Choosing a holiday car hire company is not always easy. There are many brands, a range of vehicles and plenty of additional policy options to consider. Here, The Money Edit ranks some of the world’s biggest car hire providers and gives insight into the merits and drawbacks of each.
No single rental company is likely to be the champion of car hire price and perks every time, in every location. Policies and special deals change with the seasons. So, it’s always important to compare quotes. But the rankings below highlight some important considerations.
- Competes effectively on price
- Decent website for bookings
- Watch out for cost of extras
Holidaymakers are likely to spot the Hertz brand on their travels – it has more than 350,000 vehicles in its fleet, covering around 10,000 locations in more than 140 countries. It has a decent reputation and a clutch of industry awards – including winner of the World’s Leading Car Rental Company category in the 2020 World Travel Awards.
The company also ranked highest in a major customer satisfaction survey for rental cars in 2020 by research giant JD Power.
The website is easy to use – but the excess fee for repairs is not always prominently shown. The cost of extras, like car seats or a satellite navigation gadget, also tend to be more expensive than some competitor brands.
It is worth looking at its loyalty scheme Gold Plus Rewards, which is free to join. Customers get further discounts, earn points towards free rental days or upgrades, and in some locations allows an additional driver to be added to the rental for free.
- Lower excess fees
- Add-ons are keenly priced
- Easy to use website
In a range of comparisons for holiday car hire, Europcar often has a lower excess fee in the event of damage to the car compared to rival brands. It is more accessible to younger drivers too, with lower age limits.
The cost of extras like sat navs and car seats are also reasonable.
Europcar’s website is particularly user-friendly, with upfront information about the excess fees, for example. The company won the World's Leading Car Rental Company Website accolade at the World Travel Awards in 2019.
- A large fleet of vehicles worldwide
- Keenly priced for extras
- Check excess as can be higher
Enterprise has a huge fleet of vehicles at around two million cars and trucks worldwide. It is also present in around 10,000 locations, in more than 90 countries and offers around 300 different makes and models of vehicles. Customers may come across its brands National (which also targets business travellers) and budget-friendly Alamo.
It is keenly priced for car seats and sat nav, but the excess fee was higher than rivals in some comparisons.
The website is straightforward enough, but not as user-friendly compared to rivals.
- Good middle of the range option
- Serves highest number of locations
- Easy to use website but keen to sell additional insurance
In comparison to others on this list, Avis wasn’t the most competitive on price for rental periods or extras, but is a decent ‘middle of the range’ option. Customers may also come across its sister company Budget, with both firms operating under the Avis Budget Group umbrella.
It serves 11,000 locations in 180 countries, making it a steadfast and reliable presence in most holiday destinations.
The website is easy to use, but it was keen to sell additional insurance. Though insurance will be valued by many customers, it can be bought separately and often at a much cheaper price.
- Competitively priced – including extras
- Largest premium fleet in the world
- Watch out for cancellation fees
Sixt is a forward-looking car hire company in terms of its use of technology. For example, customers can unlock a rental car with its mobile phone app. It has more than 200,000 cars worldwide and the largest fleet of premium vehicles.
The company serves 2,200 locations in 105 countries.
It offers ‘premium vehicles on attractive terms’, but in holiday car hire comparisons was mid-table for price, excess fee and the cost of extras. The website is straightforward but could appear a little garish for some customers. Most importantly look out for its cancellation policy, which in comparison was stricter than its rivals and included a fee that could be up to three days of the rental rate for prepaid bookings.
- Competitive on price
- Part of Hertz brand
- Check the cost of extras
Holidaymakers looking to keep costs low will no doubt come across Thrifty when searching for a deal. It is present in 1,300 locations in 99 countries and will be a solid option for budget seekers. Its website isn’t as slick as its rivals, or even its parent company Hertz.
Customers who are likely to need extras like a car seat should also check the impact on overall cost, as Thrifty was less competitive on price for excess fees and add-ons.
Its customer service reputation is also not as good as its parent company, but is on a par with rival brands.
Please note: These rankings are based on a comparison of quotes, with searches conducted between 25th and 28th June 2021. Prices change over time. Assessment of customer service included looking at star-ratings on reviews website Trustpilot. Analysing the ease of use of individual websites is largely subjective, but also included an assessment of how easy it was to find out certain information, such as cancellation policy and excess fees for a Collision Damage Waiver.
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Laura Shannon is a freelance award-winning consumer and money journalist with more than a decade of experience in her field.
Laura is also a money mentor for Citizens Advice in South Warwickshire.
Previously she has written for Metro, The Times and The Mail on Sunday, where she was personal finance correspondent for eight years.
She is passionate about helping people to save money and manage it more effectively.
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