Updated: Sep 28
Whenever you want to explore an area on your vacation hiring a rental car is a great way to take in many sites as possible. But finding a rental car is sometimes a hassle as prices and options seem to be all over the board.
In some cities and states renting a car is essential for getting around and discovering hidden gems while providing you the freedom that only a car can provide.
Rental cars are typically snagged up on a first-come, first-served basis and while many car rental agencies have ample supply, they quickly run out of the best options.
The most popular rental car in the US and Canada is a mid-sized sedan. It offers much more room than a compact car and also has a larger engine for highway driving. Compact cars are also very popular, simply because they offer a much lower cost. SUVs and pickup trucks are available, but expect to pay a premium. As we noted in our previous blog post about how to save on rentals, your best bet is try to upgrade, not out of pocket, but because the car rental lot is out of the compact car you reserved.
Reservations on car rentals is a bit strange. A car rental agency will "reserve" your car rental, but they don't really.
If they have ten compact cars and you reserved one, but all have gone out that day as rentals, the reservation automatically bumps you up to the next class. Yes, you will be guaranteed a car, but you will most likely get something bigger. This is a plus for most individuals as you are getting an upgrade free of charge.
There are nearly a dozen major car rental agencies in the United States and Canada, but keep in mind that many of these brands are owned by the same parent companies. A lot of times the same car can be rented from the same company for a lot less, simply because the brand is a discount operator. There is no difference, other than on your credit card statement.
A few years ago a car sharing site called Turo emerged, allowing one to rent other people's cars - from 20 year old clunkers to exotic sports cars. The biggest draw here was the price and that the site did not push for any extras such as liability insurance and damage deposits.
However, the Turo rental cars are now slightly higher than renting a brand new, guaranteed car from a rental car agency. When you peruse the site and look at individual reviews, a lot of the cars rented seem to have issues with pick-up, drop-offs, and even the rental itself. Sure you will be able to get your money back if the car is not available, but then you are left scrambling on your vacation to find a suitable rental car. And when we scramble and things are last-minute - the price always is not in our favor.
There are also other issues to take into consideration as well such as safety. Has the 10 year old vehicle been maintained? Has it been in an accident? Will the battery die while out on a desert highway?
And finally, there is the added costs such as very high "cleaning" costs added after you return the vehicle. One rental car we noted charged $50 to dust the dashboard after your return the vehicle.
At a rental car agency you are guaranteed a brand new, safe and reliable car with all the fees outlines in your contract. Nothing is hidden. And there are no cleaning or dusting fees once you return the vehicle.
When you start to look for a rental car it is best to use an aggregator that searches out where you want to rent a car from, the dates needed and the type of car required. The aggregator will do the rest.
Our favorite aggregator to find the cheapest car rental is Rentalcars.com.
It is the largest rental car search engine and offers you discounts of up to 70%! Simply use the form below to find the cheapest rental car in the United States: