Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insuranc...

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Joel Ohman is the CEO of a private equity-backed digital media company. He is a CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™, author, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur who loves creating new things, whether books or businesses. He has also previously served as the founder and resident CFP® of a national insurance agency, Real Time Health Quotes. He also has an MBA from the University of South Florid...

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Reviewed by Joel Ohman
Founder, CFP®

UPDATED: Nov 15, 2020

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A rental car is a great way of providing everyone with a reliable way to get around.

Then you don’t have to fret about going to and fro from place to place on your next vacation or business trip.

Or have that dreaded feeling of…”Did I just get ripped off?”

Your Guide to Getting the Best Deal Before Renting a Vehicle

One thing is for sure, nobody wants to pay $45, $55, or $85 a day for a rental.

Another thing I noticed when I was shopping for a rental car is the same rental agency may be cheap in one city and expensive in another. 

This is what I would do when scouting for my next rental car deal.

Least expensive rental car companies overall by average price.Note: Illustrated above are the lowest price rental car companies on average. I picked 5 which almost always were among the lowest no matter where you rent a vehicle. However, as I will show further below, you will find the same rental agency more expensive in another city.

Don’t Consider Renting at an Airport

Airports can be either super convenient or a pain. Guess what? Rental car agencies charge 10% to 20% more at the airport.

All because of convenience.

What car rental agencies like to do is tack on an “airport surcharge”.

How much of difference?

What I did was get a quote for a rental company at Houston, Texas. I got a quote for a vehicle for $20 a day if I went downtown from Hertz.

The same vehicle at the airport is $44 plus another $8 a day for airport surcharges and handling fees.

Making the grand total approximately $55 a day. All you have to do is make plans to take Uber downtown and save $30 a day.

SmarterTraveler.com has a good article about the tricks some of the companies like to play.

Just because a rental car company is cheap in Houston doesn’t mean it is in New York.

Houston, TX lowest price car rental companies by price.Note: In Houston you can find some pretty cheap car rental deals. The lowest price companies are Payless, E-Z Rent-a-Car, and Advantage. They are 40% cheaper than the average price offered in Houston.

Rent a Stick Shift Vehicle if you Can

This is a cool trick which I found on my own.

If you can drive a stick shift call the company in advance and see how much they will rent a stick shift car.


Since automatic transmissions are in such high demand and smaller portion of people know how to drive a manual transmission, stick shifts cost less.

This doesn’t work every time, but if you can drive a stick you may have an advantage and get a rental cheaper.

Don’t Go for Big Name Brands – Go Cheap & Save

Everyone knows about Hertz, Enterprise, and Budget. There are other brands which offer the same class of vehicle for a lower price.

Dollar, Thrifty, Alamo, and Advantage offer the same vehicle for $5 to $10 cheaper than their competitors.

Instead of going through price comparison sites like Priceline or Kayak use them to price and call the company direct.

You can save yourself a few bucks by doing so. 

Remember if you didn’t book a nonrefundable rental you can cancel if you find another cheaper.

Lowest price car rental deals in Miami, FL.Note: Out of all the cities I covered Miami has the lowest prices. Payless, E-Z Rent-a-Car, and Advantage are the least expensive offering a deal at $9 a day. Or approximately 40% lower than the average price.

Cheapest Rental Car Companies by Price

Below I have a table of the cheapest rental car companies by major cities across the United States.

The region is going to be the area where one company may be cheaper than the other.

For example, Enterprise was the cheapest in Los Angeles and Chicago.

Lowest price car rentals in New York by company. Note: In New York the lowest prices are offered by Advantage, E-Z Rent-a-Car, and Payless. Each offering a rental at $65, $69, and $70 respectfully. Or approximately 28% to 33% lower than the average $95 price.

In New York, Houston, and Miami Payless and Advantage are your best option.

Remember, because you received a good deal in one city on a rental may not be the case in another.

The prices in bold are the lowest price per city. And the type of car I queried for was a small compact vehicle for a day. 

CompanyLos AngelesHoustonNew YorkChicagoMiami
E-Z Rent-a-Car$30.00$17.00$69.00$58.00$9.00
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If you are going for the lowest price you may want to give Payless a try.

They are in the top when it comes to the lowest price except in Los Angeles.

One of the cool things about Payless is you may get a sedan or larger vehicle and pay the same price as a compact car.

If I was on a budget I would certainly give Payless a try.

Chicago, IL cheapest car rental firms compared against average price. Note: If you are going to Chicago the least expensive rental car companies are Enterprise, Budget, and Payless. The average cost per day is $22, $32, and $36 respectfully. Enterprise offers rentals over 50% less than the average price of $58 per day.

E-Z Rent-a-Car

E-Z Rent-a-Car would be my second choice if I was looking for the least expensive option.

E-Z Rent-a-Car does have some bad reviews, but so do all the companies.

They may add a surcharge, especially if you are picking the up the rental at the airport, but the price comes out much lower than higher end rental  companies, such as Hertz.


Avis offers prices which are not always the lowest, but is very competitive.

The main advantage over the super cheap companies is the selection of vehicles.

You should be able to get a fuel efficient vehicle to save even more too.

If it was only on price, Avis wouldn’t be my first call, but would be on my list for sure.


Advantage is another lesser-known company which I would put third on my list.

They have a number of vehicles to choose from and are competitive in Miami where you can get a $9 rental.

They don’t offer a special type of discount probably since they already know they are pretty darn cheap.

Lowest price rentals by price in Los Angeles.Note: In Los Angeles you can find cost savings with Avis, Enterprise, and E-Z Rent-a-Car. Avis offers a daily rental for $22, Enterprise at $24, and E-Z Rent-a-Car at $30 per day. All three are at least 40% cheaper than the average $55 daily rental in Los Angeles.


Alamo wasn’t the least expensive for any of the cities. Cool options are available discounts you can get on Alamo’s website.

If you pre-plan and get a discount from the site you may be able to get a rental car at a steal.

The website discounts don’t stay around for long so you have to keep on checking. Alamo has reliable economy and compact cars for anyone on a budget.

Skip the Insurance Coverage if You Can

All of the companies will offer you insurance coverage for your rental. This can be from $10 to $40 a day.

And it is another money-maker for the rental agencies.

Here are your best options: 

  • Check with your insurer. If you have full coverage you probably will be covered. So you wouldn’t need it. Make sure to bring your policy. If you don’t, the rental agency will require you buy the coverage. 
  • Check with any of the credit card companies you have. If you pay with one where it is covered you don’t need it.
  • When you pay with your credit card make sure to decline the “supplemental collision damage” and pay the FULL AMOUNT with your credit card. Otherwise you are not covered.
  • Check your policy for any add-ons you may have. Many do such as Progressive

If you rent a car for $15.00 a day adding the coverage offered by the agency can make it cost $35.00 easily. This option is often overlooked by consumers.

Credit Cards Companies Offering Rental Insurance at a Glance

Below is a list of the major credit card companies offering rental car insurance for you so you don’t have to pay for it at the agency.

CardsAllAllGold, Platinum, World and World Elite Cards
Coverage Amount$50,000$50,000/$75,000$50,000
Coverage Period15/31 days30 days15 days
Must Submit Claim Documents Within90 days180 days180 days
Claims Contact(800) 847-2911(800) 338-1670 (domestic)
(216) 617-2500 (worldwide)
(800) 622-7747
Policy DetailsMore InfoMore InfoMore Info
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There are a few cars which will NOT be covered by the credit card company.

  • Expensive/Exotic cars – ones whose suggested retail market price is above $50,000

  • Antiques – any car that is over 20 years old, or has not been manufactured in over 10 years

  • Vans/trucks – vehicles capable of transporting more than 8 passengers (including limousines and RVs)

  • Motorcycles/mopeds – if the vehicle you are renting has less than 4 wheels, your credit card company will not extend insurance to it

Rewards Programs & Something to Say About it

I decided to put reward programs dead last.

The reason why?

They don’t seem to pay off unless you are using rental companies a lot.

The other reason? I don’t really care for rewards programs.

They are design to make you stay with the same company.

Kind of defeating the point of finding the least expensive rental agency when you need it!

Most of the reward programs are your typical “spend one dollar and get point” to spend on more rentals or accessories such as gas.

Below are the rewards programs for the top agencies and what they offer.

CompanyRewards ProgramBenefits
AlamoInsiders5% off retail rates
AvisPreferredEarn one point for every $1 spent on rentals and two points for accessories.
BudgetBusiness ProgramReward certificates are mailed out quarterly in $15 denominations. You can use up to 7 certificates ($105) when redeeming for a rental.
DollarExpress Renter RewardsFor every 16 paid days you get 1 free rental day.
EnterprisePlus $1 = 1 point, Free rentals start at 450 points.
HertzGold Plus$1 = 1 point and redeem at 550 points for gas or rentals.
NationalEmerald ClubPoints towards free rentals.
ThriftyBlue Chip Rewards$1 = 1 point; It takes 500 rewards to claim a free weekend rental day.
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Final Thoughts

I have used just about all the sites to find a good deal on a rental car.

Priceline, Kayak, Expedia, and RentalCars.com and the list goes on and on.

The last time I did it I had a headache since I was overwhelmed with all the options.

The smartest thing to do is plan well beforehand and shop around for a period of time, say two or three weeks.

And…if you are planning during the Christmas season or another holiday you may have to start scouting a month beforehand. 

Keep on the lookout for discounts or coupons and you should be able to get a nice deal on your next rental car.

I hope this helped make you realize that a good deal in one area of the country may not be such as great deal in a another part of the country.

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