The Best Car Rental Sites
- January 12, 2018 – Since this review was published, multiple travel sites have been acquired by giants Expedia and Priceline. In the next couple months, we’ll be taking a deeper look at car rental sites, so stay tuned. In the meantime we’ve updated this review for concision and clarity.
If your travel plans involve zipping around in a car, you’ll want to book your rental through a travel website, not a company-branded page. Travel sites have impressive search and filtering tools that make locating the right car easy. You might also be able to save money if you book your car rental with your flight or hotel choices if you go through a travel site.
We tested 15 standout travel sites to find the three best companies that can help you find the best deal in the area you want, for the car you want. They all collect data from rental car agencies and other travel sites to try and find your preferred car at the lowest price. But if you’re set on finding the absolute best deal, you’ll want to compare quotes from all four websites.
Our Picks for The Best Car Rental Sites
Best for Precision Searching
CheapTicketsCheapTickets offers the most customizations when searching to help you find your perfect car.
We loved CheapTickets for giving us the most options when it came to choosing a rental car. If you know exactly the type of car you want, CheapTickets is your guiding beacon in finding it. In addition to choosing where and when you pick up and drop off your rental car, you can choose to only search for cars rented by a specific company. You’ll also be able to specify whether you prefer a manual or automatic transmission, how important air-conditioning is to you, and whether you need to have an unlimited or limited mileage policy.
We also like CheapTickets’ sister company, OrbitzTheir rental car process is very similar to CheapTickets — but you’ll make accessory requests at the beginning of your search. It is worth pulling up Orbitz for a quick comparison search; they’ll sometimes have better prices than CheapTickets.
After you’ve made your selections, you’ll receive a clean-looking results table that lists the companies in the city or airport you’ve selected, as well as the rates for each car class they offer. (If you want to only show cars of a certain type, whether that’s economy or luxury, it’s an easy filter to add on to your search.) Then, you’ll be able to sort your results by price, customer rating, or popularity — how often CheapTickets customers rent from a particular agency.
Once you’ve chosen your company and car type, you’ll be able to make “Accessory Requests.” This is where you can ask to have a GPS system, a ski rack or snow chains, or an infant or toddler seat, prepped for you when you arrive at your car. Requests aren’t guaranteed — they depend on availability — and you won’t know the company you’re renting from until you complete the process, so if these accessories are mission critical, make sure to follow-up with the rental car company to see if your request has been confirmed.
Best for Bargain Hunting
PricelineWith a little patience and a little luck, Priceline’s bidding tool can get you a steep discount for your rental.
Priceline earns this spot thanks to its famous Name Your Own Price Tool. Select your dates, your location, and the basic type of car you want (from economy to convertible), and enter the price you’re willing to pay, per day, for that car. If your bid wins, you’ll be connected through to the purchase page, to finalize your details. If not, you can wait 24 hours to try again with the same bid — the same dates, location, car type, and price — or go back and try adjusting your price or car type.
You won’t know the exact details of the car you’re renting, or where you’re renting it from until you’ve completed the purchase. On the purchase page, it will let you know how many people your car can fit, the approximate size of the luggage compartment, its transmission type, and whether it has air conditioning, but all other details are hidden.
The trade-off for not knowing the specifics of your rental car can be some serious savings. Our bid for a luxury car at $10 per day for three days was accepted, even though the tool briefly warned us that our price was “too low.” Depending on how busy your destination is during your planned trip, and the popularity of the car you’re requesting for, you might be able to score a great deal.
If having a specific model or make of car, or prefer a particular rental car agency, you can still use Priceline’s standard rental car search. While it’s not as robust as CheapTicket’s search tool, you can specify car type and rental car company.
Last Minute TravelLast Minute Travel’s simple display makes it easy to search for and choose your rental car.
We also liked Last Minute Travel’s search engine. It’s simple, with only slightly more filtering tools than Priceline. In addition to location and duration, you’ll be able to choose car class (economy to SUV), vehicle type (4-wheel drive to convertible), transmission type, and rental company. Its search results table is similarly easy to navigate. You’ll be able to focus your search by sorting results by price, car class, or rental company.
Despite its minimalistic layout, Last Minute Travel is still a good comparison point to check if you want to make sure you’re getting the best deal for your rental car. Unlike other travel sites, they have enough filtering options to make a reasonable comparison to sites like CheapTickets, where you can request pretty much everything but the license plate number.
The Best Car Rental Sites: Summed Up