Best Car Rental Company - Car services we gave the green light
Whether you are planning a road trip, attending a conference or just visiting another city for a couple of days, finding the best car rental company can be a challenge. Car hire companies have a lot of heady, and complex terminology that can make renting a car confusing, especially when it comes to insurance and their reward programs. If you need help finding the best car rental service this review will tell you how helpful and available their customer services are, what services they offer, and what their reward schemes are like. Of course we also factor in the cost of the car rental.
We compared prices, rewards programs and availability of 10 of the biggest and best car rental companies. We looked at how much it costs to rent a comparable 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 just a few hours.
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.
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.
With a wide range of perks and benefits, including expedited drop-offs and free vehicle upgrades, Hertz has one of the best rewards programs.
|Product||Price||Overall Rating||Pricing||Rewards||Availability||Economy Car-1 Day/1 Week Rental||Compact Car-1 Day/1 Week Rental||Full Size Car-1 Day Rental||Additional Driver Fee||Primary Rewards||Minimum for Free Rental||Expedited Service||Transferrable Points||Locations||Pick up||Carshare||Electric Cars|
|Enterprise Car Rental||View Deal||5/5||9.5||10||10||$67/$288||$68/$297||$76/$335||$12||1 Point Per $ Spent||400 Points||✓||✓||4,650||✓||✓||✓|
|Hertz||View Deal||4.5/5||8.8||9.8||7.8||$93/$228||$94/$234||$101/$291||$14||1 Point Per $ Spent||550 Points||✓||✓||3,733||✓||-||-|
|Thrifty||View Deal||4/5||10||8.3||6||$62/$276||$64/$280||$74/$316||$10||1 Point Per $ Spent||500 Points||✓||-||472||✓||-||-|
|Avis||View Deal||4/5||8.8||7.8||6.8||$95/$245||$96/$252||$106/$266||$13||1 Point Per $ Spent||700 Points||✓||-||1,908||✓||-||-|
|Dollar||View Deal||3.5/5||9.8||8.3||2.5||$86/$222||$86/$228||$99/$247||$10||1 Point Per $ Spent||500 Points||✓||-||230||-||-||-|
|Budget||View Deal||3.5/5||9.3||4||6.5||$81/$236||$83/$247||$97/$271||$13||$25 for 2 Rentals||-||✓||-||1,372||✓||-||-|
|Alamo||View Deal||3.5/5||8.3||4.5||6.8||$88/$339||$90/$346||$106/$356||$12||5% Discount||-||✓||-||250||✓||-||✓|
|Ace||View Deal||3/5||8.8||4.3||5.8||$73/$385||$68/$375||$81/$476||$10||1 Point Per $ Spent||-||-||-||59||✓||-||-|
|National||View Deal||3/5||5.8||6.3||4||$131/$510||$131/$521||$153/$535||$12||1 Credit Per Qualified Rental||7 credits||✓||-||1,500||-||-||✓|
|Payless||View Deal||2.5/5||8.3||2.3||2.5||$98/$303||$101/$307||$108/$321||$13||Discount Coupons||-||-||-||120||-||-||-|
Enterprise has more car rental locations in the US than anyone else and, from what we've found, a lot more to offer than other car rental companies in the US. With over 4,600 locations across America (and almost double that around the world), if you need to rent a car, there's a good chance an Enterprise office won't ever be far.
The choice of vehicles on offer is hard to beat too, with upwards of 20 standard cars available along with 12 different types of SUV, and a host of luxury cars if you prefer to travel in style. Importantly, the hire cost that Enterprise charges are reasonable as well, with lower single-day rentals usually much cheaper than average. The rewards program - Enterprise Plus - which awards points for each dollar you spend, offers excellent benefits to regular customers too, including car upgrades and a priority checkout line for faster pick ups.
Add in a free pick-up service, which will ferry you to the rental office to pick up your car, and a car share service that allows for almost autonomous hour-by-hour car rentals if you sign up, and Enterprise has to be the best car rental service, bar none.
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.
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.
Best for Weekly Rentals
If you need a car for a week or longer, we recommend Dollar Rent A Car.
Though its one-day prices are middle of the road, it has the lowest prices for seven-day rentals. Based on an average of the quotes we got for rentals in Houston, Los Angeles and New York City, an economy car costs around $222, a compact car costs $228 and a full-size car costs $247. One of Dollar Car Rental’s drawbacks is it’s not as widespread as other services. With only 230 locations, it’s one of the smaller companies we reviewed.
Best for International Rentals
With locations in over 150 countries across Europe, Asia, Africa and South America, Avis likely has a location at your international travel destination.
The prices we list are for domestic rentals, and Avis is one of the more expensive rental companies. For example, a one-day economy rental costs around $95 and a seven-day rental costs around $245. However, Avis has a decent rewards program, and you earn points for each dollar you spend – 700 points earns you a free one-day rental.
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 compared car rental services
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 the cars we looked at represent what most consumers will be looking for.
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.
How Much Does it Cost to Rent a Car?
Car rental pricing fluctuates depending on a variety of factors, including time of the year, day of the week and how far in advance you book. Based on our research, we found that the cost for an economy car can range from $62 to $131 per day, and the cost of a full-size rental ranges from $74 to $153 per day. Taxes and airport fees can add another $15 to $30 to those daily rates. If you can, try to rent from a non-airport location to save some money.
Do’s and Don’ts of Renting a Car
Do: Shop around for the best car rental deals
As car rentals are a competitive area, where business levels naturally fluctuate. This means there is usually various of deals going on. 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.
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.
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. Signing up to a car services’ reward program will maximize the value you get from your money.
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.
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. Check the small print of your current auto insurance, if you have one, and do the same with your credit card. If you're not covered it's often far cheaper to buy excess car rental insurance from a third party than from the car rental company.
Is It Cheaper to Rent a Car or Use a Rideshare?
Whether you’re going on vacation or travelling for work, rideshare services may be a good alternative to a car rental. In fact, depending on the situation, a rideshare like Uber or Lyft can save you some money. A lot depends on where you travel and how you plan to get around while you’re there.
According to data from the U.S. Department of Transportation, the average rideshare trip costs around $22. That’s cheaper than the average one-day rental, which we found to be between $60 and $100. However, the rental price may be lower depending on where you travel and the make and model of the car you rent.
As you decide between renting and using rideshares, consider how often you’ll need to use a vehicle at your destination. If you just need a car to get from the airport to your hotel, a rideshare may be the better option. Also, if you’re visiting a city with robust public transportation and many attractions within walking distance, for example New York City, renting a car can be a hassle – especially if you don’t want the stress of city traffic and trying to find parking. On the other hand, if you need to drive around your destination and take a lot of small trips here and there, a rideshare can end up costing more than a rental car.
When you travel somewhere remote or in the wilderness, like a national park, a rental is your only choice. Another reason to choose a rental over a rideshare is you have control over your own driving situation. Also, rideshare companies charge higher prices when there’s high demand, so during busier hours of the day, you’ll pay between one and half to two times more than the base fee.