What Is the Best Car Rental Company?

Enterprise dominates, but despite its massive fleet, its competitors can be found in more countries worldwide.
JT Genter
By JT Genter 
Updated
Edited by Meg Lee

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Each car rental company would like to claim that it offers the best perks and most options. But which one is actually the best car rental company?

While that may change depending on when and where you want to rent a car, let's compare the major car rental companies head-to-head on three important elements: availability, price and loyalty program.

For this analysis, we are considering eight major rental car brands:

  • Alamo.

  • Avis.

  • Budget.

  • Dollar.

  • Enterprise.

  • Hertz.

  • National

  • Thrifty.

These eight brands are all members of three larger car rental companies. 

  • Enterprise Holdings (Enterprise, National and Alamo).

  • Avis Budget Group (Avis and Budget).

  • Hertz Corporation (Hertz, Dollar and Thrifty).

By availability

Winner: Enterprise

Each major car rental company group offers approximately the same number of rental locations. But Enterprise's fleet clearly stands out as the largest. While that won't guarantee Enterprise always has a car available, Enterprise certainly has more cars to go around.

However, note that Avis, Budget and Hertz offer car rental locations in more countries. So, these brands might be the best option depending on where you're traveling.

Number of rental car locations

The major car rental company groups each have an expansive global reach. But which offers the most options?

Car rental group

Locations

Countries and territories

Enterprise Holdings (Enterprise, National and Alamo)

More than 10,000.

More than 90.

Avis Budget Group (Avis and Budget)

More than 10,000.

Approximately 180.

Hertz Corporation (Hertz, Dollar and Thrifty)

Approximately 11,600.

Approximately 160.

When looking at each rental company individually, the picture is a bit more nuanced. Enterprise boasts more than 9,500 locations in nearly 100 countries and territories, while Alamo has just 1,100 locations across 84 countries.

Compared to Enterprise, the Hertz brand offers fewer locations (around 8,500) but more countries (146). Avis offers even fewer locations (around 5,500) but the most countries (165). That makes it hard to determine a single winner by the number of locations alone.

Size of rental car fleet

Since the number of locations netted mixed results, let's turn to the size of each company's fleet. And here's where we find a clear winner.

During 2022, Enterprise grew its fleet to more than 2.1 million cars. Meanwhile, the Hertz group maxed out at 547,400 vehicles, and Avis' rental fleet averaged 479,672 vehicles in 2022.

That means Enterprise's fleet is approximately double the combined fleets of Hertz/Dollar/Thrifty and Avis/Budget.

The fleet size paired with its larger number of locations makes Enterprise the clear winner by availability.

By pricing

Winner: Enterprise

NerdWallet completed a comprehensive analysis of rental car prices.

By checking prices for hundreds of rental car options, we identified the cheapest and most expensive airport locations, whether you should book in advance or wait until the last minute and whether it's worth commuting to a downtown location instead of renting from the airport.

This analysis also established the cheapest and most expensive car rental companies, and there was a clear winner and loser. For comparable seven-night rentals, Enterprise offered among the lowest rates (average $490), and National charged the highest (average of $601).

By loyalty program

Winner: Enterprise Plus

Once again, Enterprise comes out on top. Enterprise Plus offers the most traveler-friendly loyalty program of the three major car rental companies because:

  • It offers members a straightforward earning rate.

  • It has the lowest-cost redemptions.

  • Its expiration policy is generous, lasting three years.

Avis Preferred gives Enterprise some competition thanks to a minimum earning rate on rentals. However, Avis' extremely short expiration period can make it hard for travelers to build up points over time.

Enterprise Plus

Travelers earn 1 Enterprise Plus point for every dollar spent on car rentals — before taxes, fees, fuel and surcharges. Free rental days start at 600 points.

That means you can earn a free rental day after spending $600 in base rental fees. Enterprise Plus points expire only if a member is inactive for more than 36 months (three years).

Avis Preferred

Avis Preferred members earn 1 point per dollar spent on rentals and 2 points per dollar spent on accessories — earning a minimum of 100 points per rental. Reward days start at 700 points, meaning you'll earn a free rental day for, at least, every seven rentals.

While Avis Preferred doesn't have blackout dates, reward days are grouped into levels based on the standard base rate for the rental. A 700-point redemption will only get you a free rental worth up to $50 base rate.

The downside is that Avis Preferred points expire if you don't have qualifying activity at least every 12 months.

Hertz Gold Plus Rewards

Gold is the base level in the Hertz Gold Plus Rewards program. Like Avis and Enterprise, Hertz members earn 1 Hertz Gold Plus Rewards point per dollar spent.

However, Hertz has devalued its Gold Plus Rewards programs twice in the past three years — generally with little to no notice.

As of the time of writing, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards redemptions start at 950 points for a 1-day Standard Rewards redemption or 1,900 points for a 1-day AnyDay Rewards redemption. Those are significantly higher redemption rates than those charged by either Avis or Enterprise.

Hertz Gold Plus Rewards points expire after 12 months of no rental activity.


CREDIT CARD RENTAL BENEFITS CAN TAKE YOU FARTHER

A number of popular travel credit cards can save you money on car rentals. Some give you bonus rewards for travel expenses in general or rental cars in particular. Some provide collision coverage that allows you to decline the "insurance" offered by the rental agency. Some give you elite status with rental car loyalty programs. Among cards with rental benefits:

Top cards for rental cars
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 Ultimate Rewards® 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 Ultimate Rewards® 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

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

By customer satisfaction

Based on all the above, it's no surprise that Enterprise ranked the highest in overall customer happiness, according to the October 2023 J.D. Power 2023 North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study.

Enterprise maintained this ranking from this report for the third year in a row. National came in as the runner up and in Alamo received third place in customer satisfaction.

Rental car alternatives

This ranking only considers the legacy rental car companies that offer a classic car rental service (e.g. you pick the keys up at a counter from a human, drive the car off the lot and return it at the same place you got it).

However, there's a growing number of rental car alternatives that offer some distinguishing — and compelling features. Many are peer-to-peer rental companies that operate sort of as an Airbnb for cars and include companies like Turo and Getaround. Because those cars are typically owned by regular people looking to make some side hustle income off a car otherwise sitting idle, these companies can often be cheaper.

Another interesting player, Kyte, stands out because it delivers the car to you. If time is money, then Kyte could also be a big winner.

What is the best car rental company?

Enterprise takes this competition in a unanimous decision. Enterprise offers the largest fleet, the lowest prices, the best rental car loyalty program overall and was also ranked as #1 in customer satisfaction per a study from JD Power.

With that said, Enterprise doesn't offer locations in as many countries as Avis, Budget and Hertz. If you're traveling outside of Enterprise's approximately 100-country reach, Avis and Budget are more likely to be around to serve your car rental needs.

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

Insurance Benefit: Car Rental Loss & Damage Insurance

  • Car Rental Loss and Damage Insurance can provide coverage up to $75,000 for theft of or damage to most rental vehicles when you use your eligible Card to reserve and pay for the entire eligible vehicle rental and decline the collision damage waiver or similar option offered by the Commercial Car Rental Company. This product provides secondary coverage and does not include liability coverage. Not all vehicle types or rentals are covered. Geographic restrictions apply.

  • Eligibility and Benefit level varies by Card. Terms, Conditions and Limitations Apply.

  • Please visit americanexpress.com/benefitsguide for more details.

  • Underwritten by AMEX Assurance Company. Car Rental Loss or Damage Coverage is offered through American Express Travel Related Services Company, Inc.


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:

Travel Cards 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 Freedom Unlimited Credit Card

on Chase's website

Chase Freedom Unlimited®
5.0
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

1.5%-5%

Enjoy 5% cash back on travel purchased through Chase Travel, 3% cash back on drugstore purchases and dining at restaurants, including takeout and eligible delivery service, and unlimited 1.5% cash back on all other purchases.

Cashback

Intro offer

Up to $300

Earn an additional 1.5% cash back on everything you buy (on up to $20,000 spent in the first year) - worth up to $300 cash back!

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card

on Capital One's website

Capital One Venture Rewards Credit Card
4.7
NerdWallet Rating
Rewards rate

2x-5x

Earn unlimited 2X miles on every purchase, every day. Earn 5X miles on hotels and rental cars booked through Capital One Travel, where you'll get Capital One's best prices on thousands of trip options.

Miles

Intro offer

75,000

Enjoy a one-time bonus of 75,000 miles once you spend $4,000 on purchases within 3 months from account opening, equal to $750 in travel.

Miles
SEE MORE TRAVEL CARDS
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