From pricing to the return process, choice of cars, and the cost of an additional driver, here is what to consider when choosing the best car rental company.
Whether you’re planning on renting a car for a road trip or looking forward to an overseas trip, car rental is an important part of your plans. Today, there are dozens of local car rental companies as well as national and international car rental options. Finding the best car rental company means knowing what questions to ask so that you’ll get the car you want. Here are the 5 questions to ask before choosing a car rental company.
It’s a given that you don’t want to pay more than you have to, but when you compare prices, remember to check taxes, fees, and the cost of ‘extras.’ Some car rental companies can add as much as 100% of the rental price in processing fees. It’s also likely that they’ll try to sell you extra insurance that you don’t need, so beware of optional add-on costs.
The base price for car rental varies wildly, from an average of $30 per day through Dollar, $35 with Budget, and $42 per day with Alamo up to over $60 per day from Avis. Although it’s often tempting to go with the best-known international names, smaller, discount car rental companies like Payless and Dollar often offer conditions that are just as good with much lower prices. The downside is that they tend to have smaller branch networks and can sell out much faster during busy periods.
When you rent your car, bear in mind that you’ll find very different rates for different rental periods. For example, if you’re renting a car from Hertz for 5 days, it can end up cheaper overall to pay for a week’s rental than to pay the daily rate for 5 days. You can also access large discounts when you book online in advance. Budget offers up to 35% off the base price for online advance reservations.
Additional Driver Costs
Don't forget to compare the costs of extras such as an add-on driver. Most companies have fairly standard rates, with Enterprise and National charging $12 per day per additional driver and Avis and Alamo charging $13 per day, but there are some ways to waive it entirely. Enterprise won’t charge an additional driver’s fee as long as you both live at the same address, Budget waives it for co-workers traveling together who rent a car on their corporate account, and National doesn’t charge for spouses, partners, and immediate family members if you’re in its membership program.
Check Out and Returns Process
One of the biggest frustrations of renting a car is having to wait for ages for your car to be available at the rental lot, or worrying about missing your flight thanks to the never-ending returns process. Many rental car companies now use technology to speed up the process at both ends of the rental experience so that you can skip the frustration. Avis uses wireless satellite technology to enable customers to choose their car in the rental lot and unlock it themselves without waiting for a representative to be free. National also permits loyal customers to skip the counter and choose their own car through the app, while Thrifty invites customers to subscribe to the online check-in system that lets you plug in your name and reservation information before getting your car. Alamo gets a lot of positive reviews for its returns app, which speeds up the process of returning your car at the end of your trip and takes away any worries about missing your flight.
Super Short-Term or Long-Term Rentals
Typical car rental periods range from a few days up to a couple of weeks, but some companies cater to customers that need extra long or extra short-term rentals. Hertz and Sixt both offer a Multi-Month program that gives discounts to customers who take a car for over a month. Enterprise has both long-term and super-short term discounts. The Month or More plan gives increasingly bigger discounts as your rental period gets longer. It also offers Enterprise CarShare, which allows you to pay an application fee of about $20, a $50 annual membership fee, and then rent by the hour as well as by the day. The cost of gas is included.
Types of Cars Available
Renting a car for vacation doesn’t just mean choosing the lowest cost. Of course, it’s important to rent a car that has enough space for all of you and all of your luggage, but be aware that many car rental companies try to make their cars seem smaller than they are so that you’ll upgrade to a bigger—and more expensive—model. One trick is to rent the smallest car available. The chances are good that the company won’t have any more of that model on the lot and will have to upgrade you to a bigger car for no extra charge. You can always pay to upgrade in the branch if they call your bluff.
Some car rental places now offer luxury or supercars for hire. The Hertz Dream Collection, Enterprise Exotic Car Collection, Avis Prestige, and Sixt Luxury Cars all give you the opportunity to drive Jaguars, Mercedes, Rolls Royce, and Bentleys. Not every location offers supercars, although you’ll find them at branches in the US and the UK for all 4 companies. Hertz Dream Collection is also available in many countries in Europe, Enterprise Exotic Cars can be found across Canada as well as in Switzerland, and Sixt Luxury Cars can be rented in Asia, Australia, and South America as well as the US and Europe. There are extra conditions for renting a luxury car, too. These vary between companies, but you can expect to have to leave a good-sized deposit and to be over 30.
Rent a Car Today!
Choose between price ranges, car models, the length of your rental term, and additional driver fees to pick the car rental company that has the best terms and conditions for your needs. Whether you’ve always wanted to drive a Rolls Royce or are eager to save money on your road trip vacation rental, you can pick the best car rental company for you.