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The 16 Best Car Rental Booking Sites for 2024

What’s the best website to use when you want to rent a car? The quick answer is that there’s no one best site for car rentals, but there are a bunch of great ones worth comparing prices on. And the best ones for you will depend on what exactly you’re looking for in a car rental.

As with so many other travel buys, like the best hotel booking sites and the best airfare booking sites, to find the very best car rental deals you’ll need to cast a wide net. Still, some places tend to do better than others, at least some of the time.

The Best Car Rental Booking Sites in the U.S. and Europe

Here’s a quick roundup of the candidates for best car rental booking sites, based on detailed car searches in both the U.S. and Europe. (Find more details below on the perks and downfalls of each.)

I tested base rental car rates by searching only for economy or compact cars, for a rental period of one week, and only for picking up and returning the car at the primary airports for a number of city destinations in both the U.S. and Europe. All quoted rates (except for opaque rates that hide car specifics until after you purchase their lower-priced deal) are fully cancellable, although some require an advance payment with the option of a refund given upon cancellation. Some vendors offer lower non-refundable rates. All rates include air-conditioning and all U.S. rates include automatic transmission; European rates are for manual since automatic comes at a premium there.

For the most part, the search-and-buy sequence is roughly the same for all car rental booking sites. No one rose out of the mix as especially easy or dropped as especially difficult. Therefore, my comparisons are based almost entirely on my ability to locate the best deals.

Illustration of laptop showing the car rental homepage of AutoRentals
guteksk7 | Adobe Stock & AutoRentals

Overall, is an excellent place to start a search. It’s a metasearch system that displays a matrix of prices for up to 25 model options available through more than two dozen different sources, including a mix of other metasearch car rental booking sites, online travel agencies, and rental company home pages.

Price displays include both the posted daily rate and the all-up cost of the requested rental. The display also indicates which rental locations, if any, are off-airport—which is important. This matrix feature is especially helpful in comparing options quickly.

Pros: Coverage of major cities is worldwide. Once you select an option to check, AutoRentals links you through to the vendor’s web pages to make your booking, and it includes many rental companies and search systems you’ve probably never heard about, let alone would find on your own.

Cons: Some of the “best deals” reported are not actually the true total price; they exclude some taxes and fees. And some are not fully cancellable—they’re either nonrefundable or entail a cancellation fee. This information is not disclosed until well into the booking process, and even then you have to dig for it.


Illustration of laptop showing the car rental homepage of Hotwire
guteksk7 | Adobe Stock & Hotwire

Car rentals on Hotwire offered some of the lowest rates by way of “opaque” rates in most of my U.S. tests. Opaque means that you don’t find out about the rental company until after you pay the nonrefundable price. Given the sameness of cars, however, you risk very little disappointment with an opaque rate. The option to filter by “free cancellation” also gives peace of mind when booking. 

Pros: Hotwire’s leadership in low rates is confirmed by the AutoRentals matrix, where it shows up as the best buy on a regular basis.

Cons: I did not find as many opaque rates for Europe on Hotwire.

guteksk7 | Adobe Stock & consistently yielded good prices for my searches, though it didn’t always win every test. The site covers rentals in 163 countries worldwide, with more than 55,000 pick-up spots to choose from. Offering an “I’m flexible” option in the travel dates field gives customers who don’t yet know when they’d like to travel the ability to peruse rental deals within a wider date range, although this functionality may be less important to a car rental search than a search for flights or hotels. 

Pros: As with, is a metasearch system that makes it easy to compare offers. In some cases it offers opaque rates for lower prices if you don’t mind not knowing the exact car type.

Cons: Because some of the booking sites works with may be unfamiliar to you, the site shows user ratings for each so you can decide whether you’re comfortable booking. Unfortunately, some of them don’t have particularly high ratings (in one search, many of the results on page one were from providers rated just 5.9 out of 10).


guteksk7 | Adobe Stock & Priceline

Like Hotwire, Priceline car rentals list opaque rates as the lowest options in many U.S. cities. Although Hotwire posted lower ones more often, Priceline was a winner in some cases. So if you’re looking for the lowest, you have to try both. The search results page has a summary of the best deals across the top for easy browsing. Customers can sort the page by recommended, lowest total price, or car type and refine results with a robust selection of filters from fuel type to cancellation policy.

Pros: The chance of it having the true lowest price. If you already use this site for hotels or airfare, it’s also easy to add on a car (as with the other big search engine booking sites).

Cons: I didn’t find any opaque rates for Europe in my Priceline searches.


Illustration of laptop showing the car rental homepage of Expedia
guteksk7 | Adobe Stock & Expedia

Expedia consistently offered or matched the lowest or near-lowest rates as frequently as Priceline and did. Plus the option to bundle with your airfare or hotel is easy and could save you money (as with other price comparison engines), if you already use Expedia for those, as many do. Like Priceline, Expedia’s search filters are extensive. Toggle on the “great deal” feature to see the lowest priced car currently on offer in each category.

Pros: In almost all cases, rates were the same as through the rental company’s own system. And if you already use this site for hotels or airfare, it’s easy to add on a car.

Cons: Expedia doesn’t seem to offer opaque rates, which is only truly a con if you’re looking for them.

Low-Cost Car Rental Booking Sites

In general, prices directly from low-end renters such as Alamo, Payless, and Thrifty were always less expensive than the top-name rental companies, usually with a difference of $100 or more per week. If you’re just looking for the cheapest car rental website, these are the sites for you.

Pros: The obvious benefit is you’re paying a lot less. But…

Cons: The trade-off is that the low-end outfits and third-party agencies generally don’t include the bells and whistles that top-end company loyalty programs provide. I also sometimes found lower rates on metasearch sites such as or than I did when booking directly through the low-cost car rental booking sites.


guteksk7 | Adobe Stock & Alamo

Alamo has over 1,000 locations in 92 countries. Although owned by Enterprise, there’s not much resemblance between their initial search pages. If searching by city, Alamo will direct customers to an interactive map that allows them to see all nearby Alamo locations. If customers search for a specific Alamo location, the site brings them directly to the vehicle selection page. My search surfaced a “fits your search” option for an economy vehicle, but also a “recommended for you” option for a midsize SUV that didn’t completely match my search criteria.

Alamo offers a Pay Now and a Pay Later option. Pay Now is typically the cheaper option (about $15 cheaper in a search for Boston economy car rentals) but it comes with a stricter cancellation policy. If you cancel more than 24 hours in advance, you incur a $50 fee—any cancellation with less than 24 hours’ notice will cost you $100. Coupons are also only valid on Pay Later rentals.

Pros: Having the most locations in the most countries of the budget booking set means you’ll be able to find deals at more destinations.

Cons: The free cancellation and coupon policy incentivizes customers to pay the more expensive Pay Now rates.


guteksk7 | Adobe Stock & Payless

Owned by Avis Budget Group, Payless rental cars has 120 locations in 35 countries including the United States. Although laid out similarly to other booking sites, it offers bare-bones filtering options. There’s no option on the initial search page to filter by what type of car you want, and no further filtering options on the search results page.

Payless also offers Pay Now and Pay Later rates, showing higher savings than Alamo—a difference of $38 dollars on an economy car rental. However, the cancellation policy for Pay Now is once again stricter, with customers forfeiting the entire prepaid amount if they cancel their reservation within 48 hours of intended pickup.

Pro: Payless Perks Club members get discounted car rental rates and access to exclusive promotions.

Cons: Lack of filter options makes it difficult to refine search results.


guteksk7 | Adobe Stock & Thrifty

Operating over 1,000 locations in 77 countries, Thrifty is another top budget car rental option. Similarly to Payless, Thrifty offers a member discount if you sign up for an account. Their Blue Chip rewards program comes with perks in addition to discounts, including an additional authorized driver and quicker reservations. 

The search results page shows the daily rate and estimated trip total, where Payless and Alamo only show trip totals. Like some of the major rental dealerships listed above, Thrifty offers opaque rates. Their “Managers Special” rate offers a rental of a “wildcard or similar” at a promised discount price. Opaque rates on electric vehicles are specially flagged.

Pro: Opaque rates can save you even more on top of Thrifty’s already budget prices.

Cons: The opaque rates surfaced in my search were not that much cheaper than the regular deals, and only came up during domestic car rental searches.

Sixt Rent a Car

Illustration of laptop showing the car rental homepage of Sixt
guteksk7 | Adobe Stock & Sixt

For European cities, the Sixt booking site is proof that higher-end companies occasionally offer specials better than any other source. At the time of my search, the German company was running a “special” found to be the cheapest option in some cases, but didn’t specify the rental company. Sixt also offers car rental deals in the US, with locations at dozens of major airports across the country.

Pros: Another strong chance of finding the lowest price.

Cons: The grid layout and dropdown details panels on the search results page is not as easy to navigate as the results pages on other sites on the list.

AARP Partners

guteksk7 | Adobe Stock & AVIS

If you qualify for them, AARP’s car rental partnership with the Avis Group (Avis, Budget, and Payless) promises discounts up to 35 percent as well as a 3% credit toward your next car rental, and in some cases I did find prices lower than those I’d seen anywhere else. The age requirement to join and access these benefits is lower than one may think—anyone over 18 years old can become an AARP member and take advantage of the savings. 

Pros: AARP rates could end up saving you money over all your other options.

Cons: Even with a “discount,” you might not be getting the lowest rate, so you still have to shop around.

Auto Europe

Illustration of laptop showing the car rental homepage of Auto Europe
guteksk7 | Adobe Stock & Auto Europe

In Europe, Auto Europe generally matched all other sources, including self-described “discounters,” for offering the lowest rates. Think of it as the or of Europe. Their grid-style search results page makes it easy to compare prices from different rental companies at a glance, highlighting the cheapest deals in each category. However, there’s no option to scroll through all the search results together in one page. 

Pros: I’ve used Auto Europe in the past, and found its customer support to be outstanding. It can also help with difficult rentals, such as finding a rental agency in Ireland that accepts drivers over age 70. It’s a good place to start any European rental search.

Cons: As you’d expect from its name, Auto Europe is best for bookings in Europe. This car rental booking site does offer rentals in the U.S. and elsewhere, but usually won’t get you the best price for them.

Illustration of laptop showing the car rental homepage of
guteksk7 | Adobe Stock & is another metasearch system that raises similar results to those search engines that were included in my original tests. Like the others, it manages to dig out some good deals. Like Hotwire, a summary of the best deals in each category is easily accessible at the top of the results page. Customers can also open the interactive map to see all locations in a given area, making it easy to confirm you’re picking up and returning your rental at the most convenient location. 

Pros: It scans more than 300 rental car companies and confines the search display to the most useful prices.

Cons: As with many other sites, the best prices it finds are sometimes pay-in-advance, including full or partial non-refundability, meaning you need to know ahead of time that your plans are concrete unless you want to lose prepayments.


Illustration of laptop showing the car rental homepage of Kayak
guteksk7 | Adobe Stock & Kayak

Kayak is best known for airfare metasearch, but it offers a good product for car rentals as well. It searches numerous car rental agencies and booking sites and came up with some of the best prices in my tests. It includes opaque options advertising a “surprise agency” if you’re willing to take a risk.

Pros: The site has lots of handy filters, including “pay now” and “pay at counter” as well as an option to show only hybrid vehicles.

Cons: Kayak works with a wide variety of booking sites, which means you’ll sometimes be pointed to companies you’re not familiar with. Search for reviews before booking with vendors you haven’t used before.

Illustration of laptop showing the car rental homepage of
guteksk7 | Adobe Stock & is owned by Expedia, but it didn’t show the exact same results as its parent company in the tests I ran, so it’s worth checking both. (Neither one came out consistently ahead of the other.) However, the search results page is formatted similarly to Expedia’s, with the same extensive set of filters and option to sort by lowest deals on the website. 

Pros: The site has some interesting filter options, including customer rating and the option for online check-in.

Cons: Making a booking through this site automatically signs you up for emails about “special offers,” with no way to opt out until the first email arrives.


Illustration of laptop showing the car rental homepage of Autoslash
guteksk7 | Adobe Stock & AutoSlash

Autoslash is a one-stop shopping site for discounts. When filling out your dates, you also check off any rewards programs or memberships you have, and let Autoslash do the searching for you. Within minutes, you will get an email with a link taking you to your best rate.The initial search is broken down into steps, taking customers through a flow of screens asking about their pick-up and drop-off dates, car preferences, frequent flier memberships, credit cards, and more. Unfortunately there is no way to select multiple preferences for your vehicle at the same time (for example, searching for deals on economy and compact cars), so if you want to compare deals across specific categories you will have to run separate searches.

Pros: Ability to search all rewards programs and membership discounts at once. If you’ve already booked through another site, you can enter your confirmation number, and they will let you know if there is a better deal available.

Cons: You may have to pay in advance for the best deal, and you may have to book with a lesser-known car rental company.

The Car Rental Booking Site Gotchas to Avoid

No matter where you rent, you have to check out the terms and conditions of any rental before you make your final purchase. Among them:

  • Great-looking deals that are nonrefundable or entail a stiff cancellation penalty.
  • Cancellable deals that require upfront payment rather than payment at the end of a rental.
  • Best deals that apply to tiny “economy” or “mini” cars that are not practical for anything other than running errands around town.
  • Occasional deals with a mileage cap instead of the unlimited mileage you normally expect.
  • Supposedly all-up prices that exclude some local taxes and fees.

How old do I have to be to rent a car?

In the United States, you must be at least 21 years old to rent a car in most states. However, many spots in Europe allow car rentals starting at age 18. If renting in Europe, check the policies of your specific car rental service. 

Renting a Car if You Are Under 25 Years Old

Drivers under 25 years old are typically charged an extra daily surcharge and potentially subject to restrictions on what types of cars they can rent. The fees vary by car rental site and can be waived in certain scenarios—for example, AAA member under 25 years old renting with Hertz can have their young renter fee waived.

Rental Car Insurance

Purchasing a Collision Damage (or Loss Damage) Waiver from your rental car provider is the one way to guarantee you won’t be held liable for any damages incurred during your rental period, but it can be expensive. Alternatives include sourcing your own insurance from your credit card or a third-party provider, but gaps in this coverage could leave you in trouble. Read our comprehensive guide on car rental insurance to learn what type of coverage is right for your situation.

Always document existing damage when first picking up your rental car. Fill out a damage from if provided by the company and take photos and video of any notable damage. 

Book a Stay With SmarterTravel Hotels

Now that you’ve found the perfect rental car, you’ll need to find the perfect place to stay. Search SmarterTravel Hotels for great deals wherever your drive takes you.

Consumer advocate Ed Perkins has been writing about travel for more than three decades. The founding editor of the Consumer Reports Travel Letter, he continues to inform travelers and fight consumer abuse every day at SmarterTravel. Carol McPherson contributed to this story.

Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2019. It has been updated to reflect the most current information. Sarah Schlichter contributed to this story. Some of the links featured in this story are affiliate links, and SmarterTravel may collect a commission (at no cost to you) if you shop through them. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases.

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