Car rental agency

The cheapest company to rent a car may surprise you

When you think of the cheapest agency to rent a car, which one comes to mind first? Budget? Dollar? Economical, perhaps? Nobody will blame you since each of these car rental companies has the word “cheap” in their name. However, NerdWallet recently ran an analysis to find the cheapest car rental agency and the results might surprise you.

Which car rental company has the lowest prices?

An Alamo car rental company national sign. | Mateusz Slodkowski/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

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According to NerdWallet’s findings, Enterprise is the cheapest car rental company based on a 7-day analysis across multiple destinations. NerdWallet got this information by tracking 360 different car rental prices at eight of the most popular car rental agencies to find the cheapest rates. According to their findings, National Car Rental was the most expensive, followed by Alamo Rent a car.

The three cheapest were Hertz, Budget and Enterprise – in that order. The rates were found using the cheapest car option available (a small sedan) and included taxes and fees a customer would pay when renting the car for a week. As such, the most expensive option – National Car Rental – charged an average of $695 per week ($99/day) while Enterprise charged a much lower $480 per week ($68/day).

Here is a table that shows the NerdWallets data:

A chart showing NerdWallet's analysis of cheap rental car rates.

NerdWallet has done an analysis of the cheapest car rental rates. | NerdWallet

How to save money by renting a car

Aerial view of thousands of rental cars in a parking lot

Thousands of rental cars | Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

While paying $480 when renting a car from Enterprise sounds like a bargain, it’s still a hefty amount of money to pay to drive a Toyota Corolla for a week. Keep in mind that some buyers lease Corollas for less than $200 a month, but I digress. Fortunately, there are ways to save money the next time you need to book a car for vacation or a business trip.

Here are some suggested tips from NerdWallet:

  • Book your rental car at the last minute: Yes, this seems counter-intuitive considering everyone thinks booking anything in advance is the best way to get a cheaper rate. However, with rental cars, this is not always the case. According to another study by NerdWallet, it may be cheaper to book a car last minute (a week in advance) than to book early (three months in advance).
  • Credit card rewards are useful: You know all those credit card points you accumulate every time you shop? It’s a good idea to use them when renting a car as they can help keep costs down. Another plus is that some credit cards even offer rental car insurance, which can save you a lot the next time you come to the rental counter.
  • Join car rental loyalty programs: Just as airlines have loyalty programs, car rental companies have their own loyalty programs. By joining them and renting cars, you could potentially be rewarded with discounts and even free car rentals in the future.

If renting a car is too expensive, there are other alternatives

If you are planning a trip and find the rental rates too expensive, you can always try alternatives like Turo or SilverCar. Just note that in some cases these alternate routes may not fit your schedule, however, they usually perform very well when it comes to pricing.

Finally, remember to always shop around and compare prices when renting a car. Enterprise may be the cheapest rental agency, but the rate can vary at different times of the year and in different locations.

RELATED: What Happens If You Have an Accident With a Rental Car?