Planning a Trip for the Holidays? Here are the Most Expensive (and Affordable) Cities to Rent a Car

The holidays are here and if you’re planning to fly home or visit friends and family in far-off places, then you’ll likely need to rent a car as well. Unfortunately, rental car agencies have been in short supply all year and the lack of inventory has led to a price hike in rental rates. This means that you could be paying a lot more than you expect when you get to the rental car counter at your final destination, but how much depends on where you go.

The most expensive cities to rent a car may not surprise you

 A Hertz worker assists a customer at its rental-car pickup area on July 17, 2006, at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois.
A Hertz worker assists a customer at its rental-car pickup area on July 17, 2006, at O’Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois. | Tim Boyle/Getty Images

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You might think that high rental car rates are reserved for exotic places like Hawaii and Alaska, but the reality may surprise you. FinanceBuzz recently collected data on rental car costs in 100 of the most popular holiday destinations for this year. They calculated the daily and total costs of renting a car in each city, which included a variety of sizes — from small cars to SUVs – and plugged in the following dates: from December 24 to January 2.

Here are the 15 most expensive cities to rent a car during Christmas week:

As we can see from the data, anyone planning to escape to paradise during the holidays should be prepared to spend a good chunk of their budget on a rental car. Four out of the top five cities are in Hawaii with Fort Myer, Fla., sneaking into the No. 4 spot. Unsurprisingly, Kona takes top honors as rental car rates there ring in at twice the average cost of $86.80 per day and $867.96 for the whole week.

What is surprising is that places like Salt Lake City, Utah, Denver, Colo., and Detroit, Mich., are on the list. However, they are pretty large hubs, so it still makes sense that they would be a little higher than the average rates.

Some of the least expensive cities might surprise you

When it comes to the least expensive cities, the cities that top the list might actually surprise you:

Anchorage, Alaska, surprisingly tops the list followed by Cincinnati, Ohio, and Spokane, Wash. We would think that Alaska would be on the “most expensive” list, however, it’s obviously remote enough that’s it not affected as much by the recent rental rate increases. What’s interesting, though, is that the least expensive cities are spread out throughout the U.S. The most surprising results are Oakland, Calif., and Dallas, Texas, as those are very well-populated cities and popular travel destinations.

Tips for renting a car during the holidays

Customer service representatives assist customers at the Enterprise car rental counter.
Customer service representatives assist customers at the Enterprise car rental counter. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

If the city or area that you’re planning to visit is on the “most expensive” list, then don’t be too discouraged. There are a few tips that FinanceBuzz recommends when it comes to saving some money on your next car rental.

  • Plan ahead and book your rental early: Plan ahead of time and book your rental car as early as possible to ensure that you get a good rate and are able to get the type of car you need.
  • Enroll in rental rewards programs: Most rental car companies have rewards programs that give you freebies, upgrades, and discounts. By signing up for the rewards program, you can also get points that go toward future free car rentals.
  • Protect the car with rental insurance: An accident can happen at any second, even while you’re on vacation. Fortunately, you can save money on rental car insurance if your credit card has that as a benefit.

While renting a car this holiday season can get expensive, depending on where you are traveling to, it doesn’t have to be if you can plan ahead. And if you want to cut down on more costs, then stick to the places listed on the “least expensive” list, you may even have better odds that they’ll have a car to rent in the first place.

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