

What you need to know

San Francisco, unlike many cities, has an urban atmosphere that just begs for exploration. While other cities might have a rather cut and paste approach to architecture, San Francisco is home to some of the most beautiful Victorian buildings seen anywhere in North America, and you'll feel at home just wandering and taking pictures in this relaxed atmosphere. However, there's so much more to see in the city, and that means that hiring a car is the best option, allowing you the freedom to see everything. And of course, when you're tackling the steep hills on Filbert Street and 22nd Street.

No matter how you want to tackle the hills of San Fran, Holiday Autos will be your best option for finding the perfect car. Our booking tool will let you compare prices from many international and local independent car hire providers, and you can rest assured that when you book with Holiday Autos, not only will you get the best price available, but you will never pay transaction fees with us.

Where to pick up your car

San Francisco Airport (SFO) is the major transport hub for the city, and the majority of tourists will be coming into this airport when they arrive. Located 13 miles from the centre of the city, hiring a car and picking it up at San Francisco Airport means you will be able to get on the road and hit the city within a matter of minutes after arrival.

All car hire companies operating at San Francisco Airport have their offices located in the dedicated SFO Car Rental Centre, located just a short distance from the main terminal. To find the office, you simply need to exit the main terminal via the front entrance, where you will be directed to the 24-hour AirTrain, which will take you directly to the car hire offices in a matter of minutes.

Best Car Hire Companies San Francisco


Car Hire Reviews San Francisco

  • “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

When you have picked up your car hire from San Francisco Airport, all that's left to do is to decide where you want to go next. The city and California beyond are open to you, so what will you do first?

Nearby San Francisco

Car hire in San Francisco means that you have the choice to not only explore the city itself, but also to see what California has to offer further afield. Why not make the most of this and take in the hour and a half drive to the beautiful town of Sonoma? One of the best parts of the California wine region, this quiet little settlement is where American California was first founded, and wine enthusiasts will find nowhere better to buy a local bottle.

Alternatively, around the same distance from San Francisco, you will find Santa Cruz, headed south on the US-101. This city is all about relaxation and alternative lifestyles. Chill out with the locals, who love heading to the beach to relax, kick back and enjoy the sunshine, before picking up a board and heading into the water for an afternoon of surfing.

Longer drives

Of course, your hire car also means that you have the freedom to explore even further into California. With beautiful views of the Pacific, nowhere will present a better drive than that found by those heading two hours south to Monterey. Aquariums and the local pier are the best places to visit to see the aquatic animals that bring the area to life, and there are views out over Monterey Bay here that are completely unrivalled anywhere in the state.

Elsewhere, have a look at what can be found in Los Padres National Forest, some three and a half hours south of the city. This not only gives you some of the most spectacular scenery as you tackle the Pacific Coast Highway, but a different type of holiday when you reach the national park, home to streams, rivers, mountainous areas and some of the best views you'll find anywhere in the country.

Top attractions to visit in San Francisco

There's so much to see in San Francisco that you will want to plan out what you will do before you even get there. It's the best way to ensure you see as much as is possible.

Golden Gate Bridge

There's no landmark in the city of San Francisco that is quite as iconic as the Golden Gate Bridge. Constructed in 1937, the three-mile long bridge is known as being the most photographed bridge, and one of the most beautiful, in the world. Whether you're viewing it from afar while the fog rolls in around its iconic towers, or seeing the spectacular bay views from on the bridge itself, it's one of those things you just can't miss when you're in San Francisco.


No prison in the world is more iconic or infamous than the imposing island lock up that is Alcatraz, just off the coast of San Francisco. Standing tall for 150 years, and within sight of the city, a view that no doubt led many prisoners to insanity, the prison also offers some of the best tours you will find anywhere in the world. The audio tour recounts what it was like for those forced to call Alcatraz home for years, and visits the reasons why it was so famous as the most inescapable fortress around.

Lombard Street

Known locally as the most crooked street in the world, Lombard Street is probably also one of the most photographed in America. The steep street has eight sharp turnbacks on it that make drives down the road seem somewhat treacherous. But the quite attractive red brick roads and wonderfully colourful flower beds make the street one of the most iconic and beautiful in the city, and it's well worth a visit.