Renting a car doesn’t have to be a hellish experience, nor does it need to cost an arm, a leg, and your first-born child. Simply plan ahead whenever possible, always read the fine-print, and check out our list of the best rental car companies in the United States.
Enterprise has more happy customers than any of its rivals, according to a study conducted last year by J.D. Power. The study evaluated six main factors: Cost and fees, the pick-up process, the fleet of available cars, the return process, the reservation process, and the shuttle bus.
Car renters nationwide were satisfied with Enterprise’s commitment to providing high-quality service. The company also offers some of the newest cars on the market. The average Enterprise rental car is about six months old, and has less than 14,000 miles on the odometer.
National boasts a dizzying selection of cars, SUVs, pickup trucks, and even cargo vans like the Chevrolet Express — or similar, of course. Customer satisfaction is high, which is partly due to the group’s emphasis on making life easy for business travelers. The Business Rental Program gives renters access to contracted rates, ensuring they won’t pay more simply because they need a car at the last minute during peak season. The program also specializes in flexible one-way rentals, according to National.
Alamo is popular among travelers on a budget. On average, it costs $42 a day to rent a compact car from the company. That’s seven percent less than the industry average, Money magazine reports. And adding a second driver costs just $12 a day, so you can split the driving with friends without breaking the bank.
Hertz is present in 1,635 airports from coast to coast, and in hundreds of additional locations like train stations, bus stations, and hotels. On average, Hertz is a little bit more expensive than its rivals, but in this case paying a few extra bucks might be worth it.
Hertz’s selection of cars is one of the largest in the industry. You can rent a garden-variety econobox, choose from high-horsepower machines in its Dream Cars collection, or soothe your carbon conscience by picking up a hybrid from its Green Traveler selection. Hertz even teamed up with Ford to build a special Shelby Mustang GT that’s available in select locations.
Avis offers good, straight-forward service. It’s usually one of the most expensive companies on the market, though numerous rebates and promotions are available. Notably, the company offers special rates for AARP members, and it gives small businesses up to 30 percent off. Some limitations apply, so make sure you read the terms and conditions.
The Avis App lets renters reserve a car and manage their reservation using a smartphone or a tablet, which is a real boon for those who rent on a regular basis. Also, cars rented in the northeastern part of the country come with e-Toll. The days of stopping on the turnpike to look for change are over.
Sixt isn’t as well known in the United States as Hertz or Enterprise because it only began operating here in 2011. However, it was founded in Germany in 1912, which makes it the country’s oldest rental car company — and one of the most experienced rental car companies in the world.
Sixt prides itself on offering vehicles for all types of travel and terrain. Its fleet includes the usual suspects like economy cars and crossovers that will get you from point A to point B, but certain locations also offer Land Rover, Porsche, Mercedes-Benz, Alfa Romeo, and even Tesla vehicles.
Budget stays toe-to-toe with its competitors in many areas. It offers a wide selection of vehicles, including muscle cars such as the Chevrolet Camaro and hybrid models like the Toyota Prius. However, J.D. Power’s study finds many renters report the pick-up process is frustrating, which is definitely not how you want to kick off your family’s holiday.
Dollar lives up to its name. While you can’t book a car for a buck, it usually offers the cheapest rental cars on the market. You get what you pay for, though. Customer service isn’t great, neither is the return process. But, there are some advantages to renting with Dollar. For example, you earn quadruple American Airlines miles if you rent a compact car or bigger for more than three days.
Thrifty scored low marks all across the board in J.D. Power’s satisfaction survey. The company has a little more than 300 locations in the U.S., which means it covers a far smaller percentage of the nation than many of its bigger rivals. That can be problematic if you need a one-way rental: You can’t drop off your car in a town without a Thrifty location.
Dollar and Thrifty are part of the same group, so the advantages detailed above apply here, too.
Silvercar scores points for being different than other rental car companies. Instead of trying to compete against giants like Enterprise, Silvercar takes a different route and operates a fleet of late-model Audi A4s that are all painted — you guessed it — silver. You can’t get an A6, an A3, a Chevrolet Spark, or a minivan. It’s all A4, all the time.
Reserving a car through Silvercar is a straight-forward process. Simply download the company’s official application, use it to book and unlock your car, and drop it off when you’re done. The company automatically emails renters a receipt. That means no hassle, and no waiting in line.
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