Whether you’re looking to spend a weekend in Chicago or a whole month, you’ll need to reliably get around. Since Chicago is a major city center, you probably won’t need a vehicle, but if the local transit system isn’t great, you may want to rent a car anyway. 

What’s the best option?

Car Rental Locations in Chicago

There are several car rental locations to choose from, including budget options like Enterprise Rent-A-Car and Hertz. However, if you want a luxury private car or limo service that can pick you up right from O’Hare airport, check out Echo Limousine’s Chicago airport car service.

Rental cars vary in price depending on where you rent the vehicle. The closer you are to the airport, the higher your rates will be. Keep in mind that you can only rent a car if you’re over the age of 21, and some rental places will apply a young renter’s fee if you’re between 21-24.

What You Should Know About Transportation in Chicago

If your time is limited in Chicago or you’re taking a business trip, you should probably rent a car. But to help you make your decision, you need to understand Chicago’s transportation system.

Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) is Pretty Good

With over 1,800 businesses, 145 stations, and 140 routes, the city’s train and bus system can take you almost anywhere in Chicago. It’ll cost you $2.50 per ride, no matter how long, and the driver will accept cash or card. Load up on a Ventra card to make your commute hassle-free.

Downtown Chicago Has Bumper-to-Bumper Traffic 

Like any big American city, Chicago has a rush hour. Between 6 am to 8 am and 4 pm to 6 pm, you’re not going to get very far. In the summer, the rush hour may last 3 to 4 hours, especially if a lot of tourists are in town. If you want to travel by car, leave before or after Chicago’s rush hour.

Parking Rates are Extremely High Across the City

Chicago is well-known for its sky-high parking rates, and finding a free spot isn’t common. If you manage to find a metered spot, you’re going to pay 4 to 7 dollars an hour, and parking at the Loop (the main tourist attraction) can cost more than $7 an hour, especially on busy weekends.

Using Rideshare Companies is a Good Option

If you don’t want to use public transportation or rent a car, you can still hire an Uber or Lyft driver to take you where you need to go. If you avoid traffic, hailing rideshare can be much cheaper, and you can carpool to save even more. Just avoid getting an Uber if your destination is close.

Taking Public Transit is Difficult in the Suburbs

In the city, it’s a toss-up whether you need to rent a car or not, but in the suburbs, a vehicle is absolutely necessary. In the suburbs, it can take you almost an hour to get downtown, and you may not be able to get back if you stay late. There are few or no off-hour trains to the suburbs.

Biking in the City is a Super Fun Alternative

Whether you’re fit or plan on getting fit, you can avoid traffic and wait for public transit to arrive altogether by renting a bike. Chicago has well-developed bike routes and a well-known bike rental company called Divvy that has more than 570 docking stations in and around the city.

Try a Water Taxi to Experience Innovation

Chicago has a water taxi service offered by two companies: Shoreline Water Taxis and Chicago Water Taxi. It’s available between March to November and lets you travel along the lake and river. Both companies have 7 spots, starting from North of the river and ending at Chinatown.