Thrifty vs. Dollar Car Rental: Which Is Best?

Dollar and Thrifty offer similar booking experiences, but Thrifty has lower rates and wider availability.
Anya Kartashova
By Anya Kartashova 
Published

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Dollar Car Rental and Thrifty Car Rental joined the Hertz brand in 2012 when the Hertz Corporation acquired the two rental car agencies.

Both companies primarily serve cost-conscious leisure and business travelers, so if you’re choosing between Dollar versus Thrifty, you might want to know which one would serve your needs better. So, let’s get this show(down) on the road.

Availability

Winner: Thrifty

In addition to 330 corporate locations in the U.S. and Europe, Dollar has more than 600 additional franchised locations in about 65 countries and maintains a strong presence in almost every U.S. and Canadian airport. You also can find Dollar rental car locations in major European destinations as well as some Asian cities.

Even so, Thrifty's footprint is bigger. It has a presence at major tourist cities in Europe, while its 340 corporate locations are on par with Dollar, it also offers 1,000 franchised locations in 95 countries overall. So, in terms of availability, Thrifty wins this round.

Rates

Winner: Dollar

To determine which car company provides the most affordable rates when comparing Thrifty versus Dollar, we checked similar car-type rental prices in smaller and larger markets. We searched for a mid-size car (Toyota Corolla, Chevrolet Cruze or similar) for a one-day and a one-week rental in September 2024 at the following airports:

Airport

Rental Length

Dollar Rate

Thrifty Rate

Tampa International Airport

One-day rental.

$58.31.

$64.62.

Seven-day rental.

$416.56.

$461.89.

San Francisco International Airport

One-day rental.

$95.23.

$104.15

Seven-day rental.

$413.70.

$461.36.

Harry Reid International Airport

One-day rental.

$51.43.

$56.99.

Seven-day rental.

$378.51.

$419.57.

Indianapolis International Airport

One-day rental.

$79.77.

$89.06.

Seven-day rental.

$857.19.

$748.32.

Boston Logan International Airport

One-day rental.

$89.79.

$98.79.

Seven-day rental.

$888.63.

$999.88.

In our search examples above, Thrifty offered more favorable rates only in one case — a weekly rental at Indianapolis International Airport. So Dollar rentals are typically cheaper than equivalent rentals at Thrifty.

🤓Nerdy Tip

In some cases, a weekly rate didn’t necessarily offer the best daily rate with either company, so we recommend doing some math when searching for a rental car for your travels.

Service

Winner: Dollar

According to the J.D. Power 2023 North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study, Dollar and Thrifty are ranked the lowest of all car rental companies, based on responses from more than 8,500 travelers who rented a vehicle from an airport location between August 2022 and August 2023.

Of 1,000 possible points, Dollar and Thrifty scored 817 and 808, respectively. Having said that, the highest-ranked company, Enterprise, scored an 866, so Dollar and Thrifty aren’t that far behind when it comes to overall customer satisfaction.

Loyalty program

Winner: Tie

The two car rental company’s loyalty programs are practically identical, so this round ends in a tie.

Dollar Express Rewards

Dollar Express Rewards, Dollar’s loyalty program, is free to join for drivers 18 years of age and older. The program offers a free additional driver (spouse or domestic partner), quicker pick-up and returns and free rental days.

The rewards structure is quite simple. You earn 1 point per dollar spent on the rental. Free rental days start at 500 points on weekends and at 625 points on weekdays. Only compact, mid-size, standard or full-size vehicles at Dollar locations in the United States or Canada qualify for a rewards redemption.

Dollar Express Rewards members can save 15% off a weekly or weekend rental by providing a member-only promo code at the time of booking.

Dollar Express Rewards points don’t expire as long as you rent a car once every 24 months.

Blue Chip Rewards

Blue Chip Rewards members can earn points on car rentals at Thrifty locations in the United States and Canada only. Drivers 18 and older can join Thrifty’s loyalty program for free.

As a Blue Chip Rewards member, you’ll earn 1 point per dollar spent on the rental to redeem for free days in a compact through full-size vehicle. You can redeem as few as 500 points for a free weekend rental day. Additionally, you qualify for a 15% discount off the base rate when you pay later and not when making the reservation.

Blue Chip Rewards points don’t expire with qualifying rental activity at least once every 24 months.

Thrifty vs. Dollar Car rental, recapped

When comparing Dollar versus Thrifty car rental agencies, you’ll find them to be quite similar. Both are part of Hertz Corporation, both run almost identical loyalty programs and both are ranked similarly in the customer satisfaction survey.

However, Dollar seems to overtake Thrifty when it comes to lower rates, which is likely to appeal to budget travelers. It also has slightly better customer satisfaction ratings. However, Thrifty rental locations are available in more destinations than Dollar, so your decision may be made for you.


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

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $750 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

60,000

Earn 60,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $900 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
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