Best car rental comparison sites for your next road trip (2018)
Sometimes, taxis and car sharing apps are just not an option. Whether you’re drivng out to Burning Man or an obscure music festival in the woods, you may need to rent your own car.
Renting a car, however, comes with heavy responsibilities. Just like how you'll need to be mindful of the roads here, you need to exercise due caution when you're driving overseas too.
Needless to say, getting into an accident is just as traumatising, regardless of your location. Since you technically don't own the rented car, you'll need to insure yourself against any incidents with it.
Most car hirers offer such coverage and absolve you of any excess cost if you damage the car. To add on, your travel insurance can also provide rental vehicle excess cover, so you don't have to fork out a single cent should you get into a fender bender.
That's where we come in.
Right, now that we've got that out of the way and have you prepared for any eventualities, let's start introducing you to the various car rental options out there.
Just like GoBear, these sites act as a comparison engine, allowing you to compare rental rates from multiple car hirers based on your rental dates and location.
The transition is also very seamless since they hand you over to the actual rental site with your details filled up to proceed with the booking.
How we picked
We looked at prices for three-day car rentals, in a select capital city in the United States, Europe, and Asia. This includes New York, London, Beijing. Prices were based on 1 to 3 June 2018, and we compared only prices of medium-sized family cars (sedans).
However, note that many of the rental companies may include clauses that raise the price. For example, if a higher than usual security deposit is needed, this is not reflected by our list (not least because many rental companies refuse to disclose such details until you are ready to pick up the keys).
As such, we suggest using this list as a general reference, from which to start your searches.
Kayak is a bit of a jackpot machine. About half the time, the prices on Kayak were just middle-of-the-road; not the most expensive, but not the cheapest either. Every now and then, however, Kayak would display a rock bottom price that beat out everyone else.
Do note that prices will fluctuate beyond your expectations. It is for the better, however, because when we did our first check, the prices were leaning on the higher side. When we checked back a few days later, the price for the rental deal in New York had fallen by $50 from its original quote.
While Kayak sometimes pulls the cheapest rates, some of the rental companies they link to can be unreliable. There were occasions when we clicked on a link in Kayak, and the actual car rental company offered a much higher price (as much as $40 more in one case).
Other features worth noting for Kayak's car rental comparison engine is the sheer amount of filtering you can apply. Basics such as filtering by car hirers and price range are there. You can also filter further to narrow down prices based on your pickup location (pro-tip: it's usually cheaper if it's not from the airport).
Kayak's comprehensive system does give you some form of control. But make no mistake, the prices swing like crazy, so you shouldn't just rely on this alone. But if you’re lucky, you might find a rock bottom price.
One thing we noticed about Expedia is that, when you select the car type and dates, it also asks for your age.
After running through the list a few times, we didn’t find that changing our age made a difference. But it's worth noting that just like driving in Singapore, your age can make a difference with the car insurance's excess coverage.
While its filtering feature only includes very basic terms, Expedia brings a bit more to the table with review scores from the various car hirers. These review ratings are very handy, allowing you to quickly narrow down the highly rated car hirers and get a snapshot of their policies.
Prices on Expedia were the most consistently low, remaining unchanged after multiple checks. The consistency it brings means you can be assured that the first round of check is the most accurate.
Priceline wasn’t always the cheapest, but we soon figured out why: the pricing offered includes all fees and taxes. When we were directed to the car rental companies via Priceline, it was very much a case of “what you see is what you get” – the prices matched the quotes on Priceline.
This makes Priceline the most transparent site, as you don’t need to double-check rates. That said, even after subtracting hidden costs, Priceline wasn’t always the cheapest compared to the rest in this list. Some of the other sites on this list often beat it by a small amount, ranging between $5 to $10.
But that’s a small amount to pay, given that the you won't be befuddled by hidden costs and feel like you've wasted your time with a "deal".
Skyscanner rates the cars that appear on the list, from 1 to 10. This is based on an algorithm that includes cost, bonus features, and included insurance.
What we really like is that each car also comes with a list of key features, which explains the rating. For example, you’ll be able to see if the car comes with airport terminal pick-up, free cancellation, full insurance, GPS, and so forth.
If you’re in a big rush, and you can’t be bothered checking all the small details yourself, then just book through Skyscanner. It’s easier to see what you’re getting at a quick glance.
Momondo is the new kid on the block, but it’s outperforming many established comparison sites.
We found it provided low prices with a simple interface, and most of the time prices quoted exactly as what you see from the actual car hirer. In essence, you are spared from hidden fees.
To be clear, Momondo wasn’t the cheapest – but it came a close second in terms of being consistently cheap, next to Expedia. If you like making thorough searches, this is a good starting point.
One annoying thing about Momondo though: the rates are in USD, so you do need to make currency conversions which will affect the overall cost.
Always be prepared
Remember, travelling for a holiday is about having fun. It's also about being prepared for situations that might be out of your control. Travelling by car comes with some inherent risks, so it's imperative that you either get insurance coverage from the car hirer or at least ensure your travel insurance has something similar.
If you're wondering whether you need rental car insurance and travel insurance, learn more in this article.