Best Rental Car Companies at the Airport

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Car rental counter
Image Credit: Dreamstime

The next time you need an airport car rental, you’ll probably be faced with several choices at the rental center. So how do you know which one is best to book with — aside from price alone?

All Airport Car Rentals Are Not Created Equal

Did you have a good experience the last time you rented a vehicle at the airport? According to the latest J.D. Power study, if you rented with Hertz or Enterprise, the answer is likely “yes.”

Those two companies topped the 2019 North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study from J.D. Power. Both scored within one point of each other on a 1,000-point scale. Meanwhile, Alamo rounded out the Top 3.

J.D. Power 2019 North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study

Airport Car Rental Company Score
Hertz 856
Enterprise 855
Alamo 848
National 843
Industry average 843
Avis 833
Thrifty 831
Dollar 826
Budget 825

All data was gathered over an 11-month period from nearly 9,400 business and leisure travelers who rented a vehicle at an airport location from August 2018 through August 2019.

Rental Car Industry Insights

Satisfaction with airport car rentals is at an all-time high, according to J.D. Power.

“This is due largely to companies’ continued innovation to tweak their pick-up and return processes and deliver stand-out customer experiences.,” Michael Taylor, Travel Intelligence Lead at J.D. Power, says. “Many customers can walk the lot and pick a specific car, and the pick-up process can be completed in 15 minutes or less. Adding personalization through apps and alerts to mobile devices is a big plus, too.”

If you want the best experience, J.D. Power suggests using the rental car company’s mobile app. That results in overall satisfaction that is 50 points higher versus not using the app.

Team Clark’s Advice

When you want to get the best price, there are a lot of ways to save on airport car rentals. Here are some of Team Clark’s top tips:

Join Loyalty Clubs

Christa of Team Clark suggests joining each brand’s free membership club. Being a member can often help cut down on the time you spend standing in line to pick up a vehicle or drop it off.

Check Your Reservation One Week Before Your Trip For Price Drops

Money expert Clark Howard has his own approach to saving money on rental cars.

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“When I book my flight weeks or months before the actual date of travel, I also book my car rental at the same time. Then a week before my travel date, I reshop the car rental rate,” he says. “At least 90% of the time, I find that I can book a new car cheaper at the last minute, so I just let my old reservation go.”

In fact, Clark wound up paying just a third of the initial price this way when he took his family on a ski trip.

“My price went from just under $300 when I booked the flight to just under $100 including all junk fees when I re-shopped the rate a week before travel,” he says.

Rent Your Vehicle Off-Airport

Sometimes the best way to save money on airport car rentals is to pay a cab to take you off an airport property and get into the town.

Both Enterprise and Hertz have a huge network of intown rental locations that are geared to locals with completely different pricing than what’s available at airports.

“Once my brother couldn’t find a decent car rental in Dallas because there was some convention going on. All the rentals were more than $100 a day,” Clark recalls. “So I got him to take an airport shuttle from Dallas Ft. Worth Airport to downtown Dallas and he got a car for $22 a day. Giving up convenience in exchange for saving money must run in the family!”

Book Using AutoSlash

Maybe renting off-airport isn’t an option for you. In that case, you should at least consider using AutoSlash.com.

This site has made a name for itself among a small but devoted fan base. People really like that it will track your rental rate after you book an airport car rental and let you know if prices drop. You can also book directly through the site.

In our independent test of AutoSlash, we found the service delivered airport rental cars for 20% less than the average vs. the competition. Read our full review here.

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