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The Best Car Rental Deals of 2020

Ridesharing companies like Uber, Turo, and Lyft have revolutionized the way we get around, bridging the gap between private vehicles and public transportation. More and better transportation options mean better commutes, cost savings, and an overall improvement in quality of life.

However, sometimes none of these options quite meet your requirements. Whether you need a temporary replacement for a personal vehicle that’s being repaired, or a flexible way to get around while on vacation, a rental car is still the only game in town.

Important Things to Know About Car Rental Deals:

  • Try to avoid renting a car from an airport. Because you’re paying for convenience, these locations tend to have higher rates and fewer—if any—deals. Instead, seek out an urban or suburban rental car location if possible.
  • Online car rental reservations tend to offer more deals or promotions than when you reserve a vehicle in person.
  • Depending on what you use the rental for, you may want to consider choosing a smaller vehicle than you typically drive. If you book a smaller car ahead of time, the rental agency may not have that size when you arrive. In that case, they will often upgrade you to the next larger size for free.
  • Time is a critical factor in getting the best car rental deals. Week-long and weekend car rental rates tend to include more discounts than other rental time periods.

The Best Car Rental Deals

  • Enterprise: Best rental car company for deals that eliminate most, if not all, unexpected fees.
  • Avis: Best overall discount offered across categories, duration of rental, and vehicle types.
  • Dollar: Best car rental deals with a rewards program.
  • Budget: Cheapest car rental deals across the industry.
  • Sixt: Best rental car company for deals on luxury rentals and exotic vehicles, available throughout the United States and around the world.

Best Car Rental Deal Reviews

Enterprise Review

Enterprise placed highly on our list of best rental car deals for many reasons, but its straightforward pricing scheme has to be our favorite of those reasons. The company has done away with hidden fees, meaning that the price they quote you is the price you’ll ultimately pay. More to the point, it means no more surprises when it comes to settling the bill.

Speaking of extra fees, Enterprise charges nearly half the average rate for drivers between the ages of 21 and 25, making it the go-to agency for this (typically) expensive-to-rent-to demographic.

For everyone else, it’s still a great rental option, as Enterprise offers a nice range of promotions and specials that lower its already low daily rates. Targeted business discount programs and fleet management services will appeal to business owners, while email promotions and a point-based loyalty program that allows customers to earn lower rates will be attractive to everyone.

Typically rental agencies charge more for one-way rentals, where you pick up a vehicle in one location and return it to another. But Enterprise offers one-way rates as low as $9.99 per day. Special weekend rates and long term rentals of a month or more mean you won’t have to plan your trip around your rental car.

Besides its pricing and promotions, there are many things to like about the company itself. With thousands of locations across the U.S. and worldwide, their loyalty program is far from a gimmick. And if you’re traveling internationally, keep in mind that Enterprise offers discounts of between 5-20% depending on where you’re going.

Enterprise is still a rental car company, however, which means certain annoyances are a fact of life. Extra driver fees apply, and many rental locations are closed on Sundays, making returns tricky at times.

Avis Review

Avis delivers a wide range of coupons, discounts, and promotions that help make this rental car agency one of our top picks. Though tagged by some as expensive, particularly for one day rentals, steep discounts for prepaying (up to 30%) and membership in organizations like the AARP mean you could drive away with a lower bill than you would with some of the “cheaper” rental options.

Regular promotions include seasonal rate sales, complimentary weekend days on certain rentals, a rewards program, and more. Certain popular destinations like Hawaii often feature savings of up to 25%. Other savings, such as a 10% discount on monthly rentals and potential rate reductions for Costo members make Avis a very attractive possibility.

One criticism Avis receives is that it’s geared more toward business rentals. If you’re traveling for business, though, these criticisms should delight you since the company offers up to 30% off for small businesses, as well as preferred check-in and check-out.

Another perk: Avis will pick you up from your home or hotel. A slightly higher than average additional driver charge of $13 is annoying, but not out of the ordinary for the industry. The Avis rewards program requires more rentals than other companies at the basic level, but higher volume renters will see more dramatic rewards as they advance to higher plan tiers.

This slow going at the beginning shouldn’t matter much for business travelers who tend to rent more often than vacationers. In short, Avis is a solid choice for all travelers, but really shines for business travelers.

Dollar Review

Dollar is a rental car agency focused on giving thrifty customers some of the lowest rates possible. If you’re looking for luxury rentals and oodles of bonus options, you’ll probably want to go with another company. Which is not to imply that Dollar’s fleet is full of lemons — far from it — and it’s full of deals.

Rental deals with Dollar include 10% off for AAA members, 10% off for younger drivers, and prepay discounts of 15% off normal rates. Weekend discounts and discounts for union members, BJ’s Warehouse Club members, and AICPA members mean even greater savings. You can even get a 15% discount off of base rates for simply signing up for the Dollar newsletter.

As if already affordable rates and a wide range of discounts weren’t saving you enough, Dollar’s rewards programs is excellent — you can earn free rentals and skip-the-line privileges. And their loyalty program for business travelers includes discounts and priority service, which is nice, but far from a “unicorn” in the industry.

But its partnership programs are where Dollar really shines. If you fly American Airlines and use its rewards program, you can earn quadruple points by renting through Dollar. Southwest and Alaska Airlines flyers can also earn multiple points if they rent through Dollar.

A rock bottom $10 additional driver fee and some of the lowest weekly rates in the field make Dollar a great option for those traveling on a budget. However, it’s a smaller company than others on this list, meaning you may have difficulty finding an office where you’re going. Also of note: Dollar does not offer rides to the rental office as some other companies do, simply as a way to lower costs to its customers. But what it does offer more than makes up for this omission in service.

Budget Review

Budget is another great option for travelers on a… budget, though with a wider scope than other low-cost options. Owned by the same company as Avis, Budget is geared more toward personal or vacation travelers than its corporate brother.

Like Dollar, Budget starts with an already low daily rate for both domestic and international car rentals and then adds on with heaps of promotions and special discounts. Even just spending five minutes in the “deals” tab on the Budget website can net you significant savings with frequently updated new promotions. Many discounts rotate throughout the year on a seasonal basis, with some favorites popping up frequently.

Prepaying for your rental car when you make a reservation can give you a discount of up to 35%, which comes out to more than a third off for simply booking online. Other permanent discounts include free rentals days. For instance, if you book a weekend rental for intermediate up to four-door, full-size cars, you get a free third day.

Budget’s fleet includes everything from compact Smart cars for quick city errands, to truck and van rentals, for moves and hauling needs. A 20% off truck rentals is a frequently occurring discount, as are coupons for SUV rentals, making larger vehicles a surprisingly affordable option.

Due to Budget’s size and market share, the company has been able to forge a number of corporate partnerships to bring in even more savings. Amazon Prime members can score discounts of up to 30% off a car rental, plus 10% back in the form of an Amazon gift card. Also, small businesses have access to special rates. Enrolling in the Budget Business Program gets you 30% off the base rate. Veterans can get 25% off their vehicle rentals, too.

The additional driver surcharge is on the high side at $13 a day, but the numerous discounts more than offset this extra fee.

Sixt Review

Sixt is not your run of the mill rental car company, as it’s only available in 15 states in America. But if you’re traveling internationally and want to roll in style, Sixt is absolutely one of your best options.

Sixt’s fleet includes conventional, reliable options from brands like Toyota, Jeep, and Chevrolet, and even has truck rentals. But whereas other companies stop there, Sixt’s exotic fleet includes high-end SUVs, convertibles, and sedans from luxury brands such as BMW, Jaguar, Range Rover, Porsche, and Mercedes-Benz.

You might think that a luxury rental dealer would have a non-negotiable pricing structure, but Sixt actually offers a variety of rental deals. Sixt provides a number of discounts to active members of the military and veterans, including 5% off car rentals.

Similar discounts are available to seniors, students, emergency service workers, teachers and school personnel, government workers, and those in the travel industry. You can also join the Sixt Express membership program and receive 5% off rental cars.

In addition to these standard discounts, Sixt offers valuable last-minute car rental deals. Featured special discounts, like a midweek sale of up to 20% off the price are not uncommon. The company also offers a flexible rental reservation option that lets you book Sunday through Tuesday and return the vehicle by Thursday of the same week.

If none of these discounts speak to you, Sixt also honors some other car rental company coupons, meaning unadvertised savings are possible. Partnerships with brands like American Express provide even more deals.

How We Found the Best Car Rental Deals

Deal Depth and Variety

The best car rental deals offer deep discounts, a range of promotional savings, and a variety of special savings throughout the year and during specific time periods. This includes holidays, peak travel times, long-term rentals, and weekends.

Fees

No one wants unexpected fees when they pick up their car, or worse yet, to find out the stated car rental deal actually costs much more than promised. The fewer the fees, and the more transparency in those fees, the better the car rental deal.

Vehicle Options

Car rentals may be just a short-term transport option, but people want a variety of brands, sizes and features to choose from. Sedans and SUVS are fine, but sporty options and heavy cargo vehicles make a well-rounded fleet. Rental agencies that deliver more variety rise higher on the list.

Accessibility

Deals available at multiple locations top the list because saving money goes beyond just the price of a vehicle. It takes time and money to get to a rental car office. Deals that include drop-off and pick-up service are especially attractive. Convenience, ease of use, value and overall customer experience are key criteria.

What You Need To Know About Car Rental Deals

Besides competitive discounts and promotions, other money-saving strategies can help bolster your car rental deal. That’s money saved that you can spend on other parts of your vacation or business trip.

You can get more bang for your buck on rental car deals by signing up for AAA or AARP memberships if you’re eligible. Look for travel loyalty programs offered by airline or hotel brands that help you build up more points. You can then use those points for future trips or other expenses.

Don’t forget to review any of your current credit card or travel (airline and hotel) membership programs to leverage bonus car rental deals. If you’re considering signing up for a credit card or joining a specific travel program, consider those that offer deals on rentals. American Express partners with large rental car companies to give discounts when you pay with your card. Some options even include car rental loss and damage insurance.

Also, the American Airlines AAdvantage Miles Program lets you earn 500 miles per car rental on all qualifying rentals at participating Budget airport locations. AAdvantage members get more deals at Budget by providing their Budget Customer Discount number. Several other cards and programs offer similar deals.

Another strategy to get the best car rental deal possible is to avoid any extras the company tries to sell you. Avoid spending money on things like navigation systems or baby seats. Use apps like Google Maps on your smartphone or bring your own baby seat, if possible.

Using the rental company’s insurance can drive up costs quickly. Instead, use your own insurance and make sure it includes rental collision coverage. You may also be able to get this insurance coverage if you have certain credit cards, such as American Express.

Avoid the “full-tank” fuel option rental car companies offer. It may seem like a great idea not to get gas on the way back to the rental car company, but prepaying to have them fill your tank almost always costs you more. Even if you return the car with the tank half full, the rental car company still charges you for a whole tank of gas when you pre-pay. With the price of gas continually fluctuating, it’s most likely better to take a side trip to a gas station and pay for it yourself.

Again, remember to avoid renting your vehicle at an airport. Rental companies pay fees to be located at airports and they pass those fees on to the customers as part of their business model. Pick a car rental office located in the city or suburb you’re visiting for better savings.

Finally, don’t bring your car back in early if at all possible. In some cases, companies may charge you a different rate if you return the vehicle on a different day than you’d planned.

Summary: Best Car Rental Deals

  • Enterprise: Best rental car company for deals that eliminate most, if not all, unexpected fees.
  • Avis: Best overall discount offered across categories, duration of rental, and vehicle types.
  • Dollar: Best car rental deals with a rewards program.
  • Budget: Cheapest car rental deals across the industry.
  • Sixt: Best rental car company for deals on luxury rentals (including exotic vehicles) available throughout the United States and around the world.