6 Smart Rental Car Alternatives You Might Not Know About

If you're having trouble reserving a rental car, alternatives like Kyte or Turo might have some availability.
Sally French
By Sally French 
Updated
Edited by Kevin Berry

Many or all of the products featured here are from our partners who compensate us. This influences which products we write about and where and how the product appears on a page. However, this does not influence our evaluations. Our opinions are our own. Here is a list of our partners and here's how we make money.

If you're thinking of renting a car for an upcoming trip, and find the prices too expensive at traditional companies like Avis and Hertz, you'll be pleased to know that a number of nontraditional rental car companies have proliferated in recent years, which may offer better prices.

Some nontraditional companies operate like the Airbnb for cars, where people rent out their personal cars. Others are operated by related players in the automobile space, like car dealerships.

When you’re exhausted by trying to find traditional rental cars, here are some of the biggest rental car alternatives to look into for your next trip. Just remember that whichever company you go with, booking with a credit card that offers complimentary car rental insurance can be a smart money move.

Though not all of these are necessarily a win for your pocketbook, a handful also double as a cheap alternative to a car rental — making their broad attraction even more appealing for travelers.

1. Turo

What it is: Turo is basically the Airbnb for cars, where you rent out a car — booked online or through the Turo app — from the car’s owner. You usually pick up the car at a pickup location, which could be the owner’s house, or a public area like a park or shopping center. Turo certainly has its pros and cons, but it can be one of the best ways to rent a car if you don't want to g with traditional car rental agency.

Some owners offer the option to deliver the car to you (usually for an additional fee), which can be handy if you’d like them to meet you at the airport or your hotel.

There are also a few cars that offer a feature called Turo Go, where you can unlock the car via an app, allowing you to start the trip without ever meeting your host.

Minimum age: 21 for most trips and car types, although some cars can be booked at age 18 with an additional young-driver fee.

Why we like it: The option to have your car delivered is especially handy — and a potential money saver. We tested Turo on a trip to the Big Island of Hawaii. The trip started at a fancy resort with expensive parking, so taking a cab to the hotel and staying a couple of nights on the resort grounds, sans car, was fine. When it was time to drive to the other side of the island, we had our Turo host meet us at our hotel, so we never had to pay exorbitant hotel parking prices. After the trip, we were able to leave the car at the airport, making drop-off convenient.

Cancellation policy: You can cancel for free up to 24 hours before your trip.

Potential drawbacks: Since you’re renting the car directly from the owner, quality may vary. With a rental car, you’re generally guaranteed to have a fairly new, just-washed car. Since Turo cars are owned by regular people, the car’s condition is a bit of a gamble.

Video preview image

2. Getaround

(Photo by Sally French)

What it is: With Getaround, you rent out a car owned by a person rather than a rental car agency, but you never have to meet them. Instead, you pick up and drop off the car at its parking spot, which could be street parking in a designated area, or a parking garage (like in an apartment building). You’ll unlock the car via a Bluetooth-connected app, so you never have to talk to anyone.

Minimum age: 19 if you have a clean driving record (no violations or accidents in the last three years), otherwise 21.

Why we like it: A big reason to love Getaround is the ability to rent per hour. Maybe you’re not even on vacation, but need to rent a truck for an afternoon to pick up a giant granite countertop slab for your kitchen remodel. Or maybe you’re vacationing in a big city where you don’t want a car for the whole week, but want to take a day trip to a nearby second city or out for a hike.

Cancellation policy: You can cancel for free up to 24 hours before your trip.

Potential drawbacks: Like Turo, car quality and cleanliness varies widely since you’re renting the car directly from the owner. It can also be difficult to pick up and return some cars that are parked in garages, as you may have to go through extra steps, like entering gate codes or waiting for the valet to pull out the car for you.

3. Lyft Rentals

What it is: Ridesharing company Lyft launched Lyft Rentals at the end of 2019, allowing you to rent cars through its app. Since the lots where Lyft Rentals are located can be in sometimes obscure locations, you also get a credit with every rental to take an actual Lyft to your rental car.

While you reserve and rent the car via your smartphone app, the experience isn’t completely human-free. There is a Lyft employee onsite at the rental lots to help you get the keys upon arrival.

Thanks to a summer 2020 partnership between Lyft and traditional rental car company Sixt, the program has since expanded to allow you to rent Sixt cars through Lyft’s app, too.

Minimum age: 22.

Why we like it: Most of the other nontraditional car rental services are completely human-free. But that’s not necessarily always a good thing. It can be confusing to rely solely on an app — especially if the app has trouble connecting due to a poor signal and you can’t unlock the car. Lyft’s human touch is a nice perk.

Cancellation policy: You can cancel for free up to 24 hours before your trip.

Potential drawbacks: The minimum rental time is one day, so this service isn’t for you if you’re just looking for a car for a few hours.

4. Zipcar

Zipcar allows you to book rental cars by the hour or day. Since they're usually parked in small lots around cities and can be unlocked via the Zipcar app, you don't even need to speak to a human at the car rental counter. (Photo by Sally French)

What it is: Zipcar, which actually shares the same parent company as both Avis and Budget, allows you to book rental cars by the hour or day. The cars are usually parked in small lots or designated Zipcar parking spaces around the city, and can be unlocked via the Zipcar app. When you’re done with the trip, just return it to the same place.

Minimum age: 21 (or 18 if a student or where required by law).

Why we like it: Zipcar provides the best of both worlds. You can pick up cars all around your city for hourly intervals, enabling you the flexibility to rent a car for day trips without worrying about paying for overnight parking. And, since the cars are operated by Zipcar, you can almost guarantee high-quality cars (as opposed to renting from a person who owns the car and might not have cleaned or maintained it to traditional rental car standards).

Cancellation policy: You can cancel for free up to 24 hours before your trip for trips eight hours or longer, and you can cancel up to three hours before the trip for trips less than eight hours.

Potential drawbacks: You need to purchase a membership in order to actually rent Zipcars, and that’s on top of a bunch of other fees, including a one-time $25 application fee when you apply for membership.

Video preview image

5. Audi on Demand (formerly known as Silvercar by Audi)

What it is: Audi on Demand lets you rent Audi sedans and SUVs from select Audi dealerships (plus a few other rental locations) across the country. Use Silvercar’s app to reserve your car, which is also what you’ll use to unlock the car — enabling you to get driving without ever having to talk to anyone.

Minimum age: 22 in most states.

Why we like it: While you may have to show up at the Audi dealership for some rentals, most locations offer a service called Delivery to You, where they’ll deliver the car to you, as long as you’re within a certain distance of the dealership. If you’re a frequent renter, then the Silvercar loyalty program is excellent in helping you quickly rack up free rental car days.

Cancellation policy: You may cancel or modify your reservation at any time without penalties or a cancellation fee.

Potential drawbacks: This isn’t for budget travelers. We found that you could typically rent a standard sedan for about half the price of the lowest-cost rental. But hey, you’re not driving a Honda Civic — you’re driving an Audi.

Depending upon where you are traveling and the time of year, we found Audi on Demand's rates were roughly the same (but sometimes cheaper) than renting a comparable luxury car from traditional rental car agencies.

6. Kyte

Kyte surfer app

(Photo by Sally French)

Kyte stands out as a car rental alternative because of its delivery service. At your "pickup" time, you stay put. Instead, a Kyte employee delivers your car to you and picks it up when you're done.

Unlike alternatives such as Getaround or Turo, you’re not renting another person’s car. With Kyte, you're renting SUVs, sedans and all-wheel-drive (AWD) cars much like what you'd get with a traditional car rental company. Kyte says it keeps cars for 18 to 24 months, so rentals are relatively new. That's a welcome contrast to peer-to-peer rentals that can often arrive worse for wear.

Credit cards with car rental insurance

Renting a car will most likely require you to put down a credit card, so it can be a smart money move to use a card that also provides car rental coverage. Some of these credit cards also offer extra rewards when booking car rental so it pays to be familiar with what card is best for booking your rental.

Here are a few cards that offer car rental coverage:

Cards with rental car benefits
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card
Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Chase's website

Chase United Airlines Mileage Plus Credit Card
United℠ Explorer Card
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Chase's website

The Platinum Card® from American Express
The Platinum Card® from American Express
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on American Express' website

Rates & Fees
Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card
Chase Sapphire Reserve®
NerdWallet Rating
Apply now

on Chase's website

Annual fee

$95.

$0 intro for the first year, then $95.

$695.

$550.

Rental car benefits

• Primary rental car coverage with reimbursement up to the cash value of most rental vehicles.

• Booking a car rental through Chase's travel portal earns 5 points per dollar spent.

• Redeeming points to book travel through Chase — including renting cars — gives you 25% more value per point.

• Primary rental car coverage that reimburses up to the cash value of most rental cars.

• Other day-of-travel benefits for United flyers include a free checked bag, priority boarding and lounge passes.

• Complimentary elite status with Avis, Hertz and National, which entitles the member to upgrades and discounts.

• Secondary rental car coverage.

• Other benefits include expansive airport lounge access and hundreds of dollars' worth of travel credits.

• Terms apply.

• Primary rental car coverage with reimbursement up to $75,000.

• Booking a car rental through Chase's travel portal earns 10 points per dollar spent.

• Redeeming points to book travel through Chase — including renting cars — gives you 50% more value per point.

• Cardholders eligible for special benefits from Avis, National and Silvercar.

Horizontal scroll

You have several little-known car rental options

The days of traditional rental car companies as your only way to hit the road are gone. There are plenty of car rental alternatives, ranging from renting an individual owner’s vehicle to riding in style in an Audi you’ve borrowed from a dealership.

If you’re booking a trip and have found that traditional rental cars are booked out or just overpriced, don’t panic. One of these rental car alternatives might be exactly what you need to kick your vacation into gear. Regardless of which option you go with, since you'll need to use a credit card to book your rental, look for one that will also provide complimentary rental car insurance.


To view rates and fees of The Platinum Card® from American Express, see this page.

How to maximize your rewards

You want a travel credit card that prioritizes what’s important to you. Here are some of the best travel credit cards of 2024:

Cards for Rental Cars from our Partners
Chase Sapphire Preferred Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-5x

5x on travel purchased through Chase Travel℠, 3x on dining, select streaming services and online groceries, 2x on all other travel purchases, 1x on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

75,000

Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's over $900 when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Points
Chase Sapphire Reserve Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Sapphire Reserve®
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1x-10x

Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Travel℠ immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases.

Points

Intro offer

75,000

Earn 75,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,125 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Travel℠.

Points
Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture X Rewards Credit Card
4.9
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

2x-10x

Earn unlimited 10X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel and 5X miles on flights booked through Capital One Travel, Earn unlimited 2X miles on all other purchases.

Miles

Intro offer

75,000

Earn 75,000 bonus miles when you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

Miles
See more cards for rental cars
Get more smart money moves – straight to your inbox
Sign up and we’ll send you Nerdy articles about the money topics that matter most to you along with other ways to help you get more from your money.