The Best Budget Rental Car Companies to Consider

There are many factors to consider when you’re renting a car. Car availability, location, extra services, and even website design all affect the decision of which car rental company to choose. But many times, the deciding factor is that of cost.

several company cars

Paying top dollar for a car you’re only going to use for a few days isn’t always appealing. Not surprisingly, many people prefer to use their travel budget on food and local attractions rather than transportation. If you’re one of those people, then here are the top budget rental car places to consider.

The Best Budget Rental Car Companies to Consider

1. Alamo

Alamo tops this list due to its super affordable prices, a wide range of availability, and decent customer service. Signing up to become an “Alamo Insider” on their website allows you to save 5%, and paying beforehand takes another 10% off of the price. Their last-minute specials cut rates even further. According to most online reviews, the cars are clean and in good shape, and their selection of options and vehicles is impressive.

2. National

the inside of a car

As a sister company to Alamo and Enterprise, National is known for their customer service. They secured the number 2 spot in the J.D. Powers’ annual report along with a five-star score for both satisfaction and the reservation process among their customers. While rates aren’t always everything, National makes it very easy with around $40 a day on average.

However, that price will differ depending on which car you choose. And boy, do they have a selection. Besides their stellar customer service, people also love their huge variety of vehicles, from little compact cars to Chevy cargo vans.

National also has a focus on business rentals and has offers and programs that target companies. These offers allow employees of certain companies to rent cars at contracted rates, other than having to pay a premium for rental needs.

In addition, National also accepts miles and points from programs such as Delta SkyMiles, American Airlines, AAdvantage, and Southwest Rapid Rewards.

3. Enterprise

It’s wise to book your car in advance to get the best deal here, as last-minute prices can be almost triple the price you’ll pay if you book a week or two beforehand. But with a huge selection of vehicles and a full range of options, this is a solid option if you’re looking for a budget rental car.

The website is very upfront about helping you see final costs, which can help you avoid last minute surprised when tax and extras are added to the price. However, paying online ahead of time doesn’t provide you with any discounts which other sites have. Enterprise also has a unique CarShare program which allows you to pick up and drop off vehicles at designated areas around the city. This option can be helpful if you only need to rent a car for a few hours rather than for days. There is no early return fee.

4. Hertz

an audi car parked on the road

While it may not be one of the cheapest up front, it certainly is in the long run. Many “budget” rental car companies have a lot of fees that end up making them close to the bigger companies. While Hertz is one of the largest car rental companies there is, they don’t have a ton of fees that end up costing you an arm and a leg.

Their upfront average cost is around $48 per day, which isn’t very cheap. However, with that you get a huge selection of cars, including luxury, and none of the fees. Also, if you do find a rate that is cheaper than Hertz, they will match that rate and give you 10 percent off of that base rate as well.

The company also offers a great “NeverLost” GPS program, but it’s more than just a device. With the program, you also get access to an online trip planner, concierge service for planning assistance, and cool features like a downloadable national park and city guides. These of course are an extra fee, but if you are new to a city or area it’s something that can come in very handy.

5. Avis

Definitely not expensive, but you can make it considerably less. Avis has one of the highest premiums in the market, but they also have some of the best discounts as well. There are plenty of discount codes, rebates, and promotions available for the savvy shopper, plus AARP members get special rates automatically.

If you are renting in the Northeast, all cars come with an E-Toll feature, which takes care of the toll costs for you, which gives you one less thing to worry about.

Avis is also great for companies whose employees need to grab a car for short amount of time. Small businesses specifically can get up to 30 percent off their rentals.

If convenience is important to you, Avis makes it easy with an app that directly manages your reservation from booking to drop-off. Allowing you to skip the confusing website or annoying phone call all together and get straight to driving your rental.

Which Budget Rental Car Company Should You Choose?

If you’re looking for a budget rental car from a company with solid customer satisfaction levels, then Enterprise and Alamo are the best choices here. Enterprise has consistently come out on top in the J.D. Power annual North America Rental Car Satisfaction Survey, with Alamo close behind.

Companies like Thrifty, Dollar, and Budget may offer the lowest prices, but you’ll want to calculate the prices of add-on charges. Car seat and child booster costs, GPS rental charges, extra driver fees, and other such features can all raise the price significantly. It’s also wise to check your existing insurance policies to see if they cover rental insurance, rather than paying for it a second time from your car rental company.

It’s also important to remember that prices can vary greatly depending on a wide array of factors. The time of the week, upcoming holidays, and vehicle availability. Booking ahead of time can save you a lot, but sometimes last minute deals can also be a good value.
Flexible travel dates can also come in handy, and changing the date of your travel slightly may help you find an incredible deal.

Bottom Line

The best way to find a great deal on a budget rental car is to check a large variety of websites. Do so early and often, because prices generally increase when you need a vehicle soon. If cancellations are offered free, then you can book the car as soon as you find a good deal and then cancel and re-book later on if you find a better deal.

No matter what company you choose, you’ll want to avoid unexpected fines. Reading the fine print is important to help you avoid unexpected charges, so pay attention to late fees, closing times, a mile or area restrictions, and similar rules.

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