If you're like me, you'll probably find yourself in a situation where you'll need a car, but don't have one on hand and you don't know the best car rental company to turn to. Worse, once you find a car rental site, you'll need to find the right car for your needs, and make sure it's reliable.
As you can see, renting a car can quickly become complicated. Here, I've reviewed the best car rental sites to help you to make this decision more easily so you can get on the road with less hassle.
People decide to rent cars for all sorts of reasons, such as during a vacation, for special events and occasions, or even for business use. You will find all manner of vehicles available to rent from car rental companies these days. What you need to decide is which provider and vehicle will be best suited to your needs.
The Best Car Rental Companies: Our Top Picks
Enterprise Car Rental Review
- Excellent choice of vehicles, including commercial trucks
- Environmentally friendly vehicles
- The ability to offset emissions
- Long term rental plans with discounts available
- Pick up and drop off the vehicle at different locations
- Certain features such as roadside assistance cannot be arranged online
- No search facility on the website to search for specific features
Enterprise Rent-a-Car is a big name in the world of car rentals and offers an excellent choice of vehicles to suit all needs and preferences. No matter what the occasion or what sort of car you require, chances are good that you will be able to find the perfect one through Enterprise. Better still, you will be able to check out the range of vehicles and make your rental arrangement via the company's simple and easy to use website, which can save you a lot of time, hassle and inconvenience. However, the online reservation is not completed until you actually pick the vehicle up.
The company website also offers a range of additional features to make life easier for those looking to rent a car, although regrettably a search tool is not one of these features. In addition to offering a wide variety of cars, this provider also offers commercial use trucks as well as hybrid cars with the environment in mind. You can even opt for a package that enables you to offset your emissions, which is great for those who want to do their bit for the green cause. There are various rental plans available, including long term rentals with a range of discounts based on the length of the rental.
Despite the several shortfalls that relate mainly to its website, Enterprise is a highly reputable rental service provider that offers great choice and environmentally friendly options.
Thrifty Car Rental Review
- Feature rich website
- 360 degree viewing feature
- Competitive pricing on the cost of rentals
- Fuel efficient vehicles
- Best rate guarantee to ensure a low price
- Limited environmentally friendly vehicles
- No pickups or trucks available for rent
- Limited customer service options
Thrifty car rental is another big name car rental company that offers a host of options when it comes to car rental. With a simple to use and feature-rich website, this car rental provider makes it easy to find the car you want for your needs without any hassle or inconvenience. You can look forward to competitive prices and plenty of choice, although the green options available are sadly lacking. It also does not offer pickups or trucks.
While the company does not offer much in the way of specifically environmentally friendly cars, it does pride itself on offering fuel efficient cars. This obviously does help to ease the impact of motoring on the environment and can also help customers in terms of the cost of motoring. One unique feature that comes with the Thrifty website is the ability to benefit from a 360 degree view of the vehicle you are thinking of renting. This makes it far easier to make an informed decision with regards to which car you choose.
Although it has some limitations when it comes to the availability of specific types of vehicles, Thrifty does offer a great choice of fuel efficient cars as well as competitively priced packages and great website features.
Hertz Car Rental Review
- A reputable and well known rental company
- A good website with plenty of features
- A great range of vehicles including hybrids
- Easy to personalize features
- Online check in for ease and convenience
- Lack of pickups or commercial trucks for rent
- Car choices not as impressive as some rivals
When you rent a car through Hertz you can enjoy the peace of mind that you are renting through a well known, reputable provider that offers access to a range of vehicles to suit different needs. The simple yet highly effective website makes it easy for customers to find and rent a suitable car, with a valuable search tool that makes finding the right vehicle even easier. The range of vehicle models available from Hertz is pretty impressive, with cars, vans, luxury, convertible, and hybrid vehicles available.
There are no commercial trucks or pickups available for rent with Hertz, which is where the rental company may end up losing out to competitors. However, the company does excel at making it easy for customers to benefit from finding specific features that will suit their individual needs, so if you are not looking for a commercial truck or pickup you shouldn't have any problem finding a suitable vehicle. While online check in is available there are other services that cannot be arranged online and therefore you may have to wait until you collect your vehicle before completing the reservation.
While the choice of vehicles may not be as great as some other rental firms, this provider does offer a pretty good range for non-commercial needs.
Alamo Car Rental Review
- Access to a good range of cars and vehicles
- The ability to offset your emissions
- Online check in and a range of other features
- The ability to select specific features online
- Excellent customer service levels
- Website could be more user friendly
- No commercial truck rental available
- Car choices not as great as some competitors
Owned by the same parent company that owns Enterprise, Alamo is a car rental service provider that offers an impressive choice of vehicles, although this does not include commercial trucks. Although the Alamo website is not quite as simple or effective as the Enterprise one, you should be able to find a suitable vehicle for your needs provided you are not looking for a commercial truck. There are also various options and features that Alamo does not offer but which Enterprise does, such as carpooling packages.
While there are some areas in which Alamo is lacking compared to Enterprise, there are also areas where it surpasses the larger company. For instance, although its website is not as simple and user friendly as Enterprise, it does offer a number of better features such as online check-in and the ability to choose a car rather than having a car assigned to you. You can also select a range of features via the website to go with your car rental, from infant seats and GPS systems through to discounts on refuelling. You can also opt for an emissions offset package if you want to do your bit for the environment.
For those looking for a hassle free rental experience and a decent choice of vehicles, Alamo could prove an ideal car rental services provider.
Budget Car Rental Review
- Good choice of vehicles
- Great website features
- The ability to choose and add extras online
- The availability of an onsite fuel discount
- No availability of pickups
- Limited customer service contact methods
- Some key features lacking from the website
If you are looking for an affordable car rental and an easy to use site through which to arrange it, Budget could be the ideal choice for you. The provider offers access to a pretty impressive range of vehicles, and these can be viewed, chosen and reserved online. This company offers a good choice of vehicles that includes luxury cars, convertibles, vans and commercial trucks, although it does not include pickups. The site doesn't offer a particularly in depth view of the cars, which means that you have to go by limited image data when making your selection.
There are a number of benefits that you can look forward to when you rent your car through Budget. This includes the ability to select and add a range of extras online and the availability of an onsite fuel discount. However, there are a number of features that are missing from the site, including online check in and lack of live chat.
While Budget does have a few drawbacks in terms of its website and customer service features, it does offer a simple and affordable way to rent a vehicle.
Key Considerations When Finding a Car Rental Company
Choosing the right provider as well as the right vehicle is an important part of enjoying a hassle-free car rental experience. This is why you need to take a number of important factors into consideration when deciding which car rental service to go with. This includes factors such as:
- The choice of vehicles available from the provider
- The reputation of the car rental company
- The level of customer service offered by the rental firm
- Competitive pricing on the cost of renting a vehicle
- Additional features available with vehicles
- Flexibility such as to make one-way or long-term rentals
- Ability to make arrangements online
How to Choose the Right Car
Choosing the right car is just as important as choosing the best site for car rentals. With more than 2 million rentals cars in fleets across the United States, it can be difficult to find the perfect one for your trip.consider the following factors.
- How many seats do you need in the car?
- How much luggage needs to fit in the car.
- Does the car rental service charge different amounts for different size cars? Can you save money by going down a size?
- What fuel efficiency can you expect and how expensive is gas in the area? Gas prices across the country vary by 30% or more, so this can greatly affect the total cost of your rental.
Pay special attention to the car's ability to fit luggage and passengers, as nothing is worse than getting your car, and finding out you'll have to leave a suitcase behind.
Four Costs to Consider When Looking For a Car Rental Site
Car rental services, like any company, are in business to make money, even cheap rental cars are expensive to maintain, so companies need to charge a fair price to ensure they make a profit. When looking for the best place to rent a car, consider the following costs.
1. Gas and Mileage Fees
As more miles are put on a car, the moving parts and other machinery wear down. As anyone who's visited a mechanic can attest to, car parts often need to replaced or repaired to keep the vehicle running. Because the maintenance cost is so closely tied to how far the car is driven, car rental services often pass that cost onto you, adding a fee for every mile driven, or every mile driven over a base amount.
On top of that, cars need gas to operate. You are responsible for fueling the car while you rent it, and if you return the car with less gas than it had when you picked it up, the rental car service will charge you for the fuel, often at a higher rate than you'd pay at the pump.
2. Taxes and Fees
Where you rent a car can affect the cost of the rental as much as, or more, than the type of car you rent or the company you rent from. For example, airports are one of the most popular places to rent a car, since travelers need a way to get to their final destination. This means that car rental services can charge an additional fee thanks to the demand.
Some states also charge taxes on rental car services. Florida charges the state sales tax and a daily fee for rental cars. These can boost the cost of a rental car by as much as 70% when all is said and done.
Cars cost tens of thousands of dollars so it is understandable that car rental services want assurance that they'll recoup the value of the car should it be damaged. For this reason, all of the best car rental companies require that customers have some form of car insurance.
If you already have insurance, most policies will cover vehicles that you rent. Additionally, some credit cards provide travel insurance that extends to rental cars, so long as you rent the car with credit. If your policy does not cover rental cars, or you don't have car insurance, you'll have to get the insurance offered by the company, which could increase your cost by 25% or more.
4. Extras and Add-ons
Upselling is an easy way for businesses to earn a bit more money from each customer and car rental services, economy car rentals especially, are just as guilty of it as other businesses. Sometimes these add-ons can be quite useful and make your trip easier, but other times, they are unnecessary costs that could have been avoided.
When you pick up the keys to your rental car, the company will offer extras like GPS navigation, car seats for children, or satellite radio. While any of these services could be useful, consider if you can avoid the cost with a bit of extra planning.
Five Tips for Saving
Once you've put in the time finding the best car rental site, the best car, and learning what hidden costs to watch for, you're ready to learn a few tricks that can help you save on your rental car.
1. Comparison Shop
The best car rental site for your specific needs can vary. Some car rental services specialize in certain vehicle types or areas, so taking the time to comparison shop can help you find the cheapest car rental you can.
2. Consider Who Will Do the Driving
Most car rental services won't add a charge to allow your spouse to drive a car you rent, but many will charge an additional fee to permit other people to drive the car. If you're only planning a short road trip, designating one person as the driver can save everyone some money.
3. Watch For Sales
Like any industry, the car rental industry offers sales to entice customers. Being flexible on the timing of your trip and waiting for a good deal can greatly reduce the cost of a rental.
4. Think Small
Car rental services tend to categorize, and price rentals, by car size. Smaller cars are cheaper while larger cars are more expensive. Try to rent the smallest car possible, while still having enough room for your family and luggage.
5. Use Your Own Insurance
The insurance offered by car rental services is valuable for people who don't carry their own car insurance, but it is also very expensive. Most car insurance policies will cover you when you are driving a rental car, so check if you can decline the rental service's insurance offerings. Even if you don't have your own car insurance, many credit cards, including nearly all Visa cards, come with free collision insurance on cars you rent with your card.
Small savings add up quickly, so taking the time to get the best deal possible is more than worthwhile.
There are many different rental vehicles to choose from as well as a number of different car rental companies. When you are making your selection you need to make sure you take into consideration both the suitability and choice of vehicles and the pros and cons of the providers in order to try and benefit from a stress-free rental experience.
Looking for great car insurance that will cover the car you rent on your next vacation? Check out our review of the best car insurance companies. If you already have a trip planned but want the peace of mind that travel insurance provides, take a look at our review of the best travel insurance available.