We compared prices for daily and weekly rentals for several different types of vehicles, and National consistently had the highest rates, sometimes nearly double that of lower cost options like Thrifty and Enterprise.
Pricing tends to vary by location, so we booked cars in Los Angeles, New York City and Houston. The closer to the rental date you book, the more expensive it is and your selection of cars will be smaller. We made our reservations several weeks in advance, but National was still the most expensive. Rental companies charge a daily fee for additional drivers, and National’s $12 additional driver fee is about average.
National’s rewards program, the Emerald Club, is different from some of the other rental companies we reviewed. Instead of giving points for each dollar spent, National gives one credit for each eligible rental. After getting seven credits, you can redeem them for a free rental.
There are some advantages to this style of rewards. With points-based rewards programs, short-term rentals cost less, but it takes longer to accumulate enough points for a free rental. If you make a lot of one-day or short-term rentals, you can get a good value through National’s rewards program.
Like all rewards programs, the Emerald Club gives you the option to bypass the regular line and use the dedicated line for club members. It also lets you check out quicker by choosing a car from the select Emerald Club row and completing the checkout at the exit booth.
National has around 1,500 locations in the U.S. It also operates in Canada, Mexico and across Europe, Asia and South America. It has locations at airports as well as in neighborhoods. It doesn’t have a neighborhood pick-up option, which is a useful service where the rental company will come to your hotel or home and take you to the rental office to complete the checkout.
National was among the most expensive companies to book a rental from. We looked at weekly and daily rates, and it was high for both. However, its rewards program is useful if you tend to rent cars for a few days at a time.