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Best websites for cheap car rentals

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Best websites for cheap car rentals

Million Mile SecretsBest websites for cheap car rentalsMillion Mile Secrets Team

Signing up for credit cards through partner links earns us a commission. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.

When you’re planning a trip, it’s easy to get wrapped up in finding the best airfare and hotel deals. But don’t forget about other expenses you might encounter! Daily rental car rates can add up fast — especially if you don’t plan ahead.

If you want to get the best rental car prices, it’s best to do your research and shop around. There are so many similar sites, though, that it’s hard to know where to look. 

We’re here to make the process a bit easier for you. Here are our picks for the best car rental sites to find the best deals.

(Photo by Prostock-studio/Shutterstock)

What are the best websites to book a cheap rental car?

The sheer number of online travel agencies (OTAs) can be dizzying, but there aren’t as many differences as you might think. For one, Expedia owns many of the OTAs, including Travelocity, Orbitz and Hotwire. A quick search across several of these will often yield similar results. 

We know your biggest priority is to find the best car rental prices, so we’ve scoured a lot of these sites to find the ones that consistently offer some of the best deals. But, because there are so many similar sites, we’ve also tried to highlight the OTAs that combine good deal-hunting with other unique features.

AutoRentals.com

Finding the cheapest online car rental company can quickly lead to a browser crash from having 20 different tabs and pop-up windows open. AutoRentals.com helps you avoid this mess by providing a quick view of prices across many of the top sites. It’s a perfect place to start your search.

Pros:

  • See a quick chart comparing deals across many sites
  • Jump directly to your deal of choice
  • Sign up for “flash deal” notification emails

Cons:

  • Prices may not be completely accurate
  • Some limitations on what you can cancel
  • Not a direct booking site

Expedia

Expedia is one of the behemoths of the OTA world, operating for over 20 years and now owning several other sites. It’s easy to book everything for your trip through Expedia, and its rewards program can earn you nice perks. Even better, we consistently found relatively low rate options.

Pros:

  • Consistently low rates
  • Book everything in one place for a better deal
  • Expedia rewards

Cons:

  • Highlighted deals aren’t always the best ones
  • May not be the best price if you don’t buy in a travel package

Priceline

Like Expedia, Priceline has been in the OTA game for a long time. As part of Booking Holding, it’s in the same group that runs other sites such as Booking.com, Kayak and Rentalcars.com. Prices we saw were similar to Expedia but sometimes came in a bit lower. 

Pros:

  • Easy to find great deals and sales
  • Sometimes features opaque bookings (cheaper options if you don’t care what agency you’re renting from)
  • Book everything in one place

Cons:

  • Only sources from a few car rental companies
  • No more “name your own price” feature
  • Reservations are nonrefundable

Hotwire

Although it’s first and foremost a hotel booking service and owned by Expedia, we find enough to like about Hotwire’s car rental options to include it here. If you can find a car priced at one of its Hot Rates, you can snag some of the best car rental prices out there.

Pros:

  • Hot Deals offer some of the best pricing around
  • Advertises rates as low as $29 a day 
  • Save by bundling services

Cons:

  • No rewards program
  • Doesn’t have as many options as some similar sites
  • Reservations are nonrefundable

Costco

It may not be the first company that comes to mind for this, but Costco is one of the cheapest car rental companies around if you have a membership. Costco Travel offers a wide variety of services, including rental cars through Enterprise, Avis, Budget and Alamo. Here’s a detailed review of renting a car through Costco Travel.

Pros:

  • Compare pricing at up to four nearby pickup agencies
  • Add one extra driver for free
  • No cancellation fees

Cons:

  • Services are for members only
  • Limited agency options

Autoslash

Autoslash is perfect for those who don’t want to spend hours every day checking ten different travel sites for the best rental car prices. You can sign up, set your preferences and travel dates, and receive email updates any time prices change. The site even factors in coupons and includes your personal membership discounts for specific rental companies. Be sure to check out our in-depth review of Autoslash.

Pros:

  • Sign up for price change alerts
  • Share your memberships to get any eligible discounts
  • Compares pricing and coupons for all major rental brands

Cons:

  • You can’t view rates directly (deals are emailed to you)
  • Not as fast as other services
  • Hard to compare pricing

Is it cheaper to rent a car at the airport or off-site?

As always, convenience comes with a cost. Generally, renting a car at the airport will be more expensive than picking up at another rental site. The differences are often more significant on weekdays than on the weekends — when we compared rates on AutoRentals.com, for instance, prices were similar on Saturday and Sunday, but 30% to 40% higher at the airport on weekdays.

Remember, though, that the other expenses you’ll encounter will likely negate the savings of renting outside the airport. You’ll spend time and money taking a cab or an Uber to your off-site rental spot, which might make these differences less significant than you think. If you’re just renting a car in town, then the airport probably won’t make sense for finding the best rental car price.

How far in advance should you book a rental car to get the best price?

Unfortunately, there is no magic formula for finding the best time to book your car rental. Like all travel services, pricing is based on the ebb and flow of supply and demand, so prices can rise and fall at any time. You can often find great deals booking at the last minute, especially if you aren’t traveling over a holiday, but there is no guarantee. If you see a deal that works for you, it’s probably best to lock it in.

If you want to watch price trends without the hassle of checking for the best car rental sites every day, Autoslash is an excellent option. Once you sign up for the site, you can choose your rental dates and preferences and have the system notify you when prices change.

Also, if you’re under 25 years old, be sure to check out our guide to avoiding young driver fees. Additional costs like these can also add significant costs to your rental.

Bottom line

Traveling is expensive, and car rentals can easily push your budget over the edge. With all of the travel sites available these days, it’s easy to find the best rental car deals with a little bit of effort.

Take some time to compare your options and find the best rate so you can spend a little more on all the fun adventures you have planned. And don’t forget to protect yourself by using one of the best cards for rental car insurance!

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Editorial Note: We're the Million Mile Secrets team. And we're proud of our content, opinions and analysis, and of our reader's comments. These haven’t been reviewed, approved or endorsed by any of the airlines, hotels, or credit card issuers which we often write about. And that’s just how we like it! :)

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GetToThePoints

Well I’ll be danged. A new site I didn’t know about which you listed above saved me $250. Thanks for the lead on VIPcars.com

GetToThePoints

When the heck did car rental rates skyrocket. I usually book a SUV for a week in BZN for under $300. Now I cant get under $700 hardly.

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