Best Rental Car Companies
Auto & Finance Contributing Editor
Updated on 02/28/2018
When traveling, renting a car helps save time, adds convenience and saves wear and tear on a personal vehicle. Rental car services make it possible to travel quickly, without being dependent on taxis or public transportation.
When renting a car, consumers may be tempted to choose the cheapest option without considering anything but price. By thinking about how they’ll be using the vehicle, the number of people traveling with them and any extra features they need, they will be able to rent a car that is affordable and comfortable.
Compare Reviews for Top Rental Car Companies
Read 818 Reviews
E-Z Rent-A-Car makes travel a breeze with convenient pickup and drop-off locations at every major airport. The company's streamlined reservation process and best price guarantee makes renting a car stress free.
Read 867 Reviews
Founded in 2009 and launched in 2010, Uber operates in over 500 cities throughout the world. Uber’s easy-to-use app and rapid expansion plan make it a useful rideshare option for people in participating cities.
|Enterprise Rent A Car|
Read 2801 Reviews
Enterprise offers a complete range of consumer products, including truck rentals, but they also shine in the business arena. They offer everything from business discount programs to fleet management services for any size business.
Read 1551 Reviews
Budget offers deep discounts for customers that pay at the time of their reservation, along with significant discounts to business customers. At Budget, renters can choose from a variety of rental vehicles and moving trucks.
Read 2054 Reviews
With discounts of up to 40 percent, an easy-to-understand vehicle guide and a range of business programs, Hertz has become the largest car rental company in the U.S. They have locations in more than 145 countries worldwide.
Read 1151 Reviews
Avis rental car services include white glove options for business travelers that allow for faster check in and check out. They also offer low mileage vehicles for sale at discount prices, offering the option to rent, then buy.
|Fox Rent A Car|
Read 762 Reviews
Fox Rent A Car serves niche markets that other companies ignore. It offers easy one-way rentals and rents vehicles to new drivers age 19 and up. It also provides easy rewards, constant discounts and long-term rates.
|Dollar Rent A Car|
Read 1585 Reviews
Founded in 1966, Dollar Rent a Car has 570 locations globally. They have a full range of vehicles, along with convenience features such as car seats, express return and rental cars equipped for physically challenged drivers.
|Alamo Car Rental|
Read 711 Reviews
Alamo Car Rental offers early check in with an online option that allows them to go right to their rental car. They also have an easy to join rewards program that offers all members an instant 5 percent discount.
Read 651 Reviews
With locations in 143 countries, Advantage Rent A Car allows car renters to work with the same company worldwide. Saved preferences and discounts on multiple rentals make Advantage ideal for frequent travelers.
What features matter most in a rental car company?
Make and model
The type of travel can determine what vehicle is most suitable for a trip. A large family might need a larger vehicle, while a business traveler might prefer a compact with great gas mileage. A good rental car company can accommodate any vehicle class.
- Compact cars: Sub-compact, compact, economy or small are the standard labels used for cars that are usually suitable for four to five people and a couple of suitcases. They also have two or four doors and are likely to be automatic transmission. These are the cheapest to rent and have great gas mileage.
- Mid-sized vehicles: The largest category is known as intermediate, standard or midsize. This size includes cars that seat five people and can fit a little more comfortably than in the smaller classes, and there is room for more luggage. While they are more comfortable than smaller class vehicles, keep in mind that mileage decreases as the car gets bigger.
- Full-Size: Full-size cars have the most storage room and passenger capacity. These vehicles are full-size vehicles and include four-door sedans with lots of features, including air conditioning, power locks and windows, an AM/FM stereo and a CD player. They will seat five people comfortably and more luggage than a mid-sized vehicle.
- Luxury sports cars, premium and specialty cars: If you desire a convertible, have a wedding function to attend or need to impress a business client, this category is for you. It meets the needs of those with the ability to travel in style and comfort. Specialty lines cost extra and are limited to specific locations. Space and passenger capacity vary greatly, as does gas mileage. On vacation, you can find some of the fun at the car rental agency. Driving around in a convertible or luxury sedan can help make a trip special.
- SUVs, vans and pickups: When you need to haul equipment, travel over rough roads or need more passenger space, most rental companies have a wide selection of pickups and vans including passenger, cargo and SUVs, both regular and luxury. While they hold more people and luggage, these vehicles get very poor gas mileage compared with smaller cars and are more expensive.
- Hybrid and electric: Many car rental companies are now offering environmentally friendly hybrid or electric cars featuring great gas mileage and a low carbon footprint.
Rental car costs can vary dramatically depending on duration, date, discounts, loyalty programs and location. Look for rental deals without hidden fees by checking online discount sites and the company’s website.
- Long-term rates: Many companies offer a deep discount on the daily rate when you rent a vehicle for a week or more. Always ask about weekly rentals, since the cost of a weekly may be less than a five-day rental. Holidays and special event weekends may not be included.
- Programs and discounts: Companies that have loyalty programs may offer special promotions or have discounted rates for those employed by partner companies. Ask about employee discounts, convention rates, group pricing and other discount programs before confirming a rental.
- Weekday pricing: The price of a rental car often goes up over the weekend. If any of the rental days are weekdays, be sure to ask about special weekday rates. Check company websites for the best rates.
- Hourly: Drive cars by the hour or day. Car share programs include gas and insurance and usually have a membership fee. Each location has different rates.
- By-the-ride: Fare estimators are on the app for each service, giving you the most accurate fare estimates directly to your location. Beware of surge pricing before you agree to the ride.
If anything happens to a rental car, the renter may be liable for the damage. Some rental car companies offer additional insurance on vehicles for a daily fee. There are different types of coverage available. There also may be coverage from your credit card, personal or business insurance policies, however it may not cover everything. Credit cards often provide coverage for rental cars, assuming you have used the card to pay for the rental and the rental is in your name. You’ll automatically have this coverage if it’s included with your credit card - no need to call or sign forms. Purchasing secondary coverage means your own auto insurance policy will pay out first.
- Individual insurance: Car owners must have liability insurance to operate their vehicles. Many rental car agencies use the driver's insurance policy to cover the rental, but you need to know what is covered in the event of an accident. If you have collision and comprehensive coverage on your own policy, it generally will extend to a rental car. However, you will still be on the hook for your deductible.
- Liability: Your own liability insurance will cover you when you’re driving rental cars. If you have really minimal liability coverage on your auto policy, you could buy the supplemental protection to boost your coverage. However, it is smarter to increase your own liability coverage.
- Road hazard: Flat tires and other issues can crop up at any time. Road hazard coverage may be included on either an individual or agency policy, or it may be available as an add-on.
- At the counter: A loss-damage waiver (LDW), also called a collision damage waiver (CDW), protects you in the event of incurred damage to the rental vehicle or theft of the car. It’s technically not insurance but rather a waiver that says the rental car company won’t come after you.
- Supplemental liability protection: Supplemental liability protection will pay for damage you do to others’ vehicles or property. A typical limit is $1 million. If you have no auto insurance (for example, if you don’t own a car), you should buy this.
- Personal accident insurance: Personal accident insurance covers medical costs for you and your passengers if you’re involved in an accident. This includes ambulance, medical care and death benefits.
- Personal effects coverage: Personal effects coverage pays for your belongings if they’re stolen from the rental car, up to a set dollar amount.
- Injuries: If you have health insurance, buying extra would largely be redundant. Similarly, if you are interested in death benefits, you should have a life insurance policy. Personal accident insurance also is not needed if you have personal injury protection through your auto policy.
- Be aware: Each state has their own rules on insurance for rental cars. The reason to purchase additional insurance could save you in an accident where the vehicle is damaged. You will be responsible for the non-usage of that auto during the repair time window, which means you will have the rental fee billed to you until the vehicle is rentable to others. Check with your insurance agent before buying additional insurance.
Many travel agencies and online travel sites offer packages that include a rental car. Businesses may need to work out specific agreements for rentals, so many rental agencies offer packages and plans.
- Air, hotel and rental car: Many travel agencies offer a steep discount on the total price when travelers book their airfare, hotel and rental car at the same time.
- Multi-car discounts: Businesses may support a fleet of cars with occasional rentals or have many traveling employees who need rental cars. Rental companies that offer discounts for multiple rentals can save a lot of corporate dollars.
- Accident rental: Insurance policies may offer you rental car coverage while you wait for claims adjustment and repair service. The policy may pay a partial or full amount of the rental car’s cost, depending on your policy.
Tolls and fees
When driving a rental car, tolls, gas, parking violations and other fees are the responsibility of the driver. Some rental companies allow renters to prepay expected costs.
- Prepaid tolls: Prepaying toll costs allows drivers to take express lanes and avoid backups on highways, toll roads, over bridges or through tunnels. Some rental car agencies offer a statewide pass for toll lanes and will bill your credit card upon return.
- Prepaid gas: Every rental car comes with a full tank of gas, but it's the renter's responsibility to return the vehicle with an equally full tank. Customers who won't have the time to refuel before dropping off a rental can prepay the fuel fee when picking up the car. Some companies will offer a partial refund if a minimal amount of fuel is used and you have prepaid for the full tank of gasoline. Ask before you purchase the prepaid fuel plan.
- Company refuel: This service is similar to prepaid gas except the fee is paid when dropping off the rental. This fee is typically higher than the per gallon fee available at gas stations.
- Violations and Fees: Parking tickets, parking garages and other fees associated with your rental are solely the renter’s responsibility.
Many rental car companies offer value-added services that can smooth out the kinks of travel. Some have locations everywhere to make pickups and drop-offs faster, while others take care of all of the paperwork online or through their app. Typically airports are the most common place to rent a vehicle, although some rental car companies, ride share and car sharing services are offsite of airport properties.
- Car drop-off: Not everyone can get to a rental car location to pick up a vehicle. To make the process smoother, some rental companies drive the car to the customer. There may be an extra fee, so be sure to ask in advance.
- Rental returns: An after-hours return box can make all the difference in getting a rental car back on time. Not all offices are open 24 hours, but they should offer an after-hours service. This can be offered at any location.
- Communication: If there is a problem, customers should be able to get in touch using any method that is convenient for them. The best rental car agencies communicate over the telephone and through email, fax and live chat.
- Car pick-up: Some rental car companies, ride share and car sharing services require you to go to the vehicle. Many companies offer an app with directions to the location.
What are the different types of rental cars?
These rental agreements are designed to be used with a driver's existing insurance policy so renters can get the lowest possible rates. Companies that specialize in consumer rentals may offer insurance for those who do not own a vehicle. Renters usually need to be 21 years of age.
Business rental programs typically offer discounts based on the number of rental days purchased each year. These programs may also include special rates for multiple cars rented on a single reservation.
Most rental cars seat up to five passengers, but there are times when drivers need more seating. Rental companies that carry larger passenger cars, SUVs and vans often cater to businesses and special events.
These can range from high-end luxury vehicles designed to make an impression to refrigerated trucks or moving vans.
Companies that specialize in vacation rentals typically offer weekly rates and may have recreational vehicles like RVs or camper vans.
Ride sharing is a service that arranges one-time shared rides on very short notice. This type of carpooling generally makes use of three recent technological advances: GPS navigation devices to determine a driver's route and arrange the shared ride, smartphones for a traveler to request a ride and social networks to establish trust and accountability between drivers and passengers.
Car sharing is a model of car rental where people rent cars for short periods of time, often by the hour. They are attractive to customers who make only occasional use of a vehicle, as well as others who would like occasional access to a vehicle of a different type than they use day-to-day.
Who uses rental cars?
When traveling on vacation, a rental car can help maximize your experience. These car renters usually look for either a discount price or a SUV model.
When traveling for business, reliability, budget and good gas mileage often top the list of rental car requirements. These travelers might also be looking for hybrids or other commuter cars.
Special events often demand specialty vehicles. A meeting might need to offer shuttle services using a passenger van, while a red carpet event might want to book a fleet of luxury models.
When relocating for a job, particularly on a temporary basis, a rental car may be the best choice for transportation. These customers look for deep discounts on long-term rentals.
Those who don’t own cars
Those who live in an urban environment and don’t own a car due to the high expenses, parking and insurance costs or loss of license might rent a car for a specific event or for traveling.
Expert reviews for rental car companies
E-Z Rent-A-Car started in Orlando with a fleet of only nine cars in 1994. Today, they operate in 20 states, including Alaska and Hawaii, and several foreign countries. Their fleet includes everything from sub-compact cars to large SUVs as well as trucks, vans and convertibles.
Founded in 1957, Enterprise has more than 7,000 locations across Europe and North America.
Hertz offers rental cars in more than 150 countries across every inhabited continent. It has more than 10,300 corporate and franchise locations worldwide.
Part of Hertz Global Holdings, Thrifty Rental Car has more than 1,000 locations in 77 countries. It focuses on serving cost-conscious consumers and business travelers.
Since 1965, Dollar Rent A Car has grown to include more than 570 locations in 61 countries worldwide, including approximately 260 locations in the United States and Canada. As a part of The Hertz Corporation, this brand belongs to the largest airport and general-use car rental business worldwide.
As the largest rental car agency serving international travelers in North America, Alamo Car Rental focuses on major destination cities. Its 171 self-service kiosks in 63 U.S. locations streamline the rental process, resulting in an easy and hassle-free rental experience and improving check-out and check-in times. Alamo is owned by Enterprise.
Founded in 1958 to appeal to the cost-conscious consumer, Budget is one of the most popular car rental brands. It serves renters in over 120 countries from its more than 3,000 locations. Budget is owned by Avis Rental Car.
National Car Rental was the first company to offer one-way rentals, computerized reservations and a loyalty program. The company is now owned by Enterprise Holdings.
As an Avis subsidiary, Payless Car Rental operates more than 120 retail locations under a combined corporate and franchise model.
Avis was the first car rental company to offer airport locations for traveling convenience. It is one of the world's largest rental car companies with more than 5,450 locations worldwide.
ACE Rent A Car has grown from a neighborhood car wash into a rental company with more than 350 locations worldwide. It focuses on top leisure destinations for vacation rentals.
Silvercar aims to make the process of renting a car easier and more luxurious. You simply download an app and use it to book your rental. Then use your phone to unlock your rental car at your destination. You don’t have to wait in line or deal with rental car agents once you arrive.
This ride share program is a smarter way to get around the city. Drive cars by the hour or day in neighborhoods, cities and airports across the globe. There are over 11,000 in their fleet.
Information in this guide is general in nature and is intended for informational purposes only; it is not legal, health, investment or tax advice. ConsumerAffairs.com makes no representation as to the accuracy of the information provided and assumes no liability for any damages or loss arising from its use.
Compare Reviews for Top Rental Car Companies
|Thrifty Car Rental|
Read 890 Reviews
Thrifty Car Rental offers instant discounts on premium vehicles, allowing renters to make an impression. They also offer membership into their Blue Chip rewards program that lets users earn free rental days and other benefits.
Read 512 Reviews
With more than 10,000 locations in more than 150 countries, Europcar allows travelers to book with confidence. When they drive across national borders, renters know that there is a local office ready to handle any problems.
|Payless Car Rental|
Read 1016 Reviews
Payless Car Rental has some of the lowest prices on the market, with rentals as low as $10 a day. Shop their "Last Minute Deals," and "Deals of the Hour," to get great rates, in addition to their loyalty program rewards.
|CarTrawler||Read 370 Reviews|
As a B2B company, CarTrawler gives rental companies access to a whole new kind of customer. It offers personalized solutions to companies, brands and travelers in need of the right kind of transport at the right price.
|ACE Rent A Car|
Read 269 Reviews
Founded in 1966, ACE Rent A Car has more than 250 locations worldwide, specializing in low-mileage consumer vehicles. Their easy to use rewards program offers instant discounts and tiered membership for frequent renters.
Read 39 Reviews
With operations in over 500 cities across nine countries, Zipcar is one of the leading car sharing networks in the world. Zipcar was founded in 2000 and has a collection of over 50 makes and models of self-service vehicles.
|National Car Rental|
Read 240 Reviews
National Car Rental makes reservations and car pick up and drop off quick and easy through their mobile app and membership in their Emerald Club. Emerald members can pick any car in an aisle, skipping the checkout counter.
Read 200 Reviews
When you add PlatePass to any car rental, you get the convenience of using express lanes on highways and automatic toll collections. With PlatePass, drivers can avoid unexpected fines and violations from unpaid tolls.
|Car Hire UK|
Read 153 Reviews
Car Hire UK is an Avis company. Every vehicle offered by the company can be equipped with child seats or GPS. The company also offers pickup and delivery services at need so its customers can travel stress-free.
Read 8 Reviews
Silvercar is a car rental company that wants to make renting a luxury car easy and convenient. You can pick your rental up without waiting in line or talking to a rental car agent. The service is available at 18 airports.
Read 30 Reviews
Contrary to its name, Rent-A-Wreck focuses on low prices by offering a solid selection of everyday vehicles for rent. The company has a fleet that includes everything from economy cars to large passenger vans and more.