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Death Valley is a mythical place in the United States. Every year, millions of tourists visit it. Summer is the hottest season, with temperatures sometimes exceeding 45 degrees Celsius.

If you’re planning to drive on Death Valley roads from June to September, you’ll need to choose your car carefully and take into account the nature of the terrain, as well as the heat.

Here are the tips I’ve learned and read about.

The special conditions of Death Valley must be taken into account!

Death Valley is a unique place in the world. Located in California, it holds the record for the highest temperature ever recorded on our planet: 56.7°C!

In summer, temperatures are almost unbearable, and the sun is merciless for travelers and cars alike!

The roads are long, winding and isolated, with very few service stations and refueling points. So it’s imperative to choose a vehicle suited to these extreme conditions.

The first thing to consider is the vehicle’s reliability. You don’t want to find yourself stranded in the middle of nowhere in sweltering heat. With rental cars, there are sometimes unpleasant surprises. On a trip to San Francisco, my brother had to turn back because of engine problems after an hour’s drive…

Given the specific features of Death Valley, I think it’s a good idea to drive a few dozen kilometers before entering the national park. It allows you to “test drive” your rental car.

Make sure the car is equipped with an excellent air-conditioning system, as you’re going to need it badly. Don’t even think of going to Death Valley in a convertible. Between the heat and the sand, your journey would become a living hell. Take a car with a roof.

death valley road
In Death Valley, there can be great distances between gas stations.

Fuel consumption is another crucial point. Distances in Death Valley are long and filling stations are rare. Choose an economical vehicle, or make sure the model you choose has a good range.

Finally, don’t forget comfort. You’re going to be spending a lot of time in your car, so make sure it’s comfortable and spacious, especially if you’re traveling with several people. SUV” models have the advantage of not transferring all the obstacles of the road into the passenger compartment. This makes them particularly pleasant to drive.

10 examples of car models ideal for driving in Death Valley in summer

To ease your search for the best rental car for summer driving in Death Valley, I’ve taken a look at the rental websites.

Here is a selection of 10 vehicles frequently offered in the United States and which seem to me to be appropriate for the place and the season:

  • Toyota Camry: This sedan is renowned for its reliability and fuel efficiency. It also offers a spacious, comfortable interior, ideal for long journeys.
  • Ford Escape: This SUV is a good compromise between space, comfort and fuel economy. It also has the advantage of a spacious trunk. If you’re passing through Death Valley on a road trip, this comes in handy.
  • Chevrolet Equinox: Another SUV with good fuel economy and plenty of interior space. It is equipped with many safety features, which is a plus for driving in difficult conditions.
  • Honda CR-V: This SUV is renowned for its reliability and fuel efficiency. It has a spacious, comfortable interior and plenty of storage space.
  • Hyundai Tucson: This SUV is a comfortable vehicle. It’s equipped with modern features that make driving a pleasure.
  • Subaru Outback: This crossover appeals to tourists looking for a comfortable ride. It’s equipped with all-wheel drive, an interesting feature when venturing onto less well-maintained roads.
  • Jeep Cherokee: If you’re looking for a bit more adventure and plans to take to the dirt roads, the Jeep Cherokee is an excellent option. It has good off-road performance while maintaining a high level of comfort.
  • Kia Sorento: This SUV has plenty of space, good fuel economy and a comfortable ride. It’s also very reliable.
  • Toyota RAV4: This compact SUV is renowned for its reliability, fuel economy and comfort.
  • Ford Explorer: If you’re traveling in a group or with a large family, the Ford Explorer is an excellent option. It offers plenty of space, good performance and a host of safety features.

Use this list of 10 models to find the right vehicle for you. However, this list is not exhaustive.

The SUV seems to me the best choice for driving in Death Valley in summer.

I should also point out that the vehicles will (almost) always be fitted with an automatic gearbox. Manual gearboxes are rare in the United States.

How much does it cost to rent a car in Death Valley?

I can’t give a precise amount, as factors such as the type of vehicle, whether the car is returned to the same agency, the rental city, the time of year, the rental company, all have a major impact.

However, here is a range of observed prices:

  • Economy cars (like a Toyota Yaris or Ford Fiesta): $40 to $65 per day. But I don’t recommend these cars for driving in Death Valley.
  • Mid-size sedans (like a Toyota Corolla or Honda Civic): $50 to $80 per day. These cars may be a little short on comfort for Death Valley in summer. But I drove one during our Death Valley crossing in October and it was sufficient.
  • Compact SUVs (like a Ford Escape or Toyota RAV4): $60 to $100 per day. A very good compromise
  • Intermediate to large SUVs (like a Ford Explorer or Chevrolet Tahoe): $75 to $120 per day or more. These larger, more comfortable SUVs are excellent choices.
  • All-terrain vehicles (such as a Jeep Wrangler): Around $75 to $140 per day. These vehicles are designed for rough terrain, so they’re great if you’re planning to drive off pavement.


Must-haves for driving in Death Valley

Now that we’ve reviewed some of the car models ideal for driving in Death Valley in summer, let’s look at the essential qualities your vehicle must possess to tackle this unforgiving desert.

death valley view
Drive carefully with a good car, and your experience will be magnificent!

Here are the ones that seem most important to me:

  • An efficient air-conditioning system: It’s non-negotiable. Death Valley heat can be deadly, and a properly functioning air conditioning system is your first line of defense.
  • A good range: With service stations dozens or even hundreds of kilometers apart, you don’t want to run out of gas. Make sure your vehicle has a good range, and fill up as soon as you can.
  • Tires in good condition: The roads are rough and it’s crucial to have tires in excellent condition. Check them before you leave, as well as the spare tire.
  • A reliable engine: As I mentioned earlier, you don’t want to find yourself stranded in Death Valley. Choose a vehicle with a reputation for reliability.
  • Space: You’ll need room for your luggage, water and food.

Where to rent a car for Death Valley?

Most people visiting Death Valley choose to rent a car in Las Vegas or Los Angeles. Both cities have a multitude of car rental agencies.

As for me, I had rented my car in San Francisco, as we visited Yosemite Park before going to Death Valley. Then I gave back my car in Las Vegas. If you’re going to do the same thing (return your car to a different rental agency), be sure to check the amount of the drop-off charge. Sometimes they’re free. Other times, they cost you several hundred dollars!

Here are 5 cities from which you can rent your car before driving in Death Valley:

  • Las Vegas: Just two hours away, this is the most popular starting point for a trip to Death Valley.
  • Los Angeles: If you have a little more time, you can choose to rent a car in Los Angeles. This will give you the opportunity to see a bit more of California along the way.
  • Reno, Nevada: Located about 6 hours away, Reno is another option for starting your trip. It’s especially convenient if you plan to visit other parts of Nevada or Northern California.
  • Phoenix, Arizona: a 7-hour drive away, Phoenix is a little more remote, but a viable option if you want to explore the American Southwest.
  • Bakersfield, California: At around 4 hours’ drive, Bakersfield is a closer option than Los Angeles or Phoenix. It’s not a big city, so fewer travelers depart from here.


Now that you’ve read all this advice, I can only wish you a wonderful experience. Prepare your route well, from GPS settings to stops, and don’t underestimate fatigue and the effects of the heat.


As a professional blogger, I take advantage of my flexible schedule to travel a lot. I haven’t been everywhere, but it’s on my list!