6 best car rental companies of 2013


This year’s race for best car rental company wasn’t even close. Hertz took a commanding lead from the beginning and never let go, crossing the finish line first. (Note: Here’s the latest best car rental company list.)

Readers voted Hertz the agency with the combination of best service and prices. They also lauded it for it conservative approach to damage claims, noting that it pursued only cases where it was certain the damage was caused by a customer.

It was followed by Enterprise, the largest car rental agency, and Avis. National and Alamo, two other brands owned by Enterprise, gave that company a dominant presence in this year’s top 6 list of car rental companies.

Here’s the full list:

1. Hertz
2. Enterprise
3. Avis
4. National
5. Budget
6. Alamo

Congratulations to the winners.

Christopher Elliott

Christopher Elliott is an author, journalist and consumer advocate. You can read more about him on his personal website or contact him at chris@elliott.org. Got a question or comment? You can post it on our help forum.

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  • Joe Farrell

    Enterprise? Really? hahahahaha

    They charge you for time after you return the car if they don’t get around to checking it in = and when you challenge them on it you have prove when you returned it. I have all sorts of bad Enterprise stories . . . .

    Now, if you deal with them on an insurance replacement, usually they are fine.

  • DougG

    I’ve had the opposite experience from you and have had nothing but positive dealings with Enterprise. With the sheer number of transactions they (and all other rental companies) do, there will always be some negative experiences. It is the negative events that get the most attention though. I’m glad to see from this poll though that Enterprise generally has a positive rating.

  • Ray

    I love Enterprise, Alamo and Budget. Avis and Hertz are the most expensive ones, but when i rent from them, i always have a good experience. So far, i have used all of these top 6, the least National but now it belongs/partnering with Alamo

  • jim6555

    I didn’t vote in the poll since “none of the above” was not an option. During the past year, I have rented from almost all of the companies and have encountered problems with each. The last time was a couple of weeks ago at the Providence, RI airport Hertz counter where the agent tried every trick that she knew to get me to take their insurance coverage and to sell me a full tank of gas (bring it back empty). When I didn’t give in to the pressure, she made sure that I was given a car with 45,000 miles on the odometer and scratches, scrapes and dings all over the vehicle. It took the guy in the exit booth several minutes to note all of the existing damage during which time, the drivers behind me became impatient and began tooting their horns.

  • jerryatric

    ENTERPRISE # 2 ?
    Rented a small car from them @ Montreal Airport in Winter @ night! Leaving the terminal area about 2 – 3 miles on major hwy. & rear tire blows out. Called their “help” line & they could not find my location, or Hwy. Even though it’s the major route from Airport into Montreal. Finally, after 1 hour or so calling different tel. #’s. Called CAA
    #1 car had no snow tires (mid Winter Montreal Canada) all 4 tires were bald & CAA repair said car should not be driven as is or another tire could blow.
    Went straight to my hotel, now about 1:30AM & I’m frozen. Returned car next day to show them blown tire & only comment? “yeah the rear tires should have had Winter tires on, but they missed this car. Oh well!” They could care less.
    Have never rented from Enterprise again.

  • Barfeld

    The results of this poll look like a proxy for market share–which, of course, can depend on many factors aside from degree of “bestness.”

    Most people have generally satisfactory rental experiences most of the time, so more renters = more favorable votes, and vice versa.

    That’s all we’re seeing here.

  • Joe Farrell

    Maybe because I do General Aviation and they like to gouge pilots because ‘we have the money.’

  • Puck2u

    Amazing. The last two contacts with Hertz in the USA and last in the UK were so negative we firmly decided to never rent from Hertz again ever.

  • Puck2u

    Providence is a trip within itself at Hertz. One and only desk help just wander off with a “I’ll be back.” Beyond rude in an airport designed as a relief for Boston so the Hertz desk has to be the farthest from arrival gates I Have ever seen including O’Hare, JFK, Newark, Heathrow, Stansted, Naples, etc. The car had so many smashed bugs on the front end two inches thick is an understatement, black rubber marks on white paint and inside was none too clean. Drove to Bristol area and noted a screw in the treads. Called the main number to be told it was my problem if I had a flat. Returned it the next day. My wife was going through the car to be sure we had everything. She found an incident report that the same car had a screw in the tire and been returned. Coincidence? Next was another white car which was fairly clean except for the humongous rubber streak on the “c” pillar just like the first car. Their car wash must be putting the streaks on.

  • TMMao

    Dollar at the Vancouver BC terminal has a very reasonable refueling option. Choose to buy the full tank but if you change your mind and bring it back full, they don’t charge for the tank.

  • stemin florida

    Amalie Car Rental is one of the good company and are you looking for best Vietnam bike tours and packages then Indotrek is the best.

  • Hank

    Hertz? Best prices? That’s my lol of the day! Hertz is almost always more expensive than others.

  • Audipage

    Done up with Hertz and Avis but don’t know about Enterprise…..they do provide good services but the charges are a bit higher than the local ones…

  • Cheap Car Leasing

    I was very happy to have found this site. I wanted to thank
    you for this excellent post. I definitely enjoyed every little bit of it and I
    have you bookmarked to check out new stuff you post in the future.

  • TJ McGuire

    I rented a Hertz rent a wreck from their Orchard Park NY location for a trip to Savannah, GA. Dodge Avenger with a broken belt in a tire, badly misaligned headlights, hydroplaning due to passable but low tire tread, squeaky rear brakes, overinflated tires, worn wipers, and the vehicle had obviously been in a significant accident [5 panels were painted a different shade of silver and looked like the panels were reattached by a high school kid]. Cruise control dropped 5 mph going up expressway hills. This 32,000 mile vehicle was a wreck. I asked manager for a reduction in the rate due to these problems and originally he just offered a 10% discount on a future rental. When I persisted he gave me 10% off the current rental, which I still feel was inadequate given the condition of the vehicle we unfortunately spent several days in. Never again Hertz.

  • Anna

    Did the readers really vote this way or is your next vacation going to include a free Hertz or National rental ?

  • Checkout http://www.travelauto.com for real user reviews, it was one the best I came across.

  • Shaleen

    Hertz Suckkksss!! Worst Customer Service is worst.

  • Rick

    Rented a car from enterprise. The inside was dirty, seats stained etc, need an
    email address for the company. Can anyone help?

  • Grant Ritchie

    Hi Rick,
    At the top of this page, click “Wiki.” On the page that opens, click “Car Rental,” then scroll down to find Enterprise contact info. Good luck.

  • Anna

    Isnt Elliott currently on vacation in a Hertz rental? Hmmmm……

  • Robert

    Hertz is good, but like others here say, it is more expensive that the others. That is the main reason I do not rent from them anymore.

  • Luckster


    I arranged a rental well in advance of my arrival at LAX airport – as we were driving to Vegas with a young family – I had ordered a high end SUV – Jeep Grand Cherokee – driving across desert wanted to be safe and comfortable and had a lot of luggage with strollers, carry cots etc. VIP sent me a confirmation from Alamo Cars. 12 hours before I was due to pick up the rental – I received an email saying to guarantee the rental – they had changed supplier to Thrifty. Lucky I had a data roaming plan otherwise I would not have picked up this email as I had left Hong Kong more than 12 hours before.

    Arrived at Thrifty – were 6 people in front of me – took an hour to get to front desk.Showed them my confirmation – said they had no SUV’s left at all – none. Asked what he could give me – told me he had a corvette convertible – I showed him all the luggage – to which he said the only car he had left was a Kia people carrier. Not a great car to travel across the desert in but as it was late and needed to get to hotel took it. Thrifty representative then told me my confirmation (for which I had already paid VIP was not valid and I would have to pay again for the Kia. Had no choice as it was late.

    Phoned VIP cars – to be fair their response was quick – but as I was to learn – they throw words and promises around easily but rarely follow through in a practical way. Their solution was to go back to another supplier – think it was Enterprise – and pay again for another vehicle in same class I had already selected. I explained this would mean I was paying three times for a car they had confirmed would be available to me – so in essence I had paid them $450, had paid Thrifty another $315 and now they wanted me to pay anotther $400 for another car rental from another company and leave me to negotiate a refund with Thrifty.

    As we had an early start – I said this was not possible – their soluton would have me take teh car back to Thrifty – unpack all luggage and family. Negotiate a refund with Thrifty. Somehow take luggage and family to new rental location and pay gain for a new car. Total cost almost $1500 and over a day lost in car rental issues.

    Decided to leave in the Kia – but said when got to Vegas – please swap the car out and get Thrifty to deliver the correct car at ano additional charge. VIP = said they were urgently investigating with Thrity and as soon as they heard back from Thrifty they would solve the problem. Basically this went on for days – they were always “waiting to hear back from Thrifty”. They would not even refund the money I had paid them for a car that was never available – in essence I had paid twice for a car I did not want.

    Getting more and more frustrated – I explained to them that they had ruined a family road trip and they needed to act quickly. same response – pushing Thrifty for answers. they had no comprehension that I was THEIR customer. I had paid them for a service. This went on for the rest of the holiday – lots of nice words but no action.

    After getting home received another email – telling me they thanked me for patience – as soon as Thrifty responded they would resolve my issue to my complete satisfaction. About a week later they came back with how they would do this…

    They would refund the difference between the money I had paid VIP cars and the amount I had paid Thrifty – $157. They also said because of my disappointment – anytime i rented a car using VIP Cars in future – I would get a “special discount”. Found this totally unbelievable and told them I had no intention of ever using their service again. Complete waste of time – and would recommend using Hertz or Avis even if you end up spending a few dollars more.

    Really was the worst customer experience I have ever received.

  • Cashman777

    I had a very negative situation with a recent 25 day Avis rental in Skokie Illinois. A call to the Avis central reservation number yielded no satisfaction from the agent. I asked to speak with a manager or supervisor. The response was, “Yes sir, I will transfer you now”. After being on hold for ten minutes listening to messages of “We try harder”, the line went dead. This happened twice. I sent a letter about this rental and customer service experience to both the owner of the office where I rented and Avis Corporate. Neither gave me the courtesy of a reply, by phone, email or regular mail. These people don’t understand who pays them. After many years, I will no longer patronize Avis.

  • Celeste Uyehara

    Hertz is THEE WORST rental service I’ve ever received! I’ll start off by saying I ended up being charge $776.09 for A COMPACT for THREE DAYS!!!

    Firstly, I needed a vehicle as soon as possible to make a flight, hours away, at Midnight. I expected to pay a higher rate which started at $85.49 for my compact car. I only planned on having it for a day and then flying to CA. When we called Hertz Charleston INT’L A/P, they initially said they had nothing available except SUVs, typical lying, I went online, did my reservation, and got my vehicle. On purchasing my rental, they swiped my credit card and said it would not process, so I had them run it on my debit card. Unbeknownst to me, they charged both cards, later keeping me from switching to another rental.

    Secondly, I started the car and the tank read “389” miles until empty. When we emptied the tank and filled up, it read “440.” I drove all the way to Dover, MD through the thunderstorm to make our connecting flight to CA just to find that ended up cancelled too. Our drop off location, at Dover INT’L A/P, closes at noon over the weekend so we had to extend the vehicle at the high rate for day two, and stayed with relatives in New York.

    Thirdly, we were told because of the reservation we were unable to change drop off locations, so we then drove all the way back to Dover, MD where we found out we were no longer able to rent another vehicle from any other location because our flights and current rental were charge on our Credit Card, which wouldn’t have been an issue if we weren’t double charged, and because I didn’t have a license in those states they wouldn’t take debit. Transferring money onto my Credit Card was going to take another two days to process. The Dover Hertz then told me they could lift the registration restriction for a $40 fee so I could drop off at any location. I kept the vehicle for one more day AT THE SAME RATE and agreed, solely for the lack of other options thanks to HERTZ.

    Fourthly, I drove back to New York and dropped the SAME COMPACT VEHICLE off at 214 W. 95th st, by associate Nyman26, where I end up being charged $120.99/DAY for the COMPACT VEHICLE! Apparently, when the Dover Hertz lifted the restriction it allowed my final charge to be whatever the drop off location felt like charging me at the time and utterly disregarded my previous agreement as stated by my rental charges without even notifying me of such change!!! $465.09 total charges on my debit card, $311.00 on my credit card!!!

    I’m Military, I travel very frequently, and I’ve never had this many issues with a rental. Apparently this seems to be the standard for this corporation. I’m just waiting for the next issue they plan on sending me with the car already returned, full tank of gas at 440miles…

  • K.r. Qunynghamm

    Enterprise may be the largest because they have a lot of inner city offices, and that’s probably the only reason. They have rental polices that can be somewhat unfair to the renter. Not long ago, we needed a car for only one day, a Friday to Saturday. I explained to them that unless the car had wings, there was no way I could make the 12PM noon closing time, but I could drop the car off about 1:30pm and put the key in their drop box. Turned out they don’t have one, so we wound up being charged for Sunday, a day the car just sat in the driveway because their office was closed. They too have a policy for debit card users, where you have to show mail and utility bills for some sort of credit checking. It seems they penalize people who don’t run up credit cards, but use the money they actually do have by making them carry mail around to show them. I know each rental agency has a debit card user policy, and they all tend to make the person paying from money they have seem like a 2nd class citizen. They tend to have decent cars in good condition, though I did get one that, if anything else in full size had been available I would have swapped out. Gray station wagons aren’t high on the list of desirable rental vehicls.

  • mani

    you didn’t explain which are the most exclusive reasons to put these car rental enterprises at the top of your selected list. I request you to please also include in your post about the services they provided along with some information related to that services, so that the readers can take beneifit from that information.

  • misfit

    Four years ago I had an experience with Enterprise and I have – nor will I ever – rent from them again. It was a very cold Fall day and unfortunately I conducted the paperwork at the release booth (in garage) and not at the airport desk (Omaha NE). It was upon my return that I noted that I was duped into signing an already pre-checked box that I accepted insurance (which I ALWAYS decline). I don’t recall what the clerk said when I challenged the process, but I got no refund. I wrote Enterprise, BOTH on its website and via snail mail, and, to THIS DAY, NEITHER medium has EVER received a reply. Even a reply to say SOMETHING would be better than NONE. This is POOR, inexcusable and, four years later, I am proud to say that I have NOT rented from Enterprise SINCE, and I aim to keep it up.

  • Laurie

    I can’t believe Hertz is on this list. Have you seen all the irate customers and complaints on their Facebook page? I spent TWO HOURS in line today at the Denver Airport location. It was like Bangladesh or Nairobi — 150 customers in a line out the door, and two or three agents to help us all. (See photo). I asked why there were so few agents and was told, “We didn’t anticipate the volume.” Whaaaaaa?!?

  • Misty

    I agree that Hertz is good. Enterprise, not so much…

  • JetForMe

    Hertz is a joke. I’ve been on with them for an hour trying to resolve an issue. Take a look at their Facebook page and Twitter feed to see nothing but people having problems.

  • Be aware

    Be aware of rental car companies sneak attacks these days. My last two rentals with Dollar and Avis. Dollar tried to sneak on a bogus “dent” damage on me. Avis tried to charge me gas after I returned the car full. They apparently knew what they are doing, and immediately pulled the over-charge off the table. Be careful……and keep the receipts.

  • Cupcake Mom

    I agree…Amalie is wonderful. I’ll never use anyone but Amalie when traveling to STT.

  • Anon

    Did you know Enterprise Car Rental has a policy that states if anyone in your household has a bad track record with their car returns or payments that it could affect all individuals in your house-hold or at the given address?

    My 30 year old son who happens to temporarily live with me due to circumstances, he did business with Enterprise Car Rental. Unfortunately, he fell on bad terms with the company due to his alleged un-responsible actions. I was told by Enterprise that my son had kept the car too long on occasions and that he also owed them money. While voluntarily telling me all my son’s business, they then proceeded to request that I make the payment for him (as if he was a 10 year old kid).

    I refused and they further explained that they would not be able to rent a car to me (even though I’d been an excellent customer with them) due to the fact, that I stayed at the same address as my son and anyone else at that (our) address would no longer qualify to rent cars from their company (Enterprise). The associate also loudly blurted out that the address had been “black listed” and made a “DNR” which means Do Not Rent.

    I called the corporate office in which the lady there confirmed that this was their policy and the Enterprise associates in my area were quoting accurate information based on their policy. It did no good to state how pre-judged and unfair that seem as she too, were just following Enterprise’s policy. By the way, I called several people on their management team, left messages in which one guy was out of town and his referred assistants or contacts did not return my messages left on their answering devices.

    I am still finding this hard to believe that other house hold members are actually punished, black-listed and considered what I was told by the Enterprise associate…On the “DNR” Do Not Rent List due to the actions of another. Needless, to say I was able to rent a car at Hertz with welcoming and “happy arms”. It was my first experience with Hertz and I can say it was beautiful after the gruesome, embarrassing and disappointing experience felt, as a result of Enterprise’s enforced Policy.

    In closing, I hope Enterprise policy writer(s) revised or re-consider the due consequences for this clause in policy. Personally. I am forced to take my business elsewhere and I do intend to continue to share this experience with others. As a result, hopefully I will gain emotional momentum, satisfaction and closure from it all. There are simply too many ethical rental services that will appreciate good customers and not penalize them due to the action of others.

    Enterprise Rent A Car
    Covington Pike Location
    Memphis, TN.

  • Carver Clark Farrow

    Insurance companies do something similar. When I was in law school, my roommate asked me for my driving record information for his insurance. Apparently, they needed information an all drivers at the residence.

  • Kay h

    Hertz has become too comfortable with their number 1 position. The last 3 times I’ve used them for personal travel I’ve found them rude and was gouged on the bill. Also, I find their #1Club Gold disappointing. Last time I rented I still had to wait because they couldn’t find my paperwork.

  • Nick

    How ironic, same thing happened to me at that location March 2013. 2 people were working the counter and maybe 2 or 3 of the 5 virtual booths were online. You had 5-15 seconds to answer at the booth or they hang up and you have to start over waiting for someone to become available.
    We were told they didn’t anticipate high volume. This was a Friday afternoon, Eastern weekend.

  • Tara

    I was wondering if you could answer a few questions for me since you have had experience with rental cars. I have already booked my trip but I need to rent a car. I would like to choose enterprise, their prices are pretty good. However, they say the total is 219.34 but do they add any extra charges after you have rented the car? I know that if there is damage obviously but other than that do they add anything crazy?


    I had a terrible experience with Hertz in AZ. My rental was rear ended and the other driver was completely at fault. A police officer was driving by just as the accident happened and the other driver was charged. No problem exchanging the damaged rental BUT it was the mountains of paperwork I needed to fill out to show the other driver was at fault for the damages. Plus, I was sent a bill for the damages 6 months after the accident. Was told I needed to have the rental insurance. Pain in the neck.

  • tricia

    Where do I start? I booked a reservation for a vehicle for 2 weeks at the Hertz location. I took a taxi there and found that there was another gentleman waiting outside with me for the office to open. When the two employees (including the manager) arrived, I was told that because I had recently made a reservation and they had a list of people before me, there would not be a car for me. The other gentleman had made his reservation well in advance and he was told that they did not have the class of vehicle he had reserved – only larger and more expensive. While he was arguing with them about the fact that he should not have to pay extra for the rental because the error was on their part, I called Hertz customer service and after a long rigamarole, was told that a complaint had been sent to the manager and the area manager would be in touch within an hour. I told customer service that I am sitting outside the office,are you sure it will be an hour? The gentleman said absolutely and I sat to wait the hour. After an hour I left.

    8 days later, I called Hertz to follow up because I did not hear a word. After 10 minutes, the first person transferred me to the branch without asking me. I called back and the second customer service person transferred me to a supervisor and it rang for almost 2 minutes without an answer. I called back and the third person apologized and transferred me to the supervisor, who explained that they had sent an email and there was really nothing that they could do, but that the branch manager did care and would be contacting me. She told me that she could send another email and I asked, “what is going to make the manager respond to this email any differently from the last (remember 8 days without any response)? She told me that she really didn’t know, but she could transfer me to customer service and they would be able to do more – that was interesting beause I got connected to her via customer service. (Anybody sense the run around yet?). I was waiting to be transferred and the phone mysteriously got cut off!

    With persistence, I called back. I got the fourth agent, who transferred me successfully,to customer service and spilled my tale of woe one more time. She actually listened and then told me that there wasn’t really anything they could do. She offered me the phone number to headquarters (2013072651), which rang and rang and rang without any kind of message or voicemail. More fool I! But I have not given up yet.

  • Blair

    I cannot believe that Hertz was rated so high. I (blindly and regrettably) have been a Hertz Gold member for many years. I have too many stories of screw ups and extremely high prices from coast to coast. I kick myself for giving them so many chances. I just signed up with National based on recommendations from people I trust…we’ll see?

  • ScottH222

    I have had issue with Enterprise saying I could turn in a car after hours and then charging me 3 extra days due to a long weekend, I have since read many similar stories. Now I read a story where a woman dropped of a car after hours and they are trying to charge her $47,000 after is was stolen, even though she dropped of the keys in the slot like they had said. I don’t see how Enterprise can do so well here. Everything I have read is they are more aggressive in charging you for damage, even when it wasn’t you that did it.

  • Magarathea

    yeah except that Enterprise is larger than hertz.

  • Reading some of the comments about Hertz not being so good I would like to comment that I have used most all of the rental car companies and they are ALL terrible, it just happens that Hertz sucks less. They know people need rental cars when they travel and they have zero concern about customer satisfaction.

  • CU1

    Really? I’ve had nothing but great experiences with Enterprise, and have never been charged for returning a car late (as long as I wasn’t over an hour late). And they generally have great rates, unless you’re renting in major metropolitan areas like the NYC area, but what rental agency doesn’t have this problem?

  • CU1

    That’s been my experience, too. Generally, I’ve gotten great rates with Enterprise.

  • Thoroughlyamused

    The case with the stolen Mustang was a bunch of hooplah about nothing. EVERY rental company has the same policies about after hours returns. If all a customer has to do to avoid a damage claim is to return after hours and disclaim responsibility rental companies would go out of business quickly. Not to mention, it stated on the Enterprise drop box that cars returned after hours are the renters responsibility until checked in by an employee.

  • Mel65

    I think I can definitively say, after reading the article and all the comments, that renting a car is largely a crapshoot! Corporately, I rent from National, because that’s our preferred vendor. Privately, when possible, we’ve rented from Advantage. Haven’t had a single *knock on wood* negative experience with either in over 7 years of renting multiple times a year. Wish I could say the same about all my hotel and airline experiences in the same timeframe…. :)

  • Steve Smith

    The worst is Dollar. Don’t ever rent from them. Save yourself allot of headaches

  • Jesus Brito

    I find Enterprise to be most accommodating, have shortest wait time and best value. Watchout for rapacious extra hour and extra day prices from car rental co. with low ball estimates.

  • Jeff Pahls

    ***HERTZ HEMET, CA.***
    ***THIS PLACE IS A JOKE*** Here’s the break down. I needed a car this weekend due to mine being in the shop. I had plans with my daughter for a fun father daughter weekend. I made my reservation online and set an early appointment at 2pm just in case there was any issues I would have time to straighten anything out. I paid for the weekend online, I received a confirmation email stating all charges and the amount due at the time of pick up. Smooth sailing so far. I arrive at Hertz about 15 minutes before my scheduled reservation. I wait around until 2pm (the time of my reservation) sit down in the office, go through all the normal procedures, give them my licence, they run my credit card, everything is good. Time to get a car, then they decide to tell me that THEY HAVE NO CARS!!! They tell me I should go home and that they will call me when a car comes in. They informed me that when I come back, we will do a quick walk around and I’ll be on my way. I then go home (30 mins away) sit on my couch, then get a call. My car is ready. I then call up another friend and arrange a ride. I get back down there just after 530pm, they then have me sit in the waiting room until after 6pm. I get called in then they decide they need to go through the whole process again, get my licence and run my credit card. This time they tell me they need an ADDITIONAL $200 for the deposit. I told they I only put enough money on the card to cover the total price of the rental and an additional $100 incase I decided to get any insurance. I was never at any time informed of a deposit. The confirmation email CLEARLY states that my card will be charged $55.08 at time of pick up. I was then told that they would be unable to help me. So NOW, here I am, stuck 20 miles from home, no car, my ride dropped me off and was already back at his house. I have no way to get my daughter. They kept me waiting so long that all the other rental places were closed. Not that I could even rent another car because I was already charged for the rental from Hertz!!!

    P.S. Corporate office is closed on the weekends!

    P.S.S. I rent A LOT of cars while I travel for work which is VERY, VERY often!!! I typically deal with Enterprise. Decided to give Hertz a shot. WORST DECISION EVER!!!