New Report: Best and Worst Car Rental Companies in America

Written by |
Advertisement

It’s an interesting time for rental car companies. People are traveling again. Demand has contributed to long lines and a continued shortage of vehicles.

Money expert Clark Howard says, on top of that, some rental car companies aren’t being forthright with their customers about their inventories.

It’s even happened to him: “I’ve actually been in a situation where I’ve shown up and there were no car rentals, and I’ve had to take Uber and Lyft for a day until I was able to get a car,” Clark said recently on his podcast.

Here Are the Best and Worst Rental Car Companies for Customer Satisfaction

Against this backdrop, a recent report from the American Customer Satisfaction Index (ACSI) shows which rental car companies are driving away with high praise from consumers — and shows those that aren’t.

The ACSI Travel Study 2021-2022 shows that the rental car industry overall scores a 75 (out of 100); that’s down 1.3 points compared to its previous study.

Among the 18 customer experience benchmarks highlighted, only two — the quality and reliability of car rental companies’ mobile apps — saw score increases.

The study, which scores rental car companies on a 100-point scale, compiled its results from interviews with 6,285 customers. The interviews took place between April 5, 2021, and March 25, 2022.

Here are some key findings from the report:

  • Alamo, which is owned by Enterprise, takes the top spot this year with a score of 79. 
  • There’s a three-way tie for second place as Enterprise, Hertz and National (another Enterprise company) all finish with a score of 76. 
  • Bringing up the rear is Thrifty with a score of 70, a three-point decline from its previous ranking.

Here are the best and worst rental car companies, according to the latest ACSI rankings.

Rental Car Company
(Parent Company)
2022 ScoreGain/Loss From Previous Year
Alamo (Enterprise)794
Enterprise76-3
Hertz761
National (Enterprise)761
Dollar (Hertz)75-3
Avis (Avis Budget)74-1
Budget (Avis Budget)72-1
Thrifty (Hertz)70-3
All (Average)75-1.3

Clark says he’s employed a strategy that usually works despite the scarce rental car inventory these days.

Advertisement

Rental Car Shortage: How Clark Is Able To Get Vehicles Right Now and Save Money

“All of the car rental companies have these express rental programs, and they are free to join,” Clark says. “You register your driver’s license number, the credit card you’re going to use to pay for the rental, your preferences, all this stuff.”

I can attest to Clark’s method. As a member of Avis Preferred and Thifty’s Blue Chip Rewards program, I routinely am able to skip the line when I need to rent a car for travel.

Here’s Clark’s two-step car rental process in full.

1. Book on Costco Travel

Costco Travel car rental
Screenshot via CostcoTravel.com

Here’s what Clark says about Costco Travel: “Their rates are usually better than you can find elsewhere — but not always. I always comparison shop, but I’d say probably two-thirds of the time, I book my car rentals through Costco Travel.”

2. Add Your Confirmation # To Your Account With the Rental Car Company

  • Go to the rental car company website: After booking, add your confirmation number to the website of the rental car company you chose. “I put in my confirmation number, first name, last name and it pulls up my reservation,” he says.

Here’s how the page looks that allows you to add your confirmation number on Thrifty.com:

Thrifty.com rental car confirmation page
Screenshot via Thrifty.com

After that, you’ll be able to take advantage of express check-in, which Clark says will save you time.

“You completely bypass the counters and you go straight to the lot, which gets you to the front of the line and not the back of the line with all the people that are waiting when they’re out of cars.” 

Want to know more ways to save? Here’s how to get the best car rental deal.

More Travel Resources From Clark.com:

Advertisement

Travel credit cards can earn consumers rewards for their spending. Best Travel Credit Cards: Top Rewards Picks for 2023 - The best travel rewards credit cards! Compare the latest sign-up bonus offers to start earning free flights, hotel stays and more.