Travel

What Type of Vehicle to Rent in Yellowstone Country

Exploring Yellowstone Country and Yellowstone National Park is an adventure of a lifetime, filled with unparalleled landscapes, abundant wildlife, and breathtaking geothermal wonders. Depending on your itinerary, selecting the right vehicle is crucial to make the most of your trip. But not to worry, we’ve done the grunt work for you. Our Yellowstone Country Rental Car Guide will help you decide what type of vehicle to rent, considering factors like season, weather, road conditions, destination, budget, and accessibility. We'll also highlight major car rental companies and their locations relative to Yellowstone’s gateway communities.

Canyon Junction northbound sign

Summer: June to August

Ideal for standard sedans and SUVs. Weather is generally mild, and most roads are open.

Weather: Warm days and cool nights; occasional thunderstorms.

Road Conditions: Generally good, with all park roads open and well-maintained throughout the season. However, still regularly check NPS updates prior to visiting the park to ensure that there are no road closures. 

Recommended Vehicles:

  • SUV or Crossover: Ideal for families or groups—offering ample space and comfort—and those planning to venture off the main roads. some text
    •  Note that unpaved and backcountry roads require higher clearance vehicles. Consider a 4WD/AWD if planning to explore off-the-beaten-path areas.
  • Sedan or Compact Car: Affordable, fuel-efficient, and sufficiently spacious for most travelers.
  • Convertibles: Great for enjoying the scenic drives and mild weather, but definitely a dead giveaway that you’re a visiting tourist. Also keep in mind the potential for spontaneous changes in weather within the park and its neighboring communities. 

BUDGET TIP: Because summer is peak tourist season, you can often secure slightly better rates by reserving your rental car earlier in the year. 

Yellowstone's East Entrance Road

Fall: September to November

A versatile SUV or crossover is best as temperatures drop and early snow may occur.

Weather: Cooler temperatures, with the possibility of early snow in October.

Road Conditions: Good until mid-October; some roads begin to close by early November.

Recommended Vehicles:

  • SUV or Crossover: Safe and versatile to account for variable weather conditions.some text
    • Unpaved and backcountry roads require higher clearance vehicles.
  • Full-Size Car: More space for luggage and comfortable for longer drives.
  • Sedan: Suitable if snow is not yet prevalent.

BUDGET TIP: Fall offers shoulder season rates, often lower than summer prices.

Snow-covered road near Tower Junction

Winter: December to February

A 4WD or AWD vehicle is essential due to heavy snowfall and icy roads.

Weather: Cold, with heavy snowfall; temperatures can drop below freezing.

Road Conditions: Many park roads are closed; snow tires or chains may be required. The only entrance open to vehicles year-round is the North Entrance in Gardiner, MT. All other entrances close access to vehicles, but offer alternate modes of transportation such as snowmobiles, cross-country skiing, etc. 

Recommended Vehicles:

  • 4WD/AWD SUV: Essential for navigating snowy and icy roads.
  • Full-Size SUV: Offers extra space and stability in harsh conditions. Less safe than a vehicle with 4WD/AWD due to unforeseen black ice and other weather conditions.
  • Snowmobile: Offered by rental agencies in certain gateway communities. Allowed on specific park roads.

BUDGET TIP: Winter is off-peak, so rental rates can be quite affordable.

Spring views along the South Entrance road and Lewis River

Spring: March to May

Similar to fall, an SUV or crossover is recommended for variable conditions and possible late snow.

Weather: Variable, with snow lingering into April; mild and rainy in May.

Road Conditions: Some roads begin to open in April; conditions can be muddy.

Recommended Vehicles:

  • 4WD/AWD SUV: Suitable for late snowfall in early spring and muddy conditions.
  • SUV, Sedan or Crossover: Better for later spring as roads dry out. Handles variable weather and potential late snow. 

BUDGET TIP: Early spring offers less expensive, shoulder season rates; prices rise as summer approaches.

Budget-Friendly Options

The biggest budget-friendly tip we can offer is to secure lower rates by booking months in advance. Whether you’re in need of a 4WD SUV or a simple Economy Car, time does in fact save you money when it comes to your Yellowstone Country rental. 

Consider the following options when booking your vehicle: 

Economy or Compact Car: Great for solo travelers or couples looking to save money, especially in summer.

Mid-Size or Full-Size Car: Better for small families or groups, offering a balance between cost and functionality. More comfort and space, but still cheaper than a SUV or Crossover when navigating roads during peak season or traversing areas that are clear from snow or ice. 

SUV, Minivan, or Crossover: Ideal for larger groups with plenty of luggage. Provide ample space and comfort for long drives. Keep in mind that 4WD/AWD is essential for winter travel and rougher roads. While it may cost more upfront, these vehicles save you money in the long run by ideally preventing accidents that may be caused by treacherous road conditions in the off-season and shoulder seasons. 

Bundled Discounts: Look for group discounts or package deals with accommodations.

A group of bison surround a car as they walk along the road towards Lamar Valley

Major Car Rental Companies and Locations

Yellowstone National Park is surrounded by several gateway communities where you can find major car rental services. Here are the primary locations:

Gardiner, MT

The only entrance open to vehicles year-round, the North Entrance is one of the optimal routes to enter Yellowstone. Proximally located to the North Entrance, Gardiner’s downtown offers a small selection of rental options.

Rental companies located in downtown Gardiner:

  • Budget
  • Alamo
  • Enterprise

Bozeman, MT

Conveniently located between the park’s North Entrance and West Entrance, Bozeman’s city center and the Bozeman Yellowstone International Airport in Belgrade, provide a range of vehicle options suitable for any season.

Rental companies in Bozeman:

  • Hertz
  • Enterprise
  • Alamo
  • Avis
  • Budget

Cody, WY

About 53 miles from the East Entrance, Cody’s Yellowstone Regional Airport and charming downtown offer rentals that cater to both summer and winter needs.

Rental companies in Cody: 

  • Hertz
  • Avis
  • Enterprise

Jackson, WY

Approximately 60 miles from the South Entrance, Jackson Hole Airport and downtown Jackson are convenient pick-up points with diverse rental options.

Rental companies in Jackson: 

  • Hertz
  • Enterprise
  • Alamo
  • Avis
  • Budget

West Yellowstone, MT

Nestled at the western gateway of Yellowstone, West Yellowstone offers easy (seasonal) rental pick-up within town and from West Yellowstone Airport. Located only a few miles from the West Entrance, this destination is a swift and perfect rental destination for summer visitors.

Rental companies in West Yellowstone:

  • Avis
  • Budget

Note that there are currently no major car rental companies based directly in Cooke City, MT (located at the Northeast Entrance of Yellowstone). However, visitors can rent vehicles from nearby locations such as Cody, WY, and drive to the Northeast Entrance. For those planning winter visits, be aware that the Northeast Entrance is closed to vehicles in the off-season and ensure that your vehicle is equipped for snowy conditions as this area can experience significant snowfall.

Waterfall along the East Entrance Road

Accessibility

In preparation for your trip, be sure to do the appropriate research when it comes to necessary rental car features. In general, larger vehicles like SUVs provide easier access for those with mobility issues. However, for more specific needs, it’s important to check in advance as to whether such necessities are an option at each destination.

Wheelchair-accessible vans are typically available from major rental companies upon request. However, for special requests, such as SUVs with running boards or vehicles equipped with hand controls, it’s advised to contact local rental companies in advance to ensure your vehicle meets accessibility requirements.

Choosing the right vehicle for your Yellowstone adventure can greatly enhance your experience. With major car rental companies located conveniently around the park’s gateway communities, you can find the perfect vehicle for your needs and ensure a safe and enjoyable journey. Plan ahead, book early, and explore the breathtaking beauty of Yellowstone Country with confidence on the right set of wheels.

CONNECT WITH US

Let us help you plan
your  adventure

At Yellowstone National Park Lodges, you’re invited to discover or rediscover the magic of the world’s first national park, Yellowstone. As proud stewards of the park and this truly extraordinary American wonder

PLAN YOUR TRIP

ABOUT

GETTING HERE

OUR BLOG

ABOUTSTAYDINEACTIVITIESREAL ESTATESHOP LOCALYELLOWSTONE MAP