April 15, 2019

How Much Does it Cost to Rent a Car

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Where you rent the car, the length of time you need it, and the type of car you rent all play a major role in the cost of your rental car.

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Understanding what it costs to rent a car ahead of time can help you ask the right questions and find the most affordable car rental option for you. Keep reading to see how much a rental car may cost you.

The Cost to Rent a Car

The cost to rent a car varies across the country—and even within the same town based—on the type of car chosen and where you rent the car. Below we show you the average cost of renting an economy car from three of the largest car rental companies in the United States: Enterprise, Alamo, and Budget. Each of the categories assumes you book (and pay for) the car rental at least 2 weeks in advance and from the main airport in the city.

These costs are subject to change, but represent the average cost for each company/location.

Cost for a Day

  • Enterprise: Chicago $85; Orlando $52; Los Angeles $100
  • Alamo: Chicago $76; Orlando $46; Los Angeles $100
  • Budget: Chicago $59; Orlando $59; Los Angeles $56

Cost for a Week

  • Enterprise: Chicago $564; Orlando $393; Los Angeles $521
  • Alamo: Chicago $540; Orlando $352; Los Angeles $522
  • Budget: Chicago $391; Orlando $348; Los Angeles $364

Cost for a Month

  • Enterprise: Chicago $1,353; Orlando $1,033; Los Angeles $1,106
  • Alamo: Chicago $1,209; Orlando $1,004; Los Angeles $1,034
  • Budget: Chicago $1,225; Orlando $917; Los Angeles $874

Cost for Three Months

  • Enterprise: Chicago $4,000; Orlando $3,054; Los Angeles $3,269
  • Alamo: Chicago $3,570; Orlando $2,967; Los Angeles $3,050
  • Budget: Chicago $3,930; Orlando $2,784; Los Angeles $2,932

What Do You Need to Rent a Car?
In order to rent a car, you first must meet the minimum age requirement. Typically, you must be at least 25 years old. You must have a valid driver's license and a major credit card in your name for the cost of the rental. In some cases, you may also have to put down a rental deposit.

What Is the Cheapest Rental Car?

You'll find the cost of rental cars all over the place, even within the same city. If you want to keep your costs down, seek out the "other" rental car companies in the area. Check out car rental companies, such as Thrifty or Dollar Rental, to see how they compare. As you look at the cost of renting a car, stick to the "economy" car, as that's typically the most economical option.

Also, consider checking out any memberships that you have, as they often include car rental discounts. Costco and AAA memberships typically offer you a significant discount on car rentals. Additionally, certain "rewards programs" with the airlines or even your credit cards can offer rental car discounts.

Finally, avoid falling for the "extra perks." They'll try to get you to purchase their insurance or roadside assistance. They even offer car seats and GPS. As long as your insurance company protects you while driving a rental car, you may not need the extra insurance (always check with your agent first). You can bring your own child safety seats, and most smartphones have some type of GPS that you can use.

What Other Options Are There Besides Economy Cars?
If you want something a little fancier than an economy car, you can typically choose from compact, intermediate, and luxury vehicles. Each car rental company has a different definition for each category, but the higher up on the list that you go, the more room and features you typically get.

What Do Rental Cars Cost per Mile?

Car rental companies typically offer two options when renting a car:

  • Unlimited Mileage: Companies like Enterprise often include unlimited mileage in the price of the car rental. You can drive as few or as many miles as you need and the cost of the car rental won't change.

  • Limited Mileage: Some car rental companies limit the number of miles you can drive for the given price. If you go over the mileage, you'll pay a per mile surcharge. You'll typically find this with large car rental companies that offer great promos, so make sure you read the fine print. Some companies also restrict the mileage on their luxury vehicles.

If you are concerned about the number of miles you will drive, make sure you read the fine print. Even car rental companies that offer unlimited mileage have a point when it's "too many miles."

Don't forget, though, you'll have to pay for the gas, which adds to your per mile cost. Even if you have an unlimited mileage car rental plan, you'll be responsible for refilling the tank to where it was when you picked up the car.

Is It Cheaper to Rent a Car in Advance?

Typically, you can get better rates when you book in advance. Ideally, you should book your rental car at least six weeks in advance, especially if you need it over a holiday weekend or other peak time. This gives you the chance to select your desired car and lock in lower rates.

Even if you book the rental car earlier than six weeks before travel, you can always request a price adjustment if rates fall. Car rental companies often change their rates based on the demand. As it gets closer to your travel date, if there are still a large number of cars that will sit on the lot, prices may drop. On the other hand, if the demand is high, rates may increase accordingly.

Is It Cheaper to Rent a Car at the Airport?

The airport is usually the ideal place to pick up your rental car because you don't have to worry about transportation to the car rental facility. But convenience often comes with a price. Car rental facilities at the airport often have higher daily rental costs as well as airport concession fees and more taxes.

This isn't a blanket statement, though. In some areas, it's cheaper to rent the car at the airport than it is at an offsite facility. If you have the option, check several rental car facilities within the vicinity to see how much you might save by renting offsite.

Bottom Line

Renting a car requires making many decisions. Use the internet to your advantage and truly shop around. You'll likely find different rates at different car rental companies. Know what each company includes in the price quoted and compare your options carefully. It's easy to fall for a promo only to find out later that the "extra fees" are higher than you anticipated.

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