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These Are The Top 5 Affordable Car Rental Companies According To New Study

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Getting around a new destination can sometimes be the most frustrating hole to fill in a traveler's itinerary. With sky-high fees and confusing insurance options, renting a car can be a frustrating experience.

No matter the destination, whether it’s simply getting from A to B or taking a Spring Break road trip, it’s important to know what you are signing up for.

driving through mountains

Instead of piling on miles to your own odometer, some would argue it’s best to rent a car for a road trip.

Even though the car rental industry has had its ups and downs in recent memory, it's a new year where travel is making a big comeback!

A New Study Determined The Most Affordable Rent Car Companies

TripsToDiscover used its own system with a dozen variables to simulate various scenarios in its thorough search for the best deals.

tourist with rental car

Their proprietary algorithm determined the following:

  • Price
  • Transparency
  • Cancellation fees
  • Average fees
  • Availability
  • “Pay Now” discounts
  • Car category
  • Car size
  • Luggage space

All 8 major car rental agencies were included in their test. Over 170 bookings with fake scenarios were searched for all 8 companies.

Most car rentals take place at airports, so the top 5 airports with the most foot traffic were used in these scenarios.

To spice things up, the dates used were for 5 various upcoming holidays, with the range going anywhere from 3 days to 9 days. The busiest travel days were always tested.

tourist with camera in rental car

To determine the “true daily cost”, each simulated booking used the total checkout price by averaging them all collectively.

According to this new, carefully curated study, these are the most affordable car rental companies in 2023:

#5 Budget Rent a Car

Ranking #5 in terms of affordability, with a true daily cost of $121.63, is Budget Rent a Car. 

They may have ranked #5 if affordability, but they were :

  • #1 in a tie with Avis for most seats
  • #2 for the best savings on low-cost full-size cars or better
  • #4 for luggage space
budget rental cars

As a bonus, there was always a vehicle available. Budget was never sold out during any mock search.

The main reason Budget ranks #5 in affordability is due to painstaking cancellation fees, along with the subpar savings for “Pay Now” options.

#4 Enterprise Rent-a-Car

Coming in at #4 for affordability is Enterprise Rent-a-Car at a true daily cost of $119.03. With an average checkout price of well over $500, this company was the second cheapest among all the mock scenarios. 

With high added fees, such as $15 for additional drivers, this company stands out in the wrong way for customers.

In a real-life scenario, Enterprise is ranked #2 in customer satisfaction according to a J.D. Power survey.

enterprise rental cars

#3 Dollar Car Rental

With a true daily cost of $114.18, Dollar Car Rental is ranked #3 on the list. While some drivers may still find their fees annoying, they are slightly lower than competitors.

In comparison to #4 Enterprise, the added driver fee is $9-12 compared to $15.

While Dollar held a high availability rate of 98.3%, they were sold out on key holidays like Thanksgiving.

The study highlighted Dollar’s transparency in showing they are clear in cancellation fees on their website.

dollar rental car front desk

#2 Alamo Rent a Car

Coming in at a very close #2 for affordability is Alamo. They have a true daily cost of $111.39.

While they do charge cancellation fees for last-minute changes and “no-shows” for pre-paid bookings, the cap for fees is set to just $100 compared to the national average of nearly $400.

Alamo takes pride in transparency and gives clear-cut costs before the renter purchases.

Out of all 176 mock tests, Alamo came in second place with the lowest average checkout price.

customers at Alamo rent a car

#1 Thrifty Car Rental

Thrifty Car Rental is the winner for affordability out of all major car rental companies. With a true daily cost of $110.34, they narrowly beat out Dollar.

Even though Thrifty was disappointing in savings for non-economy or compact car categories, the true daily cost couldn’t be beaten.

Thrifty’s official website showed the actual cost before purchasing, but they were a little sneaky when it came to displaying cancelation fees.

As an example, if a renter ghosts a “Pay Now” booking, they would be responsible for 100% of the bill, which averaged $345.70 in test searches.

thrifty car rental sign

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Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post.