Portland is a great city with fantastic public transport, including buses, streetcars, and light rail. Sometimes, though, you might want to rent a car. Whether it’s for a day trip to Mount Hood, exploring the coast or the wine country or visiting the Columbia Gorge National Scenic Area, renting a car is necessary. Here is our guide to renting a car in Portland, Oregon including some of the best car rentals in the city…
Things to know about renting a car in Portland, Oregon
12 of the best car rental companies in Portland, Oregon
All major car rental companies have desks on the lower level of Portland International Airport (PAX).
You will find these companies at the airport:
As well as having a desk at the airport, there are other Avis offices in Portland. The most central is Portland Downtown Parking Garage, 330 Southwest Washington Street. Their phone number is (1) 503-227-0220.
Avis offers ten different vehicles ranging from a Toyota Camry (or similar) to a Standard Elite SUV like a Nissan Pathfinder. You’ll pay around $83 per 24/h for the cheapest car. Roadside assistance, car cover, liability, satellite radio, and hands-free navigation are all charged extra.
As well as an airport desk, Dollar Car Rental also has an office in downtown Portland situated at 132 NW Broadway. Their telephone number is (503) 228-3540.
Dollar has a range of cars, including the economy (from around $52 per day) to a minivan at around $236 per day. The initial rates you see on their website don’t include taxes, fees, or surcharges.
Enterprise has 13 different vehicle types ranging from the economy to pickups and beyond. Again, prices start from around $80 per day. But, again, the prices you see initially don’t include taxes and fees, so your $80 will be more like $100.
Enterprise has numerous sites around Portland, and many have great opening times. The most central part of downtown is at 445 SW Pine Street.
From a midsize Toyota Corolla, a sporty Dodge Challenger to an SUV, National Car Rental has many choices. Prices start from $93 per day. Included is unlimited mileage but no taxes or fees. If you want to add on a Loss Damage Waiver, you’re looking at an extra $28.
Alamo has 13 types of cars. The cheapest is a Mitsubishi Mirage or similar. At Alamo, they include a damage waiver, extended protection, unlimited mileage, taxes and fees in their advertising price. The cheapest car is $148, which isn’t bad considering you get all of those extras included. You can also save money on that figure by pre-paying.
Thrifty has a good range of cars ranging from a 4-seater Chevrolet spark (or similar), a Jeep Wrangler, a seven-seater van or a convertible. Even prices for the more luxurious cars seem much more reasonable than other agencies. For example, for a convertible, you’re looking at $120 a day, including fees and taxes, which isn’t bad at all!
Other companies in Portland include:
- Zipcar (www.zipcar.com) – budget car rental in Portland
Zipcar will let you rent a car from all over Portland. You can drive it for as long as you want and then return it to a drop-off point convenient to you. It doesn’t have to be the place where you collected the car. The cost is between $0.35 and $0.49 per minute. To use the car, you don’t even need to pay for gas. However, there is an initial sign-up fee to become a member but no monthly or annual charge following this.
If you’re looking to hire a more luxurious car, this is the place to go. You can hire a BMWi8, Mercedes-Benz s600 Mayback, Chevrolet Corvette, Tesla Model Y, Cadillac Escalade ESV and many, many more.
The company can pick you up from the airport for a small fee. Unfortunately, unlike many of the other sites in Portland, you can’t book online, so prices aren’t available.
If you’re looking for something to accompany you on an adventure, Wandervans has a range of campervans for hire. Their Portland office is located at 1031 SE Madison St.
You can hire a 2-person camper van for as little as $99 per day, which is reasonable when comparing it to the cost of some of the other cars we’ve looked at.
Getaround is a car-sharing site – and so works differently. People can choose to share their cars or borrow from other people.
This is a van rental service rather than a car rental one – though they do have minimum rental times, you might not be able to rent a van for just one day.
This locally-owned auto rental place has a basic website but a good offering of different vehicles.
Driving in and around Portland
Major Freeways in and around Portland
Interstate 5 circles downtown Portland. This is the main route from Canada to Mexico. There is also Interstate 405, which is a loop circling the Pearl District and downtown.
The Interstate 84 starts at I-5 on the inner east side of the city and travels east to the airport, which you can get to via Interstate 205. It then goes to the Columbia River Gorge, Idaho, and Utah.
Portland’s I-84 is often referred to as the Banfield or the Banfield Expressway.
Using a cell phone when driving
If you’re driving in Portland, you can only use a hands-free phone. For those under 18s, you are not allowed to use any communication device while driving, even with a hands-free accessory. It is illegal to use any cell phone that isn’t hands-free.
The Pearl District and downtown Portland have a lot of one-way streets. Be careful and look out for signs. Generally speaking, the streets will alternate in direction.
Another thing to be aware of is that while West Burnside Street does have two-way traffic, you cannot turn left. So for the left side of Burnside, you will need to take two right turns.
Downtown Portland is home to the Portland Transit Mall. This encompasses Fifth Avenue (running southbound – with right turns not allowed) and Sixth Avenue (running northbound – with left turns not allowed). Cars, bikes, buses, and trains all share the road.
Sharing the road in Portland
There are many bicycles on the road in Portland due to its gentle slopes, plentiful bike lanes, and moderate climate.
Sharing roads with bikes is often down to common sense and paying close attention to signs. Here are some useful tips when driving around Portland:
- Always be mindful of bikes when there are no cycle lanes. Be especially careful when you turn left.
- Yield to cycle when there is a green ‘bike box’. There are fifteen of these intersections in Portland, and they’re designed to stop any collisions happening between motorists turning right and cyclists who are using the cycle lanes. Drivers must stop when the light is red and wait at the white line that borders the green box. Only bikes can be in this box. When drivers make a right turn, they should yield to oncoming cyclists traveling in the cycle lane.
- Portland is trialing two new alternatives to bike lanes in downtown Portland. One alternative is the cycle track demonstration project, running from Clay to Jackson on Southwest Broadway. The other alternative is the buffered bike lanes between Naito Parkway and Ninth Avenue on Southwest Oak and between Naito and 13th on Southwest Harvey Milk Street. A buffered bike lane provides more space for cyclists and is more comfortable to cycle in. In addition, the Cycle Track initiative provides a safer place for cyclists to travel that’s not right next to the moving traffic.
Traffic rules in Portland and the state of Oregon
While many driving rules are universal across states and even across the world, there are some important ones that you need to know before you drive off the parking lot.
- In Oregon, seatbelts must be worn at all times.
- At crosswalks, pedestrians have the right of way.
- If an emergency vehicle is approaching, you should yield, but you mustn’t enter an intersection.
- The legal blood alcohol limit in Oregon is 0.08%, and by driving in this state, you consent by law to undergo breath, urine or blood tests for alcohol.
- It might surprise you that speed limits in this state are pretty low compared to other states. In school zones and business districts, the limit is 20 mph. This rises to 25 mph in residential areas. You can travel up to 65 mph for rural and urban highways, and interstate highways are 70 mph.
- You are not allowed to do a U-turn at intersections or traffic signals in cities.
- You are allowed to turn right when the light is red if you come to a full stop before you turn.
- When there is a four-way stop, drivers on the right have the right of way.
Where you can and can’t park
In Oregon, the following parking distances apply:
- No parking within 50 feet of a traffic signal or railroad crossing.
- No parking within 10 feet of a fire hydrant.
- No parking within 15 feet of a fire station driveway (on the same side) or 75 feet on the opposite side.
- No parking in bike lanes, crosswalks, or intersections.
- Double parking is illegal.
In downtown and central areas, parking is metered. There are cheaper park and ride systems if you don’t mind combining driving with public transport. Outside of central districts, street parking is free.
Electronic meters will take coins and cards. You must display your receipt in the curbside car window. If you move the car and it still has time remaining, it will still be valid. After 7 pm and before 8 am, you don’t need to pay for parking in most places. On Sundays between 1 and 7 pm, however, you are required to pay. Downtown fees are currently $2 per hour. You can find up-to-date fees here. You can also pay with Mobile Pay using Parking Kitty, the mobile payment app.