Car Rental Company Ratings

What is an AutoSlash rating? At AutoSlash, we have the luxury of gathering feedback from thousands of customers across a dozen of so car companies. Over the years, we've developed a pretty good idea of the ones that are good, the ones that are just OK, and the ones that are atrocious.

Before we dive in, we want to point out that there are always exceptions - star employees, an awesome free upgrade that makes someone's day, or big misses from normally excellent companies. These ratings below are averages—a summation of the feedback we've collected over the years. They are—of course—up for dispute and also could change over time!

Here, we focus on our ratings based on our own experiences and those of our customers. You'll notice that we rate things a little differently than the big names in travel awards, like JD Power and Travel + Leisure magazine. For more on how those companies rate things, click here to check out Michael's article analyzing how rental companies are rated.

Our Ranking

We've implemented a star-rating system for the major car rental firms. It's based on two factors:

  • Our subjective (but definitely supported by thousands of examples) perceptions of the company
  • The number of official customer complaints

Our star-rating system has nothing to do with:

  • Price

We rate the major rental companies on a five-star scale (shown on our quotes) and break them into four tiers:

Tier

Star Rating

Companies

Tier 1 - Top Tier

4.00 4.00 4.00 4.00 4.00

Avis

Hertz

National

Tier 2 - Good Value

4.00 4.00 4.00 4.00 4.00

Alamo

Budget

Dollar

Enterprise

Thrifty

Tier 3 - Use Caution

4.00 4.00 4.00 4.00 4.00
4.00 4.00 4.00 4.00 4.00

Sixt

Ace

Advantage

E-Z

Europcar

Firefly

Fox

Tier 4 - Avoid

4.00 4.00 4.00 4.00 4.00

Payless

With the Tier 1 companies, you're highly likely to have a fast, problem-free experience—especially if you're a member of their frequent rental program, where you can usually just walk straight out to the lot to your car and drive off without ever speaking to an agent. National gets extra kudos for their industry-leading Emerald Aisle car selection, although Hertz is showing a lot of promise with their new Ultimate Choice service. You'll usually (though with AutoSlash, not always!) pay a premium at these companies.

(Just use caution at off-airport Hertz Local Edition locations, which sometimes seem to suffer from shoddy management—running out of cars and finding apathetic, poorly-trained employees are unfortunately not uncommon.)

The Tier 2 companies represent a solid value. Most are run pretty smoothly, though you may encounter a hard sell for extra options like insurance or upgrades from highly-commissioned sales agents, fees even for spouses to drive, and lines can be long at peak times (join the company's frequent renter program to minimize the wait).

Cars are generally fine and often shared with their respective Tier 1 brands (all of the second-tier brands are owned by the same companies that own the top-tier brands). Rentals at Tier 2 corporate locations are generally unmemorable (in the rental industry, unmemorable is a good thing), while the service level at franchises can vary. For renters trying to balance price and experience, Tier 2 is a good compromise.

The Tier 3 brands are smaller players in the market and often cater towards the extreme discount seeker. Along with their low rates, though, comes a mixed experience with lots of restrictions. Expect long lines, older vehicles in mediocre condition, a shuttle to your vehicle in many locations (instead of being on-site at the airport), an extremely hard sell for extra options (to the point it's often hard to say no, or the options are just added to the contract without them asking or telling you), and onerous policies like not being able to drive out of state. They are often sticklers for damage...even though the car might have a ton of preexisting damage.

Come prepared with a printout of your reservation from the rental company's own website, just say no to extra options, check your rental contract carefully before you leave the rental counter, and don't hesitate to ask to speak to a manager if your total price is different than reserved, and you'll probably be fine with a Tier 3 company.

We created a separate Tier 4 after hearing complaint after complaint after complaint about Payless, who apparently wasn't content to remain at the bottom of our Tier 3 ranking. Payless franchises aren't just badly managed and incompetent; they often actively engage in fraud. If you're thinking about renting with Payless, be sure to read our blog article: Why you Might Pay (and Pay Much More) with Payless Car Rental . We generally do not recommend renting here.

A special note about Enterprise:

Enterprise is routinely ranked at the very top of rental car ratings by JD Power, by Consumer Reports, by Travel + Leisure…their list of accolades goes on and on.

However, especially at off-airport, neighborhood locations, we have heard about—and experienced ourselves—reports of:

  • Lengthy pick-up lines
  • Extremely pushy sales agents (they're not on commission, but they're brainwashed to a level no other rental employees are)
  • Car availability (your reserved class probably won't be available, and sometimes you're lucky if there's a car at all for you). Plan to drive a car that's seen better days, significantly larger (or smaller) than you reserved, and given to you with barely a quarter tank of gas (which you'll have to return at the same level).

One thing Enterprise gets right is customer service. Their overly-highly-motivated cadre of all-college-graduates does a good job of taking ownership of issues and making sure you're "completely satisfied." That's probably the key to their success in the rankings.

Questions? Need advice?

Don't hesitate to reach out! We are always glad to help. Each of us at AutoSlash rents literally dozens of times a year from most or all of the different companies. We're uniquely qualified to help guide you through your car rental experience. Don't forget to check out our blog, which is full of articles to help you along your rental car journey.

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