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.

Top 10 Best Rated Rental Cars

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.
Silvercar was founded in 2012 by Todd Belveal and Bill Diffenderffer. The company describes themselves as the airport car rental experience re-imagined.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.

Lauren Fix is an automotive expert who earned the title of The Car Coach, and is recognized throughout all forms of media as a woman with in-depth knowledge on vehicles, technology, automotive finance, repair and trends. Founder of Automotive Aspects, Inc., her understanding of automobiles has made her the “go to” person on TV, radio, print and the internet. She writes a column for multiple outlets including Parade Magazine, NewsMax and Car Coach Reports. She is a regular guest on all the major news and morning shows discussing the latest updates on cars that will help drivers of all ages learn to about cars and make smart decisions.

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What features matter most?

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.

Pricing

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.

Insurance

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: al 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.

Package deals

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.

Service

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 different types of rental cars?

Consumer rentals

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 rentals

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.

Passenger vehicles

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.

Commercial rentals

These can range from high-end luxury vehicles designed to make an impression to refrigerated trucks or moving vans.

Vacation rentals

Companies that specialize in vacation rentals typically offer weekly rates and may have recreational vehicles like RVs or camper vans.

Ride share

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

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's it for?

Vacationers

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.

Business travelers

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.

Event planners

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.

Temporary workers

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.

Company reviews

  • E-Z Rent-A-Car

    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.

    • Rewards: Loyal customers can join the company’s E-Z Money rewards program. Consumers can join for free and receive instant discounts. They also earn points that can be used towards future rentals, and there are no blackout dates.
    • Younger drivers: E-Z Rent-A-Car welcomes drivers under 25. They rent cars to drivers as young as 18. Those ages 18-24 must pay an additional fee.
    • Blog: Consumers can visit the company’s travel blog to read about a variety of destinations as well as travel tips. The company also has free downloadable city guides.
    • Discounts: E-Z Rent-A-Car offers special discounts to select groups, including seniors, teachers, police, students and members of the military. Their website and social media pages also features coupons.
    • Communication: E-Z Rent-A-Car makes it simple for consumers to contact them. Their website includes an instant chat feature and a “Contact Us” form. The website also clearly lists phone numbers, fax numbers and email addresses for reservations, customer service, toll violations and claims.
    • Best for Vacationers, business travelers, temporary workers and drivers under 25.
  • Enterprise Rent A Car

    Founded in 1957, Enterprise has more than 7,000 locations across Europe and North America.

    • Best for Vacationers, business travelers, event planners, temporary workers, those with cars in repair, those who want a wide selection of vehicles and those who don’t own cars.
  • Hertz

    Hertz offers rental cars in more than 150 countries across every inhabited continent. It has more than 10,300 corporate and franchise locations worldwide.

    • Best for Vacationers, business travelers, event planners, temporary workers, those with cars in repair, those who want a wide selection of vehicles and those who don’t own cars.
  • Thrifty Car Rental

    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.

    • Best for Vacationers, business travelers, temporary workers and those with cars in repairs.
  • Dollar Rent A Car

    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.

    • Best for Vacationers, business travelers, temporary workers and those with cars in repairs.
  • Alamo Car Rental

    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.

    • Best for Vacationers, business travelers, event planners, temporary workers, those with cars in repair and those who want a wide selection of vehicles.
  • Budget Rent-A-Car

    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.

    • Best for Military individuals and families, vacationers, business travelers, those with cars in repair and temporary workers looking for a discounted rate.
  • National Car Rental

    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.

    • Best for Those traveling only one way, business travelers, vacationers, event planners, those with cars in repair and those who want a wide selection of vehicles and temporary workers.
  • Payless Car Rental

    As an Avis subsidiary, Payless Car Rental operates more than 120 retail locations under a combined corporate and franchise model.

    • Best for Those who plan ahead, those traveling only one way, business travelers, vacationers, temporary workers, those with cars in repair and those who want a wide selection of vehicles and temporary workers.
  • Avis

    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.

    • Best for Those who like a variety of options, vacationers, business travelers, event planners, temporary workers, those with cars in repair and those who want a wide selection of vehicles.
  • ACE Rent A Car

    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.

    • Best for Those who plan ahead for vacations, business travelers, temporary workers and those who want a wide selection of vehicles.
  • Silvercar

    Founded with the mission to eliminate the frustrations of car rentals, Silvercar is paving the way for the future of car rentals. The company’s seamless car rental business - exclusively offering fully loaded silver Audi A4s - eliminates lines, counters, paperwork and hassles through the power of an easy-to-use mobile app and friendly Concierge service. The company is currently located in 12 major cities.

    • Best for Those with cars in repair and those who don’t own cars.
  • Zipcar

    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.

    • Best for Those with cars in repair and those who don’t own cars.

Rental car hacks

 

Rental car upgrades

Kate WilliamsAuthor: Kate Williams, Ph.D.

 

A lot of factors go into how much it costs to rent a car, from the car rental company itself to the location (airport or non-airport) to the time of day you show up for your rental. But how can you consistently save money on your car rental? Even more to the point, how can you score sweet upgrades without forking over more cash than you want to spend on your rental car?

This article will show you proven tips for getting upgrades on your rental car for a low (or sometimes no) additional cost. Keep in mind that these tricks won’t work all the time, so don’t count on getting upgraded from a Ford Focus to a Ford Mustang for free. If you really want or need a particular vehicle for your rental, your safest bet is to actually reserve that particular vehicle. If, on the other hand, you’re fine if you end up with an economy-class rental but wouldn’t mind getting a free upgrade or two, then try using these tips the next time you have to rent a car.

 

Time it well

 

Time it well

Rental car companies lose money when they have cars sitting in their lots. Because car rental companies (aside from those at the airport) tend to make the bulk of their sales through car insurance deals, weekends tend to have the most cars on the lot. Car dealerships try to get work done during the week, so by Friday night your local car rental company probably has a full lot and will give you a great deal on whatever car you want. As an added bonus, they lose more money for having more expensive vehicles on their lot, making it extremely likely that you can get an upgrade vehicle for an economy-vehicle price.

The alternate is true as well: going into a rental car place during its busy time could mean you get whatever is in the lot, including their high-end vehicles, for the same price as an economy-class vehicle. To score this type of upgrade, you need to have made a reservation ahead of time for an economy-class vehicle. It’s a good idea to go early in the day on the day your reservation starts, when they still have most of their vehicles on the road.

Some places will try to charge you for this upgrade. Say “no,” and they’ll most likely give you whatever vehicle is available for the same price as the car you reserved. If they don’t, ask them to refer you to a competitor who has the type of vehicle you reserved. This will likely get their attention and they’ll rent you the higher-end vehicle without an upcharge rather than risk losing your business.

 

Just ask

 

Just ask

The general goal of the rental car employee is to increase the price of your rental from your reservation, even if it’s only by a couple dollars. You’ll be surprised at what you can get for free or cheap just by asking. A simple request of “what upgrades can I get” could lead to a nicer car and/or better amenities. Rental car agents make up their own upgrade prices, so trying this tactic every time you rent a car will probably yield different results. Unless, of course, you’re savvy with tip number 3.

 

Make friends with a rental car agent

 

Make friends with a rental car agent

If you frequently use the same rental car location, make friends with one of the agents who works there. Like all companies, rental car companies live for customer loyalty, so your agent is likely to sacrifice a rental upgrade price for your continued business and referrals. Rental car agents are held personally accountable for the amount of cars they rent out, so customer loyalty is a huge bonus. Try to work with the same agent every time you rent if you’re a regular at your car rental place to both help you get sweet upgrades and help your agent with his sales goals.

 

Rent longer

 

Rent for longer than a few days

This isn’t necessarily an upgrade, but it can help you lower the overall price of your rental car. It seems counterintuitive, but you’ll pay less for a week-long rental than for a weekend rental, and you will probably get charged extra if you return your car early. So if you only need a car for a couple of days, check to see how much it costs to have it for a week. You could save hundreds of dollars this way.

 

Make it easy

 

Make it easy on the employee

Rental car employees can give you discounts if they feel like it, or they can insist on charging you for extras. A lot of it, arguably unfairly for you, comes down to what kind of mood they’re in. Make things easier on your rental car agent for your best shot at scoring sweet upgrades. Get a ride to their lot instead of making them pick you up, and call ahead to book your reservation so all they need to do is give you the keys when you show up. These aren’t always available options, but they do help improve your agent’s mood, which can translate to better deals for you.

 

Be good

 

Be a good customer

This should really go without saying, but here it is anyway: always act politely and courteously to the rental car employee. Manners go a long way in business, especially when the person you are speaking to has the final say in how much you’re going to pay for your rental car. Politely asking about upgrades will work in your favor as opposed to making demands. This doesn’t mean you have to be a pushover. You can be firm and direct without being rude.

 

No airport

 

Rent somewhere besides the airport

Airport car rental agencies have to pay money directly to the airport in order to use that space, which means they have to charge their customers more money to make up for their payments. Whenever possible, rent from a place that isn’t directly tied to the airport for guaranteed lower rates.

 

Rental hacks

 

Conclusion

Renting a car isn’t always cheap, but it can be significantly cheaper when you try these hacks. Knowing the best time of day to rent a car and using common sense and courtesy can save you upwards of hundreds of dollars every time you rent a car. Find a quote online, but call the rental car company directly to see if they’ll offer you a lower quote. And always ask in person for a lower price and for free upgrades. Make sure to check reviews on ConsumerAffairs to find the right rental car company to meet your needs.

11 – 21 Best Rated Rental Cars

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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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 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.
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.