We find the 10 best options, so you can make informed decisions on tons of products and services.
From pricing and the return process to car selection and the cost of an additional driver, there are several factors to consider when choosing the best car rental company. Whether you're planning a road trip or an overseas adventure, renting a car plays a significant role in your travel plans. Today, you have a plethora of choices, including local car rental companies, as well as national and international options. To ensure you get the vehicle you desire, it's important to ask the right questions. Here are five key questions to consider before selecting a car rental company.
The base price for car rentals can vary significantly, though the industry average has increased in recent years following the pandemic.
Dollar offers an average of $30 per day, Budget charges $35, and Alamo comes in at $42 per day. On the higher end, Avis charges over $60 per day. While it may be tempting to choose well-known international brands, smaller discount rental companies like Payless and Dollar often provide comparable conditions at much lower prices. Remember that these smaller companies may have fewer branches and can sell out quickly during peak periods.
Naturally, you want to pay the right amount when renting a car. However, when comparing prices, consider taxes, fees, and the cost of "extras." Some car rental companies tack on hefty processing fees, amounting to as much as 100% of the rental price. Furthermore, they may try to upsell unnecessary insurance coverage, so be cautious of optional add-on expenses.
When renting a car, keep in mind that rates can differ based on the rental duration. For example, if you rent a car from Hertz for five days, it might be more cost-effective to pay for a full week instead of the daily rate for five days. Additionally, significant discounts are often available for online bookings made in advance. Budget, for instance, offers up to a 35% discount off the base price for reservations made online ahead of time.
Certain credit cards also provide discounts or additional insurance coverage if you charge the rental to that card. You can also get benefits, including rewards points and free rental days, through a car rental company's loyalty program. Avis Preferred members, for instance, earn a minimum of 100 points every rental and receive exclusive monthly email offers. Check a program's terms and conditions to see what benefits they offer.
Remember to compare the costs associated with extras like adding another driver. Most companies have standardized rates for this service. Enterprise and National charge $12 per day per additional driver, while Avis and Alamo charge $13 per day. However, there are ways to avoid this fee entirely. Enterprise, for instance, waives the additional driver fee if both drivers reside at the same address. Budget eliminates the fee for co-workers traveling together who rent a car through their corporate account. National, on the other hand, does not charge for spouses, partners, and immediate family members if they are part of its membership program.
One of the most frustrating aspects of renting a car is the long wait times for your vehicle to be available at the rental lot or the anxiety of potentially missing your flight due to a lengthy returns process. Fortunately, many rental car companies now utilize technology to expedite these processes, minimizing frustration.
Avis employs wireless satellite technology, allowing customers to select and unlock their chosen car without having to wait for a representative. National offers loyal customers the convenience of bypassing the counter and using their app to select their preferred vehicle. Thrifty provides an online check-in system, allowing customers to input their name and reservation details in advance. This system saves time when picking up the car. Alamo receives numerous positive reviews for its returns app, which streamlines the car return process at the end of your trip, eliminating concerns about missing your flight.
Car rental durations typically span from 24 hours to a few days to a couple of weeks, but certain companies cater to customers with specific needs for longer or shorter terms. Hertz and Sixt provide a Multi-Month program that offers discounts to customers renting a car for over a month. Enterprise, on the other hand, offers both long-term and super-short-term discounts.
Enterprise's Month or More plan offers increasingly significant discounts as the rental period extends. Additionally, Enterprise CarShare is available, allowing you to pay an application fee of approximately $20 and an annual membership fee of $50. With this program, you can rent a car by the hour as well as by the day, and the cost of gas is included.
Renting a car for your vacation entails more than just selecting the cheapest option. While it's crucial to choose a vehicle with sufficient space for you and your luggage, it's worth noting that many car rental companies employ tactics to make their cars appear smaller, encouraging you to upgrade to a larger—and pricier—model. One strategy is to rent the smallest car available. Chances are high that the company will not have any more vehicles of that specific model, resulting in a complimentary upgrade to a larger car. If they call your bluff, you can always choose to pay for an upgrade at the rental branch.
Furthermore, some car rental establishments now offer luxury or supercars for hire. The Hertz Dream Collection, Enterprise Exotic Car Collection, Avis Prestige, and Sixt Luxury Cars provide opportunities to drive prestigious brands such as Jaguars, Mercedes, Rolls Royce, and Bentleys.
While not all locations offer supercars, all four companies have branches in the US and the UK where you can find them. The Hertz Dream Collection is also available in several European countries, Enterprise Exotic Cars can be found throughout Canada and Switzerland, and Sixt Luxury Cars are rentable in Asia, Australia, South America, the US, and Europe. It's important to note that renting a luxury car typically involves additional conditions. These requirements may vary among companies, but expect to leave a substantial deposit and be over 30 years old to qualify.
Choose between price ranges, car models, the length of your rental term, and additional driver fees to pick the car rental company with 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.