The Cheapest Company to Rent a Car From May Surprise You

When you think of the cheapest agency to rent a car from, which one comes to mind first? Budget? Dollar? Thrifty, perhaps? No one would blame you considering each of those rental car agencies conveys the word “cheap” in its name. However, NerdWallet conducted an analysis to find the cheapest rental car agency recently and the results may surprise you.

Which car rental company offers the lowest prices?

An Alamo Enterprise rent a car National sign seen at the
An Alamo Enterprise rent a car National sign. | Mateusz Slodkowski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

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According to NerdWallet’s findings, Enterprise is the cheapest rental car company based on a 7-day analysis across multiple destinations. NerdWallet obtained this information by tracking 360 different rental car prices across eight of the most used rental car agencies to find the cheapest rates. According to their findings, National Car Rental was the most expensive, which was followed by Alamo Rent a car.

The three cheapest were Hertz, Budget, and Enterprise – in that order. The rates were found using the cheapest available car option (a small sedan) and included the taxes and fees that a customer would pay when renting the car for a week. As such, the priciest option – National Car Rental – charged an average of $695 a week ($99/day) while Enterprise charged a much lower $480 per week ($68/day).

Here is a table that shows NerdWallets data:

A graph showing NerdWallet's analysis on cheap rental car rates.
NerdWallet conducted an analysis of the cheapest rental car rates. | NerdWallet

How to save money when renting a car

Aerial view of thousands of rental cars in a parking lot
Thousands of rental cars | Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

While paying $480 when renting a car from Enterprise sounds like a good deal, that’s still a hefty sum of money to pay to drive a Toyota Corolla around for a week. Keep in mind that some buyers are leasing Corollas for less than $200 per month – but I digress. Fortunately, there are ways to save money the next time you need to book a car for a vacation or a business trip.

Here are a few tips that NerdWallet suggests:

  • Book your rental car at the last minute: Yes, this sounds counterintuitive considering everyone thinks that booking anything ahead of time is the best way to get a cheaper rate. However, with rental cars, that’s not always the case. According to another NerdWallet study, it can be cheaper to book a car at the last minute (one week out) instead of booking early (three months out).
  • Credit card rewards are helpful: You know all of those credit card points that you’re racking up every time you shop? It’s a good idea to put them to use when renting a car as they can help cut down on the cost. Another benefit is that some credit cards even offer rental car insurance, which can save you a lot the next time you’re standing at the rental counter.
  • Join rental car loyalty programs: Just like how airlines have frequent flier programs, rental car agencies have their own loyalty programs. By joining them and renting cars, you may be eventually rewarded with discounts and even free car rentals in the future.

If renting a car is too expensive, there are other alternatives

If you’re planning a trip and you find that the rental rates are too expensive, then you can always try alternatives like Turo or SilverCar. Just note that in some cases, these alternative routes may not line up with your schedule, however, they usually yield some pretty good results when it comes to pricing.

Lastly, always remember to shop around and compare pricing when renting a car. Enterprise might be the lowest price rental agency, but the rate can differ at different times of the year and in different locations.

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