When you travel to different destinations far from home, there’s a lot to consider and plan. You need a way to get to your destination as well as a place to stay, and you can’t forget about transportation while you’re out and about. A rental car is often the perfect solution. You can rent a car of any kind and any size for travel or to get around in the city. But in order to find the perfect rental car for your needs, you need to choose the right car rental company. Every car rental company offers something different, whether it’s a different lineup of vehicles, pricing, availability, or even customer service. Fortunately, choosing the best car rental company is as easy as following our buying guide below.›
The Best Car Rental Companies
Our top pick should come as no surprise, because time and time again, Enterprise Rent-A-Car has proven to be the most effective and affordable car rental service in the United States, the U.K., and Canada. They boast more than 6,000 locations, self-service kiosks, and a team of customer service representatives that plenty of other companies could learn from.
Enterprise typically has a wide selection of four-door cars and five-seater SUVs in stock. It can get a bit dodgy if you’re traveling with the family and need a minivan, but calling ahead of time should resolve this issue. They’ll be revered by many of us who have used them for their keen ability to handle complex issues. You’re paying good money for your rental; the last thing you should be met with is a rep who can’t solve your problem for you.
Last but not least, their packages for unlimited mileage, out-of-state travel, and multi-renter pricing gives us something to be thankful for. It should be noted as an honorable mention that their airport shuttle service is also extremely courteous and usually on-time to bring you from the terminal to your car rental in as little time as possible.
- Professional, respectful customer service representatives
- Historically low rates at airport locations
- Inexpensive vehicle upgrade package options
- Self-service kiosks in many locations for faster pick-up
- Top-notch airport shuttle services to the car’s location
Hertz is a larger company than Enterprise, with more locations and vehicles in their stock, but they still fell a few notches short of the coveted number one spot. Outside of the race on this list, Hertz is a fantastic company to rent a car from. Not only do you get a wide selection of compact cars, but you’re also going to get a quicker drop-off option when your trip is all said and done. Hertz offers airport shuttle services and boasts a well-rounded customer service team that really makes you feel like a valued customer.
But the proof is in the pudding. When the niceties and lobby chat are all said and done, you’re behind the wheel of a car that’s repeatedly tested for performance, and always reliable. Hertz also has an entire list of consistent coupons and discounts available on their site, so you don’t have to hunt around for deals quite as often. You can even transfer the rewards points you earn and give them to your father or brother if they need to rent a car and need a helping hand.
- Receive or transfer reward points to other Hertz members
- Wide selection of discounts and coupons readily available
- Good selection of low-cost four-door cars
- Nearly 10,000 locations across the globe
- Fast drop-off options available
National Car Rental has a lot to compete with (just look at our top two picks), especially since they only have 1,500 locations across the globe. That means they have to step it up and offer a unique service, one that has distinct benefits over their competition. They hit the nail on the head, and you get to benefit from it. Their loyalty program is fairly basic, but beyond that, they already offer some of the lowest daily rental prices across the nation. Their online configuration lets you get a bit more intimate with the vehicle you’re looking to rent.
Customer service isn’t a simple job, but it’s one that requires flawless execution. National Car Rental runs into more logistics problems than Enterprise or Hertz, but their expertly-trained staff is ready for problem management, and always ensures that you’ll get the best possible experience with them. Even if you find negative reviews for NCR online, you’ll still find that just about everyone can agree on the quality of their customer service team. As an added bonus, they’re also a lot less strict about cancellation windows, and far more forgiving than larger rental companies.
- Over 1,500 locations globally
- Numerous promotions that give you multiple free rental days
- Top-notch customer service team
- Some of the lowest prices nationwide
- Better cancellation windows than most competitors
Alamo is the underdog in this competition. They offer excellent service, but their locations are limited: there’s only 250 locations across the United States. If you ask us, that’s 250 chances to be a part of their customer base. They take pride in positivity, and extend that ideal to their customer service team, which comes out in everything they do. Alamo has a lot to keep up with. They’re up against Hertz and Enterprise, brands that most people trust and understand.
That’s why they give you advanced perks if you side with their service. While their loyalty program is fairly basic, you get an automatic 5 percent discount for booking your car online, and daily rates that rival nationwide averages. Just about all of their locations are near airports, but if you happen to rent from a standalone location, they’ll use their shuttle service to pick you up from nearby and bring you to the office to rent your vehicle. That’s a huge bonus when you obviously don’t have a vehicle to get there on your own.
- Online check-in option from your phone saves you time
- Immediate discount for renting your car online
- Competitive rates against the national average
- Pick-up service, even if you’re not at an airport location
Budget is a hybrid type of car rental service. You can rent trucks, you can rent compact cars, but they also have a wide variety of SUVs and minivans available on their website. Budget’s team is dedicated to customer service, but they also put as many options as possible on their online booking platform so you won’t have to spend time talking to representative in store. For a smaller rental service, budget has an impressive and responsive site that makes it far easier to book your car than even we thought possible.
Apart from their selection, you get a 10% discount for extended (monthly) rentals. Discounts are also available for veterans, as well as AARP members and many other programs that have partnered with Budget. For us, it comes down to the simple things: good car, reasonable price, great customer service. Budget hits every target, all for an average of 8% lower costs than the national average.
- Extensive discounts (Military, AARP, etc.)
- Lower rates for paying upfront during an online booking
- 10% discount for monthly rentals
- Wide variety of vehicle types, not just compact cars
Last but not least, we have Avis. We initially expected them to rank higher when we started going through our list, but even so, they are still poised as an excellent service for renting a car. If you’re going to grab a week-long rental, Avis offers some of the best deals. It’s their one-day rates that aren’t too competitive with the rest of our list, but they make up for it elsewhere. If you’re a loyalty member and you upgrade to Preferred Plus, you’ll receive complimentary upgrades.
Avis also has a decent amount of locations, as well as a very low cost to add an additional driver. If you’re traveling with your spouse or sibling, they’ll be able to drive the vehicle as well for as little as an additional $13 at sign-in. Avis also offers pick-up services in both their standalone and airport locations, so you’ll never be left without a set of wheels. No more expensive cab rides to get to the rental place.
- Some of the best weekly rates in the country
- Free upgrades with Preferred Plus membership
- More than 1,900 locations nationwide
- Pick-up services available
- Low additional driver fee
Best Car Rental Companies FAQ
They’re the best of the best, but there’s still more to know before you pick up the phone or rent a car online. In fact, renting online has become the number one choice thanks to no-hassle pricing and a myriad of benefits and discounts that are available to most car renters. Let’s go over the best car rental prices, the best car rental deals, and get you on the road before the day is done.
How We Chose the Best Car Rental Companies
There are a lot of car rental companies to choose from, and making a decision about who you’ll rent from isn’t easy. What features or benefits are the best and most important? Is price a factor? Should you worry about extras like insurance and fuel? Below we help you weed through the various car rental companies available to find the best of the bunch.
Every car rental company has a different focus as well as different advantages and disadvantages. If you’re hoping to find one that’s worth your money and your business, you’ll want to look for certain features. The following features are what make a car rental company strong in both quality and capability.
Customer service is the cornerstone of any business, but it’s particularly important when you’re renting a car. You need to trust in the company you’re choosing, and you need to ensure it offers vehicles that are affordable and reliable. While many big-name car rental brands have long histories of strong customer service, some companies are better than others. Make sure to read reviews online about different companies’ customer service. How do they treat customers when there are problems? Do they work to resolve them? Contact the companies and ask questions too. You can see firsthand how you’re treated as a prospective renter.
An Easy-to-Use Website
Today, every business should have an online presence, and it should make it easy for customers to use its services online. Car rental companies should have websites that are easy to browse and easy to use. Look for companies that have accessible websites you can use both on your computer and your mobile devices. Do they make it easy to search for vehicles? Is booking straightforward and simple? Clear, concise bookings and an easy-to-use website help make car rental companies stand out. It’s also a sign of good service.
Locations and Business Hours
There’s nothing more frustrating than renting a car and discovering the company is closed when you arrive at your destination. Many rental car companies operate during normal business hours, but what are you supposed to do if your flight lands outside of these hours? You need a car rental company that’s either open 24/7 or one that allows you to pick up your rental even after the business is closed for the day. Some companies allow for after-hours pickups, while some greet customers all day and night.
You also want to consider where a rental car company is located. Companies that allow you to pick up your rental car right at the airport are convenient and ideal. Others are a short distance away, but they offer shuttles so you can easily pick up your vehicle. Make sure to look at rental locations before choosing a company to make picking up and dropping off your rental car easy.
Want to get great value out of your rental cars? You’ll want to find a car rental company that offers a loyalty program. Many companies offer these programs for customers, and they offer points for every car rental you book. You can use those points to get free car rentals, discounts, or even free upgrades on future bookings. A quality car rental company will offer a loyalty program so you’re getting solid value for the money you spend. Look into the loyalty programs offered by the top companies and see what they provide. Rewards like coupons, upgrades, and even additional benefits can be very valuable, especially if you’re a frequent traveler.
How Much Does it Cost to Rent a Car?
Rental car prices can vary significantly. The prices you’ll find at different car rental companies depend on a few factors, including the location, the time of year, the type of car you book, and demand.
On average, renting a standard four-door sedan in the U.S. costs approximately $80 per day. That price doesn’t include taxes, fees, and insurance. Renting a bigger or more specialized vehicle will drive the price up, adding anywhere from $20 to $30 more per day to your cost. And during the busiest seasons of the year, such as holiday weekends, prices can increase due to higher demand.
You may be able to find discounts and deals throughout the year. Prices can drop as low as $49 to $59 per day when rental companies are running special promotions or offering discounts. If you’re a loyalty program member with certain companies, you can also take advantage of special offers and lower pricing, but it depends on your status within those loyalty programs.
Additionally, where you rent a car from can affect the price. For example, renting a car from a company that’s located right at the airport will be more expensive than renting from the same company at a different location. For the wonderful convenience of being able to pick up your rental right at the airport, you could pay $100 or more extra for the full length of your trip. Choosing to pick up your rental a few miles away could give you a cheaper rate.
You’ll also want to consider your age when pricing out rental cars. Drivers who are under age 25 tend to get charged extra fees or higher rental rates. This is because car rental companies perceive younger drivers as high-risk drivers. Regardless of what your driving record actually looks like, most rental companies will upcharge you if you’re under 25 years old.
Dos and Don’ts When Renting a Car
Renting a car is a bit more complicated than making a purchase. You have to choose the right car for your needs and your budget. You also have to consider additional factors like insurance, where you’ll be driving and staying, and if there are special limitations imposed by the rental company.
Follow these dos and don’ts when you rent a car to avoid surprises and extra fees.
Do Shop Around Online
Above all, you need to make sure you shop around and browse car rental companies’ selections online. This is the only way to know what’s available, and it can help you compare prices and potential costs. Look online and see what different car rental companies are offering at the destination you’re traveling to. You’ll be able to narrow down your options and see what pricing options are available. Remember, the first car rental company you find isn’t always the best. Another option with better cars, lower prices, or more benefits might be lower down on the search results page.
Don’t Return Your Rental Car Late
Returning your rental car late is one of the quickest ways to wind up paying more. Even if you’re just a few minutes late, car rental companies will charge you as many late fees as possible. It’s like free money for the company — they still get the vehicle back, but they get to make extra cash simply because you didn’t arrive on time. Save yourself the financial headache and return your car ahead of the due date deadline.
Do Note Your Car’s Mileage
Some car rental companies will charge customers additional fees if cars are returned with a lot of miles added to the odometer. Check your rental car contract, and if you note that the company will charge you for driving too many miles, make sure to note the current mileage of the car you’ve rented. Take a photo of the odometer with your phone — that way, you’ll have proof of the exact mileage when you picked it up. Do the same when you drop the car off and snap a photo of the final mileage. You’ll then have all the evidence you might need in case you’re wrongly charged for extra miles.
Don’t Rent a GPS
Just about every car rental company offers customers the option to rent a GPS. This can be an appealing offer; you’ll need to get around in your destination, and you’re likely not familiar with the area. In fact, many rental cars even have built-in GPS navigation systems. So, if you don’t pay for the GPS, you’ll be missing out on features. But paying extra for a GPS system is a waste of money. You have a GPS built right into your cell phone if you own a smartphone. And that’s just as good as any navigation system you can rent from a car rental company. Skip the extra charges and navigate on your own.
Do Make Sure You Have Enough Insurance
One common mistake when renting a car is ignoring insurance. Most people assume that they’re already covered by their own auto insurance policy. But in many cases, these policies only cover you when you’re driving your own vehicle. You need to check the specifics of your auto insurance coverage to make sure you’re actually covered in the event you get into an accident while behind the wheel of a rental car.
Not covered? You have options. You can purchase an insurance policy from the car rental company, which can be a smart investment. Or you can check with your credit cards. Some cards, particularly cards with travel-related perks, will actually cover you with insurance specifically for rental cars. Just make sure you’re carrying the right insurance, and enough insurance, so you’re protected if the unexpected happens.
Tips for Renting a Car Online
We’ve been over some do’s and don’ts, but those mostly pertained to rental items, late fees and such, and very little to do with the actual online rental process. Although renting a car online is a much simpler way to do it, you still run into a few snags here and there. There are our top tips for renting a car online, and avoiding all the hassle that comes with entering the fray without knowledge by your side.
Check Your Credit Card Rewards
Do you get bonuses for flights and car rentals? Read the full extent of your credit card benefits. If you’re going to join the car rental loyalty program and get some points on your credit card, then why not? You’ll be on your way to free rentals in no time.
Join a Loyalty Program
Capitalizing on that last point, if you find yourself renting a car more than once per year, it could benefit you to join a loyalty program. Points for free rentals, expedited service, and some programs also offer up to a half-hour of free late time. No more getting clocked for being four minutes late off the lot.
Research Local Gas Prices
They’re going to get you to try and prepay for gas. Nine times out of ten, it’s really not worth it, and you’ll end up paying more per gallon on average. However, depending on where you’re traveling, this could be completely false. Even if you assume the prepay gas plan is going to be more expensive, it’s never hurt to check it out with a resource like GasBuddy. If you can shave a few bucks off your total gas use, by all means, do it.
Search for Coupons
You can find discounts when you look on sites like Groupon or special offers on recently-posted YouTube videos. We’ll be the first to say that these special offers are usually far and few between, and usually come with restrictions. For example, if you rent a car and stay at a specific hotel brand, you can receive a minor discount. Just ust some common sense when approaching joint package deals, especially if you’ll be spending an extra $40+ per night on this different hotel chain. Make sure that it fits what you want to do during your visit, and isn’t going to run your wallet into the ground.
Check Ahead for Airport Parking Fees
This information might be on the airport’s official site, but if you’re going to try and rent from the airport spot to get some lower fees, you don’t want to find out that the airport parking fees are astronomically high.
Best Car Rental Company FAQ:
Q: What Are the Benefits of Looking Online?
Looking online removes an entire element of the traditional car rental experience: sales pitches. Some of us are good at resisting the tactics of salesmen, but they’re trained in this sort of thing, have years of experience under their belt. Their job is to upsell you on additional features, and you’re effectively taking that out of the equation. Here are a few other excellent reasons to book online instead of in-store.
- Wider Selection
When you book online, you can sometimes get access to vehicles that aren’t currently on their lot. Whether there’s another location of the same franchise that’s nearby, or you’re getting forecast information as to what vehicles will be available when you book, your options will be wide open.
- Quicker Process
We’re not tearing down customer service representatives, but sometimes there are too many folks looking to rent a car and not enough help. We’ve all waited for ten or fifteen minutes in a car rental location, but by booking online, you don’t have to do that. Apart from that, most companies now have an expedited key pick-up option, so you can book, drop by to get the keys, and be out the door that much faster.
- Take Advantage of Deals
Some deals are exclusively online. Why? Car rental companies want more automated, online interaction to reduce their wage costs and streamline their service to earn more money. In short, they’re going to offer more deals through email marketing, on-site events, and additional coupon options online as we spoke about earlier.
- No Rush
You can read the terms and conditions, you can inspect every element of the insurance policy you might be signing up for. In short, you’re getting more control without having to sign something you don’t fully understand. It’s always possible you’ll end up talking to an employee who doesn’t know the terms as well as you do, or run into a charge that shouldn’t have occurred, per the agreement you signed. It pays to be informed ahead of time.
Keep in mind that just because booking online is a faster, and in many cases more simple way, going into the store isn’t completely out of the question. You can ask about discounts, test a vehicle before you book, and talk to a customer service representative who can expedite the process for you.
Q: What is Unlimited Mileage?
You’re free to go where the road takes you, without worrying about the odometer. Unlimited mileage is ideal for leisure trips, where it’ll be nearly impossible to determine exactly where you’re going for the whole trip. Part of a vacation is about being spontaneous and trying out a new area, and being chained to a mileage limit can be frustrating.
This is more of a cost up-front, but if you can reasonably see yourself using over the number of miles included with your rental, it’s worth getting. If you want to head out for a late-night snack, check out a few local shops that weren’t on your agenda, etc, you shouldn’t have restrictions impeding your vacation.
Q: Can I Take Rental Cars Out of State?
You can, but there are special conditions. First of all, check with the specific rental company first and foremost. Large car rental companies often have locations in cities and towns close to state borders, and therefore need to accommodate drivers who may be moving out of state, or traveling just over the lines for a work-related venture.
There may be entirely different terms and conditions including gas mileage prices, unlimited mileage exclusions, and there will definitely be a very skewed insurance policy. Since different states have different minimums on insurance coverage for privately owned vehicles, rental companies need to adhere to those, as well as the state that they’re located in. It turns into a whole messy situation.
If you’re going to head over state lines, look up their terms and conditions and FAQ page to see if they have stipulations. Don’t be afraid to use an online chat feature or call and speak with a manager or representative to have them explain the policy to you as well, just so you know if it’s worth your time investigating.
Q: Car I Request Special Equipment?
Yes, you absolutely can. Thanks to certain state legislature, rental companies have to accommodate with child safety seats and specially-optimized vehicles for people with physical disabilities. You just have to be very specific and call ahead, because if the rental company is in a state where they’re required to carry this special equipment, they usually only carry the minimum.
Depending on the size of the establishment, they may only have two vans wheelchair access, for example. Those could both be rented out during the time you’re expecting to visit, but the location is still upholding its obligation to the law. It’s always best to check with them before you book.
Special equipment could also be a GPS system or full toll payment packages for local tolls. Most of these rental companies categorize special equipment as anything that doesn’t come with their standard car rental package.
Q: Car Someone Else Drive my Rental Car?
Yes, but this has to be in writing. While it may sound ridiculous, there are some customers over the age of twenty-five who would rent a car for their son or daughter, who would be under twenty-five, and not inform the rental company. One accident later and the renter was not the one behind the car, but a driver who isn’t covered by the insurance is. It’s a stretch, but so long as you let the rental company know what’s going on and get it in writing, there should be no problem.
That’s why we recommend getting the insurance that you need while you’re renting out the vehicle. It protects you, it can protect your passenger or spouse who will also be using the car, but it might also come with a slight price hike. You want your car rental company to be transparent with you, so do the same to them, and you’ll run into far fewer issues.
Our Top Pick
Our top pick for a great overall car rental company is Enterprise. As one of the best-known car rental companies, Enterprise earned its reputation with a combination of great prices, a wide vehicle selection, and standout customer service. This car rental company has a strong track record of providing quality customer service that solves problems, makes customers feel comfortable, and leaves customers coming back time and time again for future rentals.
Whether you have questions or need to dispute charges, Enterprise will work with you to resolve the situation. Enterprise agents are helpful and respectful, and its employees maintain professionalism in everything they do. You’ll also love how available Enterprise is. The company has more than 6,000 locations around the world, and there are more than 500,000 cars to choose from. Enterprise really does offer something for everyone.