Our editors independently research, test, and recommend the best products and services; you can learn more about our review process here. We may receive commissions on purchases made from our chosen links.
Best for Avoiding Additional Fees: Enterprise
"Enterprise is super-convenient, with almost 6,000 locations across the country."
Best for Customer Service: National
"National’s offerings are aimed primarily at business travelers, with companies taking advantage of the business rental program."
Best for Unlimited Mileage & Second Drivers: Alamo
"If hitting the road with a significant other or a group, the second driver's cost is less than a lot of the competition at Alamo."
Best Airport Locations: Hertz
"Hertz offers a wide range of cars to rent along with a “NeverLost” GPS program."
Best Aggregator: Rentalcars.com
"The company has a massive directory of cars and dealers available, making eight million bookings a year in over 60,000 locations."
Best Discounts: Avis
"Avis is suitable for companies whose employees need to snag a car for a bit—small businesses can get up to 30% off their rentals."
Best for Paying Upfront: Budget
"Budget, true to its name, has some of the cheapest car rentals in the industry."
Best for Rewards Programs: Dollar
"Dollar offers a full fleet, from basic economy cars to pick-ups and vans that can be a lifesaver on family trips or moving days."
Best Online Check-In System: Thrifty
"Keep an eye out for location-specific offers, too, especially for weekend rates."
Our Top Picks
One of the rental car industry’s more expensive providers, Enterprise’s daily rate averages close to $50 (rates may vary depending on your specific location). However, what they do well might save you money if you can get past that average rate: The company reduces or gets rid of a lot of the sneaky additional charges that most other companies rely on in extra fees.
Enterprise is also very convenient, with almost 6,000 locations across the country. If you happen to be moving or living somewhere medium-term for work, the company offers special rates, beginning at a month of renting, that offer more significant savings the more days you have the car. If you want to go all out for a special occasion, the company offers exotic car rentals, too. (Fun fact: The company was named after the aircraft carrier the founder served on during World War II.)
National Car Rental, a sister company of Alamo and Enterprise, has been praised for its customer service. It also has a wide variety of vehicles to rent, from little compact cars to Chevy cargo vans. National’s offerings and programs are aimed primarily at business travelers, with companies taking advantage of the company’s business rental program. The business rental program allows employees—at any sized company—to rent cars at contracted rates versus paying a premium for rental needs that pop up at the last minute during busy travel times.
Renters can also put their air miles toward renting cars with points from several standard programs—Delta SkyMiles, American Airlines AAdvantage, and Southwest Rapid Rewards—as well as points from hotel programs like Hilton Honors. Overall, it’s a solid bet if you want an easy way to book cars at a fairly standard rate.
Alamo is a favorite with millennials and offers unlimited free mileage as a standard. If you happen to be hitting the open road with a significant other or a group, the second driver's cost is less than a lot of the competition. We also love the Alamo Insider free program that gives customers a guaranteed five percent discount off the retail rate.
They support teachers, with National Education Association members getting an extra day free when you rent for five days or more. Of course, no one loves returning a rental car—depending on the provider; customer service can be a huge sticking point at this point in the rental process. However, Alamo customers say this is one area where the company excels.
Although it’s one of the largest car rental companies worldwide—it has more than 1,600 airport locations in the U.S. alone—it’s not the cheapest, with an average daily rate of $48.50 (rates may vary depending on your specific location). We love the range of cars that the company offers: While there’s definitely your business-trip standards, as well as high-capacity cars for families and compact economy cars for those on a budget, there’s also a rental section of hybrid cars, luxury “dream cars” that are treats for memorable trips, and a special-edition Mustang Hertz—the result of a collaboration with Ford which you can rent at select Hertz airport locations across the country.
The company also offers a great “NeverLost” GPS program. It doesn’t come with just a device: You’ll also get access to an online trip planner, which you can then download your route to your GPS via a flash drive, a concierge service for planning assistance, and innovative features like downloadable national park and city guides.
A rental aggregator is a handy tool if you’re looking to get the best deals possible on the best cars. And our favorite is rentalcars.com because they have tons of experience in delivering customers the cheapest rates around.
The company has a massive directory of cars and dealers available, including Alamo, Hertz, Avis, and Dollar, making eight million bookings a year in over 60,000 locations and 160 countries. With all those options, customers are given the power to choose whatever booking suits them best, as flexible options and features include:
- Seeing hidden rates and fees.
- Choosing your preferred rental service.
- Seeing the cheapest deals first.
- Even choosing to have a car seat or extra protection.
After you choose your car, rentalcars.com reduces the hassle of paperwork and verification since all you’ll need to do is show up to the dealer with your information and payment. The site isn’t merely an aggregator—it also offers customer service and support throughout the whole process of renting a car, so you won’t be stuck dealing with the company you’re booking from.
By far, Avis is the most expensive rental company out there, with daily rates averaging out to be around $60 per day (rates may vary depending on your specific location). However, there’s a good chance you might be able to knock the price, with various discount codes, rebates, and promotions available to savvy customers who aren’t afraid to put in a bit of research (AARP members also get special rates by default).
If you’re renting in the Northeast, all cars come with an e-Toll, so you don’t have to think about extra toll costs. It’s also suitable for companies whose employees need to snag a car for a bit—small businesses, in particular, can get up to 30% off their rentals. Although customers rate the company’s service well, one thing we love is the dedicated app that allows you to manage your reservation from booking to drop-off directly.
Budget, true to its name, has some of the cheapest car rentals in the industry, with an average rental cost of about $35/day—and an extra discount—up to a whopping 35%—if you pay when you make the reservation (daily rates may vary depending on your specific location). They also do a weekend program where you can get a free third day—although it’s for intermediate (group C) through four-door full-size cars (group E) only, it’s still an offer that’s attractive for families hitting the road for a quick weekend trip.
If you want something that’s not your usual rental car, Budget’s got that too—it’s not just Honda Accords here: You can rent hybrids like the Toyota Prius or convertibles like a Chevy Camaro. Be advised that customer satisfaction is a little lacking, starting with the reservation process and ending with the drop-off, so if customer service is something that will make or break an experience for you, it might be worth paying a bit more elsewhere.
Dollar for dollar, pardon the pun, this rental company is one of the cheapest in the industry, with rates at about $30/day (rates may vary depending on your specific location), and a further 15% off discount on base rates if you sign up for their newsletter. If you’re only focused on getting the most for your money, this is the rental company for you, but don’t go into your rental looking for top-quality customer service or an easy return process.
It offers a full fleet, from basic economy cars to pick-ups and vans that can be a lifesaver on family trips or moving days. However, the company is good for customers enrolled in rewards programs, with offers like quadruple American Airlines points when you rent a compact car for more than three days. It also has its own rental program that offers business travelers who frequently rent some serious perks, faster booking, and shorter lines among them.
Like Budget and Dollar, this company is all about the bottom line for its customers; however—let’s just get this out of the way—customer satisfaction isn’t what it is at higher-tier companies like Enterprise and Avis (though it’s owned by Hertz). That being said, although it offers some of the lowest prices in the industry, it also provides a few cool perks: We love the online check-in system they offer, where you input your name and booking information before heading to the pick-up office, and it’s just as cheap as other budget-minded rental places (it and Dollar, for example, are sister companies).
Keep an eye out for location-specific offers, too, especially for weekend rates. There’s also plenty of locations, with almost 500 pick-up and drop-off sites in the U.S. and Canada. However, customer service isn’t the greatest here—don’t expect them to roll out the red carpet when you’re returning your car.
What Should I Look for in a Car Rental Company?
When choosing a car rental company, consider its reputation and recent customer reviews. You should check what is included in the price: extra mileage or additional drivers are likely to include a surcharge. It’s also very important to know what kind of insurance is offered and what you will be liable for in case of an accident.
How Much Does a Car Rental Cost?
The cost of renting a car varies greatly and depends on several factors including the company, the make and model of the car, your insurance coverage, driver age, and whether or not you register an additional driver. However, average daily rates for the companies listed in the article range from around $30 to $60 per day.
Can I Pay With a Debit Card to Rent a Car?
Some rental companies, including Avis and Budget, allow customers to rent a car with a debit card as long as they are at least 25 years old and consent to having an authorized hold placed on their card for the duration of the rental period. Policies change from location to location, so it’s always best to call and check in advance if you plan on using a debit card.
Do Car Rental Companies Offer AAA Discounts?
AAA members can receive discounted rates through three car rental partners: Hertz, Dollar, and Thrifty.
Will My Regular Car Insurance Cover a Rental?
If you have comprehensive and liability insurance on your personal car, your existing policy will likely provide the same for a rental car within the United States. You should check with your insurance provider first, though, and you may want to purchase extra cover for personal effects coverage or if your rental car is of a significantly higher value than your own car.