Best Car Rental Services of 2018

Eli McCormick ·
Finance Senior Writer
Updated
We maintain strict editorial integrity when we evaluate products and services; however, Top Ten Reviews may earn money when you click on links.

We spent several days comparing prices, rewards programs and availability of these 10 different car rental companies. We looked at how much it costs to rent a car for a day or a week in New York City, Los Angeles and Houston. After comparing this information, our choice for the top rental car company is Enterprise. It has one of the best rewards programs, some of the lowest prices and a few services other companies don’t offer, including rideshare programs that let you rent vehicles for a few hours.     

Best Overall
Enterprise
With unique services like car sharing in addition to one of the best rewards programs and quality pricing, Enterprise is our choice for the best car rental company.
View on Enterprise
Best Value
Thrifty
Thrifty has lower costs than other rental companies we looked at. It also has the lowest cost to add drivers, though its weekly rental prices aren’t always the best deal.
View on Thrifty
Best Rewards Program
Hertz
With a wide range of perks and benefits, including expedited drop-offs and free vehicle upgrades, Hertz has one of the best rewards programs.
View on Hertz

Product
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Price
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Overall Rating
9.8
8.8
8.4
7.9
7.4
6.7
6.6
6.4
5.5
4.7
Pricing
9.5
8.8
10
8.8
9.8
9.3
8.3
8.8
5.8
8.3
Rewards
10
9.8
8.3
7.8
8.3
4
4.5
4.3
6.3
2.3
Availability
10
7.8
6
6.8
2.5
6.5
6.8
5.8
4
2.5
Economy Car-1 Day/1 Week Rental
$67/$288
$93/$228
$62/$276
$95/$245
$86/$222
$81/$236
$88/$339
$73/$385
$131/$510
$98/$303
Compact Car-1 Day/1 Week Rental
$68/$297
$94/$234
$64/$280
$96/$252
$86/$228
$83/$247
$90/$346
$68/$375
$131/$521
$101/$307
Full Size Car-1 Day Rental
$76/$335
$101/$291
$74/$316
$106/$266
$99/$247
$97/$271
$106/$356
$81/$476
$153/$535
$108/$321
Additional Driver Fee
$12
$14
$10
$13
$10
$13
$12
$10
$12
$13
Primary Rewards
1 Point Per $ Spent
1 Point Per $ Spent
1 Point Per $ Spent
1 Point Per $ Spent
1 Point Per $ Spent
$25 for 2 Rentals
5% Discount
1 Point Per $ Spent
1 Credit Per Qualified Rental
Discount Coupons
Minimum for Free Rental
400 Points
550 Points
500 Points
700 Points
500 Points
-
-
-
7 credits
-
Expedited Service
-
-
Transferrable Points
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
Locations
4,650
3,733
472
1,908
230
1,372
250
59
1,500
120
Pick up
-
-
-
Carshare
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
Electric Cars
-
-
-
-
-
-
-
Best Overall
There are many reasons we’ve chosen Enterprise as our top car rental service. It has by far the most locations, with over 4,600 in the U.S. It also operates in Canada, the U.K., France, Germany, Spain and Ireland. Enterprise has reasonable costs, often with lower single-day rentals than average. We also like the rewards program, Enterprise Plus, which awards points for each dollar you spend and gives you benefits like car upgrades and access to a member’s only checkout line.
It’s easy to make a reservation through Enterprise’s website. You can find airport or neighborhood locations and choose from a wide range of cars, including vans, sports cars and electric vehicles. One great service that Enterprise provides is free pick-up. If you make a reservation at a non-airport location, Enterprise will pick you up and take you to the office to complete the rental. The rewards program is free to join. Members receive points for each dollar they spend. Typically, you can redeem 400 points for a weekend day rental, which is a better deal than other rewards programs. Enterprise Plus also gives you opportunities to get free upgrades and use a member’s only line for quick checkout.
Pros
  • Most locations of any rental company
  • Carshare offers hourly rentals
  • Lets you transfer rewards points to other accounts
Cons
  • Higher weekly rental costs than average
  • Rental upgrades not included in basic rewards tier
  • Charges $12 for each additional driver
Visit SiteEnterprise
Read the full review
Best Value
To compare the prices of car rental companies, we looked at daily and weekly rates in three different cities. Thrifty had the best daily rates and offered below average weekly rates, making it our choice for the best value car rental service.
Car rental prices vary depending on how far in advance you make your reservation. To get accurate and repeatable results, we made ours a week in advance. We also looked at the price for economy, compact and full-size cars. Thrifty consistently gave us low daily rates. If you want to add another driver, Thrifty’s $10 daily fee is the lowest of the rental services we reviewed. Weekly rental costs with this company weren’t the lowest in our comparison but were below average across the board. One way you can reduce the amount you’ll pay is by making a reservation at a non-airport location. Airports charge a concession fee, which can be as much as 10 percent of the rental cost. If you’re renting from a neighborhood location, Thrifty has a pick-up service that will come get you and take you to the office to complete the rental. Thrifty has a solid rewards program called Blue Chip. You can earn points for each dollar you spend. It takes about 500 points to redeem a weekend day, about average for the rewards programs we looked at. You can also take advantage of expedited service at the Blue Chip checkout line.
Pros
  • Low daily rental costs
  • Lowest additional driver fee
  • Points accrue for each dollar spent
Cons
  • Fewer locations than other rental companies
  • Doesn’t offer electric cars
  • Points can’t be transferred
Visit SiteThrifty
Read the full review
Best Rewards Program
Joining a car rental rewards program is free, so there’s no reason not to. Hertz’s Gold Plus Rewards program is one of the best we saw. In addition to basic benefits like points and expedited checkout, this rewards program includes options like free vehicle upgrades and expedited drop-offs.
As is standard for rewards programs, you earn one point for each dollar spent at Hertz. These rewards are also earned for add-ons like car seats, insurance and other optional services. One drawback of the Gold Plus Program is that it can take up to 550 points to earn a free rental day, which is more than most other programs. Having access to an expedited checkout line is a standard perk of a rental rewards program. This is a special line for members only that lets you bypass the regular line – handy if you’re in a busy airport. Hertz also has an Express Return service that lets you quickly return cars. You’ll just need to fill out the return slip with relevant information like mileage, date and time, and if you purchased gas or not and Hertz will mail you a receipt. Hertz has over 3,700 locations in the U.S. and also operates in locations across the world. Rewards apply outside of the U.S., and any points you earn can be transferred to a spouse or domestic partner.
Pros
  • Express drop-offs also eligible for rewards points
  • Has locations worldwide
  • Spouses of Five Star members incur no additional driver fee
Cons
  • Takes more points to earn free days
  • More expensive than other services
  • High fee to add additional drivers
Visit SiteHertz
Read the full review

Why Trust Us

At Top Ten Reviews we’ve been writing about car rental services for nearly eight years. We chose to review companies with the largest presence in the U.S., though most also operate internationally. Most of them have both airport and city locations, though some of the smaller services operate primarily at airports.

Rideshare services like Uber and Lyft are an attractive alternative to renting a car, but they don’t fit into the car rental category, so we didn’t include them. We asked Ed Perkins, an editor at SmarterTravel.com, about the advantages that renting a car offers over using a rideshare service. He told us that rideshares can help you avoid problems with finding parking if you’re making a lot of stops in a city, but a rental car can help you avoid costs associated with multiple trips. If you’re planning on driving through the suburbs or the country, renting is the best option.

How We Tested

We compared pricing for three types of cars in three different cities for a one-day and a weeklong rental. The cities we used were Los Angeles, New York City and Houston. We looked at economy, compact and full-size cars. Most of the rental companies offer a wider range of vehicles, including luxury sports cars, SUVs and 15-passenger vans, but we felt the cars we looked at represent most consumers.

Pricing fluctuates depending on a variety of factors, including time of the year, day of the week and how far in advance you book. In addition, the base rate you pay is subject to additional costs applied by the city you rent in. Airports also add fees, so if you can, try to rent from a non-airport location.

Another important consideration is a rental company’s rewards program. If you travel frequently, this is a good way to recoup some of your expenses. Most of these services offer points for each dollar spent, which can then be redeemed for free rentals. We looked at how many points are typically needed to get a free rental. Another perk of joining the rewards program is an opportunity to get quicker service when checking out your car. Some rental companies have a line or kiosk specifically designated for its rewards members.

We looked at the broad availability of a rental service. If you like a company, and especially if you join a rewards program, you’ll want to be sure you can use it wherever you go. Many of the largest rental companies have international locations in addition to U.S. stores.

Do’s and Don’ts of Renting a Car

Do: Shop around
If you’re primarily looking for the lowest cost and aren’t a member of a specific company’s rewards program, using a service like Hotwire or Priceline can get you the cheapest price.

Don’t: Pay for insurance
Your current car insurance policy likely covers you while you’re in a rental car, and the credit card you pay with may include secondary collision insurance. Collision damage waivers offered by the rental companies are often expensive and unnecessary.

Do: Sign up for rewards programs
These programs are free and offer benefits beyond rewards points. They typically offer quicker service, free upgrades and free additional drivers as well.

Don’t: Rent from an airport
If you can avoid it, try to rent from an off-airport location. Airports often add their own concession fees on top of whatever fees and taxes apply to the city you’re renting in. The concession fee varies from airport to airport but can approach 10 percent of what you pay for the rental.

Do: Take advantage of shuttle options
Many rental companies now offer pick-up services. If you’ve made a reservation in advance at a non-airport location, you can arrange for the company to pick you up at your hotel or office or home. They will drive you to the rental office where you can sign the paperwork and be on your way. This is a great way to sidestep some of the logistical hassles involved in renting cars.


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