SD › Tampa › Tampa Airport Car Rental
Updated: September 27, 2022
A luxury BMW SUV for rent through Enterprise at the Tampa airport.
Tampa Airport Car Rentals
My recommendation: At Tampa airport, picking up and returning a rental car is relatively quick and easy. For the best prices, Book a car in advance at the Tampa airport.
Tip: If you are looking for a large family-sized minivan or a luxury car, then book in advance to get the best selection.
Rental cars available at Tampa airport: Ace • Alamo • Avis • Budget • Dollar • Enterprise • Fox Rent-A-Car • Hertz • National • NextCar • Payless • Sixt • Thrifty
Tampa International Airport is shaped a bit like an egg, with the Main (or Landside) Terminal at the center with ticketing, baggage claim, and short-term parking. Five Airside concourses radiate from the Landside Terminal. Airside A, C, E, and F are where passengers catch domestic and international flights, while Airside B is a sorting facility for remote bag checks. Airside D will serve both domestic and international flights, though construction has been delayed until 2025. The lovely Tampa Airport Marriott is attached to the north end of the Main Terminal, while long-term parking is adjacent to the south side.
The Rental Car Center sits immediately south of the airport. The Sky Connect Train links the Landside Terminal to the Rental Car Center . All major car rental companies are represented here in this multi-level facility. On the ground level outside, two public bus systems have their airport stops at the Rental Car Center (more on buses later).
Getting to the Rental Car Center from the Airport
To reach the Rental Car Center from your Airside concourse, follow the overhead “Shuttle to Terminal” signs. Baggage Claim and some Ground Transportation are also found at the main terminal.
The shuttle is accessed through two sets of sliding doors. There is only the smallest gap between the floor of the concourse and the floor of the shuttle, making it easy for wheelchairs and strollers to board.
A closer look at the sign above the shuttle platform showing its route in English and in icons: a suitcase (baggage claim), taxi and bus (ground transportation), a car with a key on top (rental cars), and two people with one behind a desk (airline counters).
Inside the shuttle, there are a few seats reserved for elderly and pregnant people and persons with disabilities at each end of the shuttle (not visible here), but most of the shuttle is designed for standing only with floor-to-ceiling handrails.
The shuttle arrives on the third floor of the Main Terminal. Follow the overhead signs to reach the Rental Car Center (up one floor), located in the same area as public buses and economy parking. Walking in the same general direction, you’ll find baggage claim, taxis, and shuttles. Note that the Tampa Airport Marriott is also accessible through the Main Terminal.
If you have luggage to pick up, follow the signs down to the first floor to the appropriate Baggage Claim belt, whether your airline is listed in the blue or red sections. Taxis and shuttles are on the same floor as baggage claim. If you don’t have luggage, follow the signs leading up to the train.
Elevator bank to the blue Baggage Claim area.
Escalators to Baggage Claim are next to the elevators.
Heading down to Baggage Claim, there is an electronic sign showing where each flight’s luggage will be arriving. There are more signs like this on the Baggage Claim level.
Luggage carts are available to rent for $6 at the bottom of the escalator and elsewhere in Baggage Claim. Carts can be returned in the garages of the Rental Car Center and near other ground transportation pickup points.
After retrieving luggage, continue following the overhead signs toward Rental Cars. The signs will lead to an escalator and elevators.
Take the elevator or escalator up. This will lead to the fourth floor, which is the boarding level of the Main Terminal Sky Connect Station. The Sky Connect links the airport to the Rental Car Center, Economy Parking, and Public Buses. The train is always free to ride.
The Sky Connect Station at the Main Terminal as it appears from the elevators coming from the blue side Baggage Claim. The red side elevators and escalators can be seen on the opposite wall, as well as a digital display of flight information.
Riders lining up for the next train. The station, Main Terminal, is labeled on a black sign above the boarding gates for the train, as well as the destinations in the order in which the train stops. First is the Economy Parking Station, then the Rental Car Center Station. The smaller white displays show the train’s final destination, the Rental Car Center…
As well as information on the timing of the train, in this case, every three minutes.
Once on board, a similar sign will show the Sky Connect route. The current station, Main Terminal, is shown in yellow. The next stop, Economy Parking, is shown in large type at the top and in black on the bottom center. The final destination, Rental Car Center, is listed in type and shown on the bottom left of the screen.
The Sky Connect train is designed mostly for standing riders with handrails overhead, along the walls, and running from floor to ceiling. There is a designated area for riders in wheelchairs with a sign marking the space on the wall and on the floor. Like the previous shuttle, the platform and floor of the train car are level with each other with minimal gaps between, making it easy for wheelchair users and strollers to board.
In addition, there is priority seating at both ends of each train car reserved for the elderly, pregnant, and persons with disabilities, denoted with signs above the backs of the seats.
Enjoy the ride. The entire trip from the Main Terminal to Economy Parking to the Rental Car Center takes less than five minutes. The above-ground train passes by runways and over small roads and parking lots. The front of the train has the best view.
The first stop on the route is Economy Parking, shown on the display inside the train in type, as well as the middle block on the bottom of the screen turning yellow. “Economy Parking Station” is also written on the wall of the station. It may seem obvious, but a lot of people heading to the Rental Car Center accidentally get off at this station, so stay put.
The display after leaving the Economy Parking Station as the train approaches the Rental Car Center Station.
Exterior view of the fourth floor (top floor) of the Rental Car Center, as seen from the Sky Connect train.
The train arrives directly in front of the rental counters inside the Rental Car Center. As soon as passengers get off the train, there is a sign pointing the way to various points, such as the Public Bus, Off Airport Parking, and Off Airport Car Rentals, most of which are found to the right behind the train.
Picking Up a Car at the Rental Car Center
The Sky Connect train drops passengers off on the top floor of the Rental Car Center, directly in front of the Enterprise rental counter (shown in the previous photo). Payless, Budget, and Avis will be on the right, along with the restrooms, elevators, and escalators down to the various rental car garages. Also to the right are the Remote Bag Check area and the way to Public Buses and shuttles to Off Airport Car Rentals (more on these things later).
And a combined counter for Sixt, Fox Rent-A-Car, NextCar, and Ace. At the far end of the hall are more restrooms, elevators, and escalators to the rental car garages.
Also, to the left are vending machines and two electronic information boards showing flight and gate information. This is more important to know if you are looking for flight information when you come back to return your car, but do not always trust these machines.
They work by having passengers scan their tickets below the screen, they supposedly display the info for that person’s flight, including the location of the gate and a map of that particular Airside concourse. However, this was the display shown after scanning a ticket to Miami. It’s better to check the traditional flight boards, which show all departing flights and their appropriate gates.
After checking in at the rental car counter, head toward the escalators or elevators at either end of the rental counter hall. The escalators lead down to three floors of garage space with dedicated spaces for each car rental company. Elevators stop at all floors of the garage.
The first set of escalators leads to Level 1 of the rental center garage, where you’ll find the pickup points for Enterprise, Alamo, and National.
The customer service center for National on Level 1 of the garage.
Upgraded car selection at National in the foreground and at Alamo in the back left. Both have an excellent collection of luxury cars and SUVs.
In family-friendly Tampa, most car rental companies will have a wide range of minivans, passenger vans, and SUVs. These are minivans at Alamo.
In the Enterprise area of the Level 1 garage, here is an SUV in the foreground and a Jeep, and a sporty convertible in the background.
Full-sized vans in the Enterprise lot.
Enterprise also has plenty of high-end vehicles on offer.
From the rental counters, take the elevator or middle escalator to reach the Level 2 garage for Hertz, Thrifty, and Dollar.
A selection of luxury cars at Hertz, including a Mercedes SUV, BMW coupe, and a Chevy Suburban, which seats 7 to 9 passengers.
More affordable compact cars available at Hertz.
Dollar and Thrifty share a customer service area in the Level 2 garage and offer a wide range of sedans, minivans, and SUVs.
A helpful sign on Level 3 directs riders to the correct areas of the garage. The Fox Rent-A-Car and NextCar customer service areas are visible here.
Avis, Budget, and Payless share a customer service counter, the white kiosk seen here (though the signs are at an angle and hard to read in this pic).
A sports car, two convertibles, a sedan, and an extended cab truck available for rent at Sixt.
A small selection of car seats in different styles at Sixt. All rental car companies will have car seats for an additional fee. Selection and styles will vary from company to company.
The NextCar area of the Level 3 garage with sedans and SUVs.
If you rented a luggage cart from Baggage Claim earlier, there are plenty of places to return the carts on all levels of the garage.
Returning a Car to the Rental Car Center
The Rental Car Center is well-marked from any of the main routes back to the airport. Follow the signs along the roadside.
As you approach the Rental Car Center, the signs will show which garage level to return your car to.
Inside the garage, follow the arrows marked “Return” painted on the floor. Solid lines on each side mark the lanes.
Parking attendants are there to help complete your return. They may be in a uniform as shown here, or in a safety vest as shown in the previous photo. Generally, returns are easy. Just park, take your luggage, and leave the keys in the car. The attendant may check the mileage and gas before you go, but not with every rental.
Cars, SUVs, and vans parked in the return lanes.
Heading back to the airport, there will be several signs reminding drivers to leave their keys in the car. Often, there will be a drop box for keys, so you don’t have to walk all the way back. From the garage, follow the overhead signs to “Terminal” to reach the Sky Connect back to the airport.
Head through the sliding glass doors of the Rental Car Center to move toward the train and terminal.
Take the escalator back up to the area where the rental car counters are to reach the train to the terminal…
Or take the elevators. They are right behind the escalators.
On the main floor, head toward the Avis counter. From here, turn right to reach the Sky Connect train back to the terminal.
Right before you reach the Sky Connect train, there is an area labeled “Remote Bag Check.” This is an awesome service at the Tampa Airport, especially for those in a hurry or for those with a lot of luggage. Use the kiosks to print your bag tags, then drop your bags at the counter here, then board the train. No need to drag a ton of luggage through the terminal.
The Sky Connect Train is along the white tiled wall through the sliding doors.
The train boarding area as it looks from the Rental Car Center.
Off Airport Car Rentals in Tampa
For car rentals off site, still take the Sky Connect Train to the Rental Car Center. From there, follow signs for Off Airport Rental to the right to reach the shuttles for off airport car rentals.
From Avis (on the right here) walk behind the train and past the Remote Bag Check area.
Take the elevator down to the first floor. There will also be signs for Off Airport Parking and the Public Bus.
Head through the glass doors outside and you’ll find shuttle stop for the off-airport rental car companies. The shuttle picks up at the closest curbside spot to the doors under the sign that says “Drop Off/Pick Up.” This is the same spot that Off Airport Parking shuttles also use and is in front of the Public Bus stops.
View from behind the Off Airport Rental Car shuttle stop facing the Rental Car Center.
The patch of grass in front of the shuttle stop is the Pet Relief Area.
More Transportation Options at the Tampa Airport
The Public Bus stops serving Tampa International Airport are directly behind the Off Airport Rental Car and Off Airport Parking shuttle stop shown above. From the Rental Car Center, follow the signs for the Public Bus past the Remote Bag Check area (here on the left) and the Sky Connect Train (here on the right). The Avis rental counter will be behind you (not in this photo). The elevators to the first floor are seen here straight ahead in blue.
From the first floor, proceed out the doors past the shuttle stop to find the public buses.
Routes 30, 32, and 10 of the HART system (Hillsborough Area Regional Transit) all stop at the airport. The stops are lined up back-to-back at the curbside. These buses all serve the Tampa area.
Timetables and route maps of all bus lines are displayed on the fence running parallel with the curb. Tickets can be purchased on the bus, on the HART app, from GOHART transit centers, or from Ace or Amscot check cashing locations. Fares are $2 for an adult one-way ticket, $4 for an all-day unlimited pass, or as 3-day, 10-day, or 31-day passes. More info can be found on the official website
More detailed bus schedule information for each line is also on display at each bus stop here.
Also, here is a larger map showing an overview of the entire HART transit system, including local and express buses, Neighborhood Flex Vans, the Metro Rapid BRT, and the TECO streetcar.
Taxis and Hotel Shuttles
Taxis are easy to hire at the Tampa Airport. From the gates, head down to Level 1, where you’ll find Baggage Claim and Ground Transportation. Head out of any of the four corners of the Baggage Claim area to reach the Taxi pickup areas. Hotel Shuttles pick up from the same areas as taxis.
Look for the sliding glass doors with signs for Taxis and Hotel Shuttles and head outside. (Pardon the blurry photo.)
Taxis pick up at the curbside immediately outside of the glass doors. Yellow Cab and United Cab companies both serve the airport and offer flat rates to downtown Tampa at $25. For other destinations, fares begin at $2.50 plus $2.40 per mile, with a minimum charge of $15 for airport rides.
Continue walking under the covered pickup area to reach Hotel Shuttles at the opposite end.
Aside from renting a car, the easiest way to travel from the Tampa Airport is via rideshare. Head down to the first floor for Baggage Claim and Ground Transportation.
Literally, walk out any door there, and your car will pick you up. Be sure to specify which door you are waiting at for the driver, in this case, Door 127.
Sample confirmation screen from Uber (driver identification redacted) with pickup instructions.
Another sample confirmation screen, this time from Lyft (driver info removed).
Tampa Airport Hotel
For early departures or late arrivals, make your travel day much easier by staying at the Tampa Airport Marriott seen here from the SkyConnect train.
The hotel is attached to the airport and within walking distance from the main terminal, though a complimentary hotel shuttle is also available. This is the hotel entrance, as seen from the airport terminal.
Closer to the lobby. The Tampa Airport Marriott offers a pool, gym, two restaurants, a bar, and a café. Room service is available during restaurant hours (6:30 to 10:30 a.m.)
The reception desk. The hotel also offers rooms for day use, ideal for long layovers or unexpected delays. All rooms are soundproofed and offer one king-sized bed or two queen beds.
Get All New Content• My Travel Newsletter