Should You Hire a Car in Cape Town?

Last Updated on April 13, 2024 by thecapetownblog

From chasing sunsets on Chapman’s Peak to finding your way around the city centre, there’s a ton of freedom and adventure that comes with renting a car in Cape Town. But is it worth the cost?

I’ve lived here for a few years now and you may be surprised to learn that I don’t own a car! Since I work from home and live centrally, I can’t quite justify it, although I do wind up using Uber a lot. However, I have rented cars when friends have come to stay, and so if you’re wondering whether or not it’s worth hiring a car in Cape Town, I’m here to help you answer that question. 

Pros of Hiring a Car in Cape Town 


Cape Town is very much a driving city. The public transport here is limited, and the network is far from extensive. So when you’re exploring the city, having a car makes life so much easier. Cape Town is your oyster, and you won’t have to waste time waiting for Ubers, either. 

Sense of freedom 

I mean, this is true of hiring a car anywhere – nothing beats that sense of freedom! You can go where you want, when you want, and build your own itinerary. If you’re not the kind of person who enjoys organised tours, having a rental car allows you to take sightseeing at your own pace and discover those off-the-beaten-track hidden gems. 

Easier to explore the Western Cape 

Renting a car is great for when you’re in the city, sure, but I think the biggest advantage is that it allows you to explore all of the fantastic places around Cape Town! There are SO many fun day and overnight trips to take from here. Off the top of my head, I can think of Stellenosch, Franschhoek, the Paarl Spice Route, and Hermanus, aka the whale-watching capital of the world. 

If you’re a festival goer, then renting a car is an absolute no-brainer. I had the best time ever at the Wolfkop Weekender, which is about 2 hours from Cape Town, and there are tons of others, like Rocking the Daisies, and Up the Creek. 

Can save you money

Renting a car in Cape Town can certainly save you money, although I will include the caveat that this does depend on your itinerary

As a tourist, you’ll be travelling all over the city and those Uber fees do add up over the course of the day. But it’s really when you look at going out of the city that the big savings come in, as having your own car means you often don’t need to book organised tours. For example, you can visit the Cape Point and Cape of Good Hope by yourself, go see the penguins at Boulders Beach, or explore Stellenbosch. 

I also find that renting a car makes budgeting for transport costs a lot easier, since you pay one flat price for the rental and then only have petrol to worry about. Being at the mercy of Uber’s surcharges can make it difficult to know exactly how much you’ll spend. 

When my friend and I rented a car for 12 days, it cost us R7,500 in total, which is roughly £320 or $400 USD at the time of writing. That includes 1.5 tanks of petrol, two drivers under 30, and full coverage insurance. I should add that because we booked through Discover Cars, we managed to take advantage of American Express’s 10% cash back offer to save money, so look into that if you’ve got an Amex card! 

Cons of Hiring a Car in Cape Town 

Drivers can be aggressive 

My least favourite thing about driving in Cape Town is that people drive pretty aggressively here, especially during the summer when it’s busy. People are impatient and don’t tend to give way, which means that you have to be pretty bolshy at times unless you want to wait for hours to be able to go. As a fairly timid driver, I don’t really enjoy this. 

Lots of parallel parking 

UGH. I hate parallel parking, and I know I’m not alone in this. If you hail from a big city, you’re probably used to this, but having grown up in a small village, it’s not something I really had to worry about much until I moved to Cape Town. My golden rule for parallel parking is generally to park somewhere else, but in Cape Town that’s not always possible. 

Can be more expensive 

I know I said above that renting a car can save you money, but it can also work out more expensive. It really does depend on your itinerary. If you’re only here for a couple of days and are mostly going to be sticking to the central area, Uber may work out a bit cheaper. However, if you want to go further afield, renting a car will definitely save you money.

If you’re concerned about budgeting, my advice would be to structure your itinerary so that your days in central Cape Town and your days exploring outside of the city are in two separate chunks. This way, you can save money by using Uber for the “central” half of your trip, and by renting a car for the days that you’re going to be making longer journeys. 

Where to Hire a Car in Cape Town 

I always hire cars through Discover Cars. They’re like but for car rentals! 

You get to compare rentals by supplier rating and price, so you can find the best deal going while remaining confident that you’re not going to get ripped off. I don’t know about you, but this is something I do tend to worry about when renting a car. 

As I mentioned earlier, I got 10% cashback by booking through Discover Cars because I used my Amex. We also got a free upgrade, so although we had only booked for a mini car, we ended up getting a bigger one! 

If you want two drivers, Discover Cars also highlights which suppliers will let you add an additional driver for free. Otherwise, it’s an extra R74 per day (£3.15 or $4 USD). 

You can select from a few different pickup locations, so you can get your rental car from the airport or pick it up downtown. I picked our car up in De Waterkant, and I think this is a good option if you want to do a few city days and then use your rental car to go further afield, as I suggested above. 

What’s the Deal with Car Insurance in Cape Town?

Car insurance isn’t a legal requirement in South Africa – I know, crazy, right? But rental companies won’t let you go without it, and with Discover Cars, basic third party insurance is included in the price of your rental. However, you can add full coverage insurance from R1170 (£50 or $63 USD) for a week.

I think it’s definitely worth getting the full coverage insurance for peace of mind. It covers you for things like locking your keys out of the car, repair costs, and towing expenses – although do try to not get towed! 

Where Can I Drive to in Cape Town?

As mentioned, some places are just way easier (and cheaper!) to access with a rental car. So if you’re thinking about visiting any of the following, a rental car will certainly help…

Hout Bay

Hout Bay is STUNNING, offers fantastic fish and chips, and it’s the best place in Cape Town for seal encounters. I loved my seal snorkelling experience here and the drive from Camps Bay is absolutely stunning. And if that weren’t enough, it’s the gateway to….

Chapman’s Peak Scenic Drive

Chapman’s Peak Scenic Drive is a stunningly beautiful road. I love the contrast of the red, rocky cliffs against the sea and the (usually) bright blue sky. My friends took me on a drive along here on Easter Saturday, and we went for beers and burgers at the Aegir Project. It was a cute little experience that I can highly recommend!


Noordhoek is waiting for you at the other end of Chapman’s Peak Scenic Drive. From the aforementioned Aegir Project to horse riding on the insanely beautiful beach (a favourite memory of mine!) I think it’s definitely worth driving out there.

The Cape Winelands

If you’re into your wine, it’s definitely worth driving out to the winelands and staying there for a few nights. I love the charming university town of Stellenbosch and the Franschhoek wine tram is a quintessential Western Cape experience. Many of South Africa’s best restaurants can be found out here, too, like Post & Pepper in Stellenbosch, where I had one of the best meals of my life.

Hermanus and Gaansbaai

If you want to go shark cage diving or whale watching, I recommend Hermanus and Gaansbaai.

Gaansbaai is famous for its shark-infested waters and so it’s THE place to go shark cage diving. However, it’s at least a 2.5-hour drive from Cape Town, so it was a super long day. To be honest, I just didn’t think it was worth it for an hour-long boat trip! So I would recommend staying in Hermanus for a night or two, so that you only have to drive half an hour to Gaansbaai for the experience.

And during Cape Town’s winter, Hermanus is one of the best places in the world to spot whales! From horseback whale watching on the beach to whale spotting cruises, there are tons of opportunities to see these beautiful, gentle giants. I also loved walking a portion of the Cliff Path (a small portion, I should add) when I was here, and I had the best eggs benedict of my life at The Station.

So… Should I Hire a Car in Cape Town?

Yes! For most people, I believe that hiring a car is the most convenient and cost-effective choice. 

If you aren’t a confident driver, and want to stay mostly central, you can always use Uber around Cape Town and take a tour or two when you need to go further afield. But I think that for most people, hiring a car is the best option when visiting Cape Town. 

I hope that this post was helpful! If you need more resources for planning your trip to Cape Town, you may also want to check out…

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