If you book your holiday through anyone except Disney directly, you'll probably have the option of hiring a car. But do you need to hire a car in Disney World?
The answer to this question lies in where you are staying and what you plan to do during your time in Orlando.
Is car hire needed from a Disney World hotel?
If you are staying in a Disney hotel and plan to spend most of your time in Walt Disney World, we really do not think it is necessary to rent a vehicle. You can get free transportation from the airport to your Disney hotel using Disney's Magical Express.
There is also free transportation from the Disney hotels to all the parks and Disney Springs. This might be via bus, boat, monorail, or the new Skyliner. It picks up at a maximum of every 20 minutes, from roughly an hour before park opening to park close and is monitored to make sure this happens (unless something goes wrong). Most of the time this is going to be quicker than if you drive yourself. The transportation pick up points display wait times, and it is now possible to view these on the My Disney Experience app too, meaning you know when it is coming and should not have long waits.
In addition, when you arrive at the parks via Disney transportation, you are near the entrance. If you chose to drive yourself, you could easily be parked some distance away, and may need to get the shuttle to the entrance. In the case of Magic Kingdom, you can only park at the Transportation and Ticket centre, and have to get the boat or monorail over to the park. Only the Disney buses / boats / monorails from the Disney hotels can deliver you right to the entrance of Magic Kingdom.
If you research the topic you'll find that there is a lot of debate about whether car rental or using Disney transport is the 'better' option. Aside from at Magic Kingdom where Disney transport is always better, it probably is personal choice, but there certainly is no need to hire a car, and at Magic & Wishes, we never do.
It is important to note, in case you read it elsewhere, that in 2019, if you have booked from the UK you will NOT be charged to park at your Disney hotel. If you book in the US, hotel parking is now an additional charge, but is not on UK 2019 holidays. However, from 2020, there will be a parking charge at your Disney hotel for UK visitors too. At Disney Value Resorts it is $13 per night, at Moderate Resorts it is $19 per night and at Deluxe and Deluxe Villa Resorts it is $24 per night. So for a 14 night stay at a deluxe resort you've got to budget for an additional $336, on top of your car hire fee! There is no charge for any Disney hotel guests to park at the Disney theme parks however.
If you are staying at a Disney hotel, it is worth noting that there is no complimentary transport outside of Walt Disney World. Meaning if you are planning to visit the other theme parks, including Universal, go shopping etc, you have to make your own way there. There are a few options - Uber and Lyft are our recommendations, but there is also taxis and pre-booked shared transfer, where you pay per person. Consider what this might cost you. Mears taxis are currently quoting $49 to go from Art of Animation to Universal, for example. If you are only doing this a couple of times, this may work out cheaper than car hire plus daily parking charges ($25 at Universal, for example). However if you plan to be out of Disney a lot, we'd definitely recommend hiring a car.
Is car hire needed outside of Disney World?
If you are not staying in a Disney hotel, the complimentary transport from most other hotels in the area tends to be much less frequent, and does not come with the advantage of dropping you right at the 'door', although (Magic Kingdom aside) the coach parking is usually pretty close. The likelihood is that you'll end up taking at least some taxis or ubers/lyfts during your stay, in which case car hire might be worth it. You may wish to compare the costs of taxis to the cost of hiring a car. You can get a quote on the Mears website. But remember to add your parking charges on top of your car hire. It is currently $25 per day for standard parking at a Disney World theme park (unless you are staying in a Disney hotel), and at Universal. Plus any hotel parking charges.
We love the transport at Disney - it is efficient and a big advantage to staying in a Disney hotel. Yet another thing we don't need to worry about when we stay in Walt Disney World. But if you can't take advantage of it, or have additional needs outside of Disney, car hire should certainly be considered.