You've found your way to the best car rental sites guide, which means you're just a short read away from connecting with your perfect ride. You might be renting for a vacation, a business trip, or perhaps you're an employer looking for fleet cars – whatever the need, there is a service that will suit you. If you're looking for bigger than cars, then you may want to check out our guide to the best truck rental services (opens in new tab) instead.
There are a few things you'll want to think about before deciding which is the ideal service for you. How long you need the car for is a big factor, be it days, a week, a month or longer. The location of the car rental service is also important, especially if you're going to be back and forth visiting more than a few times.
Price is obviously perhaps the most important thing to consider. The rate you pay will vary depending on a number of factors so if you want to save a few bucks, you might want to decide on some areas where you can make compromises. Your age is a big factor, as people under 25 will pay a premium. Location is also something to keep in mind, with airport rentals being more expensive, for example. Then there is the type of car you want, the number of miles you plan to drive and the period of rental – with longer commitments offering savings and rewards.
So from getting the best price to the most rewards, and going for the best customer service to the ideal range of car options and rental locations, this guide takes it all into consideration and lays out only the very best car rental services for you.
The best car rental sites
1. Enterprise: Best car rental sites overall(opens in new tab)
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.
- Read our Enterprise review (opens in new tab)
2. Thrifty: Best car rental site for value(opens in new tab)
Thrifty by name, Thrifty by nature - offering the best daily rates and better than average weekly rates too, Thrifty is our choice for the best value car rental service. By joining its free Blue Chip rewards program, spouses can drive for free too, so you'll save money there as well.
Signing up as a Blue Chip member will allow you to earn points for each dollar you spend on car rentals too, which you build up to qualify for free rentals. Then there's the "skip the counter" perk, allowing you to go straight to the lot to pick up your car, and a priority counter service too. That said, the notice of black out days when you can't use your free rental, and the loss of points after two years of inactivity, means the program is certainly not as rewarding as some.
That there's only around 300 Thrifty offices across the US might pose a problem too, but if one is nearby, and you need to rent a car, they're sure to offer you a terrific price.
- Read our Thrifty review (opens in new tab)
3. Hertz: Best car rental site rewards program(opens in new tab)
Joining a car rental rewards program costs nothing, so you might as well sign up and see what you can earn - in this respect, Hertz’s Gold Plus Rewards program is one of the best. 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, and if you regularly hire cars, you've got the chance to climb the reward ranks and become a Five Star or President's Circle member too. Here you'll get more points on your rental spend, and the chance of upgrades and even more lavish rewards on which to spend your points.
Hertz has around 3,000 locations in the US, and a huge presence across the world too - this is worth remembering as rewards apply outside of the US as well. And as the choice of vehicles that Hertz has to offer is wide ranging too, you should have little problem finding a car that suits you.
- Read our Hertz review (opens in new tab)
4. National: Best car rental site with no fees
National is a car rental service that, as the name suggests, offers a wide range of pick-up and drop-off locations with over 1,500 spread across the nation and abroad. What National offers over some of the competition are upfront fees, often not charging for services that others may sting you for. Planning to pick up in one location and drop off in another? Many services will charge extra for that, but with National that is included in your rental price. Sure, it's not the cheapest service, but with excellent customer ratings and a huge selection of over 40 classes of cars, SUVs and trucks, this does offer a lot for your buck.
5. Alamo: Best for free mileage
Alamo is the largest car rental service in North America, which means it has a wide number of outlets worldwide, 1,200 to be precise. Since the company primarily caters for holiday rentals, most of these locations are airport-based, meaning you do pay a premium for the service. But with extras like no additional fees for spouses, it can work out as beneficial.
There is also an unlimited free mileage inclusion which is ideal if you're planning a long trip and don't want to fret about being hit with extra charges for the distance you travel. There is a loyalty scheme which can save you 5% off rental, plus there are special rates for military, AAA members and free upgrades in certain car class categories.
6. Dollar: Best car rental site for weekly rentals(opens in new tab)
If your car rental requirements are likely to span a week or longer, Dollar is a good place to start your search. While setting the standard for weekly rates, the Dollar website usually has a number of offers that you can take advantage of as well, in particular the saving of 25% if you're happy to prepay for your car.
There's an excellent rewards program on offer too, with achievable points targets and no blackout dates to confuse matters when you want to cash in what you've earned for a free rental. The one thing that might hold Dollar back is its relatively small presence of just 230 US locations. However, if you find one nearby, and are looking to rent for the longer term rather than just a day, Dollar is a great car rental choice.
- Read our Dollar review (opens in new tab)
7. Avis: Best for international car rentals(opens in new tab)
With more than 5,500 locations in over 160 countries worldwide, Avis is the familiar name that provides car rental solutions for international travelers everywhere. Even if you're still at home, and looking to hire in the US, there's getting on for 2,000 offices from which you can rent, enough to make Avis one of the largest car rental companies in America.
The vehicle choice is exceptional as well, with all bases covered from economy through to luxury cars, along with vans, SUVs and much more. If you want to go green, hybrid vehicles can be rented too.
While you'll probably be able to find better prices elsewhere, charges are no worse than average and the weekly rates are sometimes better than what you'd find at other rental companies. There's a rewards program to inspire your loyalty too, although with points thresholds slightly higher than what you'd find elsewhere, you'll need to be a frequent traveler to take proper advantage.
- Read our Avis review (opens in new tab)
Dos 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 fluctuate naturally, you'll usually be able to find car rental deals. 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 (opens in new tab) you pay with may include secondary collision insurance. Collision damage waivers offered by rental companies are often expensive and unnecessary. Check the small print of your current auto insurance (opens in new tab), 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.