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Imagine walking down the streets of Charleston, South Carolina, and taking in all the beauty it has to offer.

With its convenient location and stunning scenery, Charleston is the perfect city to explore without ever having to get behind the wheel.

While the city is walkable, you may be wondering do you need a car in Charleston, SC.

We will discuss the reasons you may need a car in Charleston and explore the city's transportation options.

Whether you decide to rent a car or rely on other transportation, Charleston offers plenty of options for getting around town.

charleston, sc street with colored buildlings lined with cars and palm trees

Do You Need to Rent a Car in Charleston?

While Charleston is a charming city with plenty to see and do, you may wonder whether renting a car is necessary for getting around town.

The answer is, it depends.

There are several factors to consider when deciding whether or not to bring or rent a car while visiting Charleston.

First, think about how much time you'll actually be spending in the city.

If you're only going to be in town for a few days, it might be more cost-effective to use ride-sharing services like Uber or Lyft.

Additionally, public transportation such as buses and trolleys are available throughout the city and offer an inexpensive way to get around.

Another thing to keep in mind is that Charleston is a very walkable city.

Many of the attractions are located within walking distance of each other, so you may not need a car at all!

Of course, this will depend on where your hotel or vacation rental is located.

If you're staying outside of the city center, you might want to consider renting a car for at least part of your trip.

If you’re planning to stay for more than a few days or are interested in exploring nearby areas such as Kiawah Island or Folly Beach, then renting a car is the most convenient option.

Plus, you have the option to come and go as you please and don't have to rely on public transportation schedules.

Also, keep in mind that you are bound to hit traffic during peak season or rush hour.

Be prepared to add time to your trips around and out of the city.

Where to Rent a Car in Charleston

Charleston has several major rental car companies that are located within the city and at nearby airports.

Major companies include Avis, Hertz, Enterprise, and Budget.

Prices will vary depending on your rental duration and vehicle type, so it’s best to compare rates between companies.

However, you can expect a compact car to be around $100/day.

You will find car rentals at the terminal and off-site if you're flying into Charleston International Airport.

If you are already in downtown Charleston, there are car rental locations there as well.

a street in Charleston, South Carolina filled with parked cars in front of colored buildings and a blue sky

Parking in Downtown Charleston

When deciding to rent a car in Charleston, you'll want to consider the parking situation.

Parking can be difficult—and expensive—in Charleston.

If you do decide to bring or rent a car, make sure you know where you're going to park it before you arrive.

Many hotels offer valet parking for an additional fee, but street parking can also be hard to come by—especially during peak tourist season.

Metered street parking is generally available throughout the city, but it can be difficult to find an open spot.

The City of Charleston also operates several large public parking garages that offer hourly and daily rates.

These garages tend to be cheaper than private garages and offer convenient access to the city center.

Charleston Public Transportation 

If you decide to forego renting a car, you'll be happy to know that Charleston offers plenty of transportation options.

There are several bus routes operated by the CARTA (Carolina Area Rapid Transit Authority) that run throughout the city, as well as trolleys and shuttles that provide access to popular attractions.

Fares are about $3.50 each way and day passes are available.

Downtown Area Shuttle (DASH)

The Downtown Area Shuttle (DASH) is a free shuttle service that circles the downtown area and stops at popular attractions.

It's available seven days a week with varying hours depending on the day.

3 DASH routes provide access to the Charleston Visitor Center, City Market, Waterfront Park, the College of Charleston, and many other places of interest.

The DASH runs each route on a set schedule, so you can easily hop on and hop off throughout your stay.

Overall, with its many transportation options, Charleston is an easy city to get around without the need for a car.

sunset photo of a charleston street lined with cars and a bike rider on the road

Final Thoughts

There's no right or wrong answer when it comes to deciding whether or not to bring or rent a car while visiting Charleston, SC.

It all comes down to what makes the most sense for you and your family based on how much time you'll be spending in the city and what your plans are while you're here.

We like to drive to Folly Beach from Charleston during our visits so having a car is key for our family.

Whatever you decide, you're sure to enjoy your trip to Charleston, SC and be sure to take in all the beauty and history.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Charleston, SC a walkable city?

Yes, Charleston is a very walkable city. The downtown area has plenty of sidewalks and pedestrian-friendly streets so it's easy to get around without a car.

Are there Ubers in Charleston?

Yes, Uber is available in Charleston, as well as other ride-hailing services like Lyft. This can be a convenient way to get around town without having to drive your own car.

How old do you have to be to rent a car in Charleston, SC?

You must be at least 21 years old to rent a car in Charleston, South Carolina.

How do you get around Charleston, SC without a car?

Charleston offers plenty of transportation options for getting around without a car. These include bus routes operated by the CARTA (Carolina Area Rapid Transit Authority) and the free Downtown Area Shuttle (DASH) service. Additionally, services like Uber and Lyft are available in Charleston.

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