Best car rental companies in 2020

Best car rental companies in 2020

Join Wireless London to find out the article “Best car rental companies in 2020”

Whether you’ve flown somewhere — before various coronavirus measures decimated travel — had your car in the shop or just needed to take a trip out of the city, chances are you’ve had to rent a car at some point. If you have, you know that the rental car company you choose makes a difference.

People judge their rental car experiences based on a variety of factors. As Michael Taylor, senior director of Travel & Hospitality Intelligence at J.D. Power and Associates, explains, “At J.D. Power we quantify consumer priorities in almost every study we do… In 2019, the most important factor is the cost and fees of the rental (accounting for 28% of overall satisfaction with the rental experience), this is followed by the rental car itself at 25% and the pick-up process at 23%. The reservation process, the return process, and branded shuttle bus experiences comprise the remaining 25% of the overall experience.”

Another major factor for an industry that has taken a big hit during the COVID-19 pandemic is simply being in business, with car rental giant Hertz recently filing for bankruptcy.

We’ve ranked the top 10 car rental companies in the US, based on audience service satisfaction. For reference, we primarily used the latest customer satisfaction surveys compiled by J.D. Power and Associates.

There are more things to consider besides price when it comes to renting a vehicle.


Hertz

Different companies tend to serve customers with different priorities. “There are brands that are more business-oriented (e.g., Hertz, National, Avis) and those that are more leisure-oriented (Thrifty, Dollar, Budget),” says Taylor. “The main differences are in the frequency of rentals and the loyalty program membership that each brand offers. Corporate contracts, specialty car ‘lots’ that offer a ‘better’ selection of vehicles, reserved check out lanes, etc. are the features that ‘entice’ the business renter.”

Overall, our pick for best car rental company was Enterprise, which has received high service ratings across publications for a number of years. Enterprise is regularly lauded for its customer service, but other companies also have their strengths — Sixt, for instance, has the widest selection of vehicles to rent, while National car rental offers membership into a particularly beneficial customer loyalty program. Dollar, meanwhile, typically offers the best reservation prices in the car rental business.  

When it comes to price, rental cars vary. Most dealers offer a range of models to rent, with a compact car going for cheaper. That doesn’t mean people who choose a cheap rental car are necessarily more satisfied, though. “Cost and fees of the rental car experience really translates into value received… One of the aspects of choosing a rental car (or rental car company) is that you agree to a rental price and evaluate the experience according to how well your expectations are met at that price,” says Taylor. “If you pay more for a luxury rental (e.g., a BMW) you’ll have different expectations versus paying for a Fiat 500 rental. In either case, if your expectations are exceeded, you’ll be a very satisfied renter. If the experience doesn’t meet your expectations, you’ll be less satisfied.”

The city in which you rent and the time of year also play a factor (New York, for example, is particularly expensive, and holidays will drive up the rent fees). Finally, you’ll get the best car rental discounts by booking three to six months in advance — after that, prices will go up. Making a reservation too far in advance of a trip can also subject you to higher fees.

Typically, a car will cost between $20 and $70 a day, though you can save money with a longer rental period. You’ll also want to book online to get the best prices — sites like Kayak and Travelocity are good places to start looking for a car rental service.

Typically, a rental vehicle will cost you from $20 to $70 a day.


Budget

If a company has an easy-to-use app, that can greatly affect the rental experience. “We run a separate travel app study,” says Taylor. “The clear winner this past year was Avis’s app. Hertz and Budget apps were rated a little lower than the average… Using the app does add significantly to satisfaction with the rental process. Primarily, it’s because of two things: convenience and personalization of the experience. The app is communicating to the renter what is going on with the rental, making it a little more of a bespoke experience.”

There are also other factors to keep in mind before booking a car. If you need more than one driver on the plan or a car seat, rental companies can accommodate you, but most will charge extra per day. You also may be able to rent a car for a business trip through your place of work if your employer has an agreement with a certain car rental agency. Finally, most car companies will also offer insurance plans when you rent. Adding rental car insurance when renting a car adds to the price, but it’s worth it.

And don’t worry — you’ll probably be happy no matter who you end up selecting. As Taylor explains: “As we look across the eight major brands we track, there isn’t much difference between the top brand (in 2019 that was Hertz) and the trailing brand. All of the scores for the major brands are in the 800s (on a 1,000 point scale) and only 31 points separated top from bottom last year. In this industry, there really is no ‘poor’ performer. The rental car experience is the highest-rated part of the entire travel experience.  Rental car satisfaction tops hotel, airline, and airport satisfaction.”

Five things you should know before renting a car

1. Where are you going and for how long? The answers to these questions will inform your vehicle rent process and price.

2. Are you visiting a place with a comprehensive public transit system? If so, you may not need to rent a car.

3. What kind of car do you need? If you’re traveling alone and not covering long distances, an economy car should be sufficient to rent. Evaluate based on your travel plans.

4. Do you need any extra accommodations in addition to renting a car, such as a car seat or an extra driver on the plan? Do you want insurance when making a car rental booking? What kind of insurance do you need when renting a vehicle?

5. At which car rental services can you get the best price? Check out a variety of websites, including each company’s website, to find the cheapest car rental rates for the vehicle you’re thinking about renting. Are there any hidden fees?

Enterprise

Enterprise has been around for over 60 years and has grown into one of the most respected and ubiquitous companies in all of vehicle rental. Earlier this year, the company cleaned up at the Travvy Awards, winning four gold honors and one silver in the category of Best Car Rentals.

It also helps that the company prides itself on giving back — Enterprise has promised $60 million to help fight hunger globally, and will be planting 1 million trees in the US each year for the next 50 years.

Enterprise’s USP — unique selling proposition — has been that it picks customers up and brings them to the rental office, an extra service that could also help explain the company’s presence on this list.

Loyalty program: Enterprise Plus offers several reward tiers that each give drivers bonus points on qualifying rental dollars and free car upgrades. The number of vehicle rentals you get per year determines your tier eligibility.

Outlets worldwide: 8,000

Google Play Store app score: 4.7 out of 5

Sample quote: For the sample quote, we used the same criteria for every company: a five-day rental of a standard SUV, picked up at Los Angeles International Airport and dropped off at San Francisco International Airport. The cost for Enterprise was $617.34. All costs reflect immediate payment and include taxes and fees, but not additional insurance.

Hertz

Hertz narrowly edged out Enterprise as the top company in J.D. Power’s 2019 rankings (the order was reversed in 2018), and it’s not hard to see why customers are so satisfied — the host of awards the company has won just over the past couple of years for its customer service speaks to its continued performance across all key metrics.

Hertz encourages repeat customer business by offering incentives for frequent clients, such as reward points and e-return options.

Loyalty program: The Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Program offers benefits for any frequent renter, such as skip-the-counter pickup and e-return, expedited exit gate times, and a wider variety of vehicle choices. Renters also earn points toward future rentals or other perks.

Outlets worldwide: 10,200

Google Play Store app score: 4.7 out of 5

Price quote: $618.92

Avis

A giant in the vehicle rental realm, Avis has been in business for over 70 years. The company and its subsidiaries operate in 165 countries and has been recognized with awards on every continent (except Antarctica, natch).

Undoubtedly, much of Avis’s success comes from the goodwill the company has generated with its Best Price Pledge service, which allows a customer who finds better rates with other companies to claim matching rates — and then take an additional 10% off.

Loyalty program: The Avis Preferred Car Rental Program offers customers expedited service, the ability to select their vehicle via the company’s app, and more benefits. Members also earn points toward rewards (with Preferred Plus members earning at higher rates).

Outlets worldwide: 5,500

Google Play Store app score: 3.9 out of 5

Price quote: $455.99

Alamo

As the largest car renter for international travelers visiting North America, Alamo’s business is centered around serving people on vacation. This means it primarily conducts business at airports, always hotbeds of car rental.

The company prides itself on its car rental deals and offers a variety of ways to save money on rental fees — from partner point programs with hotels and airlines to benefits programs for businesses.

Loyalty program: The Alamo Insiders loyalty program is straightforward when it comes to what it offers: a flat 5% off rental prices. Given that membership is free, the program is a great opportunity to save a bit more money with ease.

Outlets worldwide: 1,200

Google Play Store app score: 4.7 out of 5

Price quote: $591.14

Thrifty

Despite being a subsidiary of Hertz, Thrifty car rental still has over 1,000 locations across the world at which it conducts business. In fact, since its 2012 acquisition, Thrifty has increased its international service presence, particularly in Asia, Europe and the Middle East.

Loyalty program: Thrifty has a Blue Chip Rewards program, which affords such benefits as the ability to add an additional driver with a valid driver’s license for free and priority counter service at its airport and nonairport locations.

Outlets worldwide: 1,000

Google Play Store app score: The official Thrifty app has a 1.3 out of 5 rating, but Thrifty Hire’s THRentals app has a 4.2 rating.

Price quote: $499.75

National

National may be a division of Enterprise, but the company consistently receives high service rankings and positive customer reviews of its own accord. National has over 1,500 service locations worldwide and prides itself on its vehicle selection, which includes more than 40 class options of cars, trucks, SUVs and vans.

Loyalty program: Joining National’s Emerald Club allows you to skip the counter and earn rewards on your booking — two benefits that make the process smoother for business travelers.

Outlets worldwide: 1,500

Google Play Store app score: 4.7 out of 5

Price quote: $690.62

Dollar

Originally known as “Dollar a Day Rental Car,” Dollar may not be able to deliver those reservation fees literally, but the company still remains one of the best budget values in the industry. (Though note in our sample quote, it wasn’t the cheapest.) Being a subsidiary of Hertz and a partner of Thrifty — the two companies share over 1,500 storefronts globally — surely doesn’t hurt Dollar’s ability to offer great car rental deals.

Loyalty program: Dollar’s Express Rewards program allows customers to skip lines, add additional drivers, and earn free rental days. Membership is free, so if you ride with Dollar even once, it’s worth signing up.

Outlets worldwide: 1,500

Google Play Store app score: 1.2 out of 5

Price quote: $499.75

Budget

As the name indicates, Budget was founded to appeal to customers looking for a great deal — and more than 60 years later, the company still makes sure to deliver “a quality product, friendly service and great value.”

Owned by the same parent company as Avis (Avis Budget Group), Budget has nearly 3,000 locations worldwide — quite the step up from its original fleet of 10 cars.

Loyalty program: Budget’s Fastbreak program is designed to make the car rental and return process quicker, with the ability to bypass lines and drop off your vehicle in a designated area. Membership is free and also comes with exclusive deals and offers.

Outlets worldwide: 3,000

Google Play Store app score: 4.3 out of 5

Price quote: $417.59

Ace

Ace may not be the best-known brand in car rental, but its locations constitute the largest chain of independent rental operators globally. That means that even without the corporate muscle of its competitors, the company has managed to grow enormously in the 53 years since its founding.

Plus, the company’s accolades prove that those who use it are more than satisfied — for both 2017 and 2018, Temkin Experience Ratings ranked Ace No. 2 in overall customer experience.

Loyalty program: Ace’s Rental Genius loyalty program is as straightforward as it is helpful. Each dollar spent on a qualifying reservation earns a renter a point, and points can be redeemed toward rental days and mileage. The company also offers promotions where members can earn bonus points.

Outlets worldwide: 300

Google Play Store app score: N/A

Price quote: Ace doesn’t allow renters to drop off cars far from their origin point. A five-day standard SUV rental from LAX that gets dropped off elsewhere in Los Angeles costs $223.93.

Sixt

A mainstay in Germany, Sixt broke into the US market in 2011 and has already made huge inroads — last year, Kayak ranked Sixt the fourth-best car rental company in the US, based upon customer reviews.

The company’s business model differs slightly from that of others in that it offers more vehicle rent classes (such as convertibles, pickup trucks, SUVs, and sports cars), as well as better rates on a luxury car. So far, it seems to be working.

Loyalty program: Sixt offers express cards that allow bearers to earn points on the money they spend. Beyond the regular express cards, there are multiple tiers (Gold, Platinum, and Diamond) that offer discounts and additional benefits.

Outlets worldwide: 2,100

Google Play Store app score: 4.7 out of 5

Price quote: $244.83

Written by Scott Fried for Roadshow.

More car advice at CNET

Keyword: Best car rental companies in 2020

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

%d bloggers like this: