If driving from London to Brighton you should plan on a journey of just over 50 miles if driving from central London, and a journey time of about 90 minutes, depending on the traffic.
In London you take the A23 south until you reach the M25 motorway junction when the A23 becomes the M23. The M23 then goes part of the way to Brighton before reverting to being the A23 for the last part of the journey. If driving from east or west London, it can be quicker to take the shortest route to the M25, then travel around the M25 and take the M23 exit to Brighton. Always try to check road conditions as the M25 is notorious for traffic delays.
Renting a car just to go from London to Brighton is not necessary. Going by train is much easier. Only consider driving to Brighton if you already have a hire car and plan to visit other places too. You will pay several pounds to park all day in Brighton, and as the city is quite small and you can see everything on foot, think twice before driving to Brighton from London.
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