Car Rental at the Airport – Your Guide to Hassle-free Travel

PUBLISHED ON Jun, 14 2023


We embarked on a data analysis binge this year in an effort to uncover the most affordable rental car company, the most affordable city to book in, and the answers to other pressing car rental queries we had.

The study by, a leading provider of stand-alone car hire excess insurance, examined 238 rental vehicle rates. Our team looked at the cost of hiring a full size car (Hyundai Elantra / Ford Fusion, or similar) for a week, from 1 August – 7 August 2023, in ten US destinations (Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New-York, Orlando, Phoenix, and Seattle), and 7 major European airports (Amsterdam, Barcelona, Brussels, Frankfurt, Milano, Paris and Zurich) with seven rental companies, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, and Sixt, and compared the prices at the airport to the price down-town.

We will start with our biggest revelations. Number one, the cheapest rental car company to book from. Would Budget really help you stick to your budget? Well, unfortunately, the answer is “No”. Here’s what we found about rental car companies. Avis car rental was the most expensive, followed by Budget. Enterprise Rent A Car, Hertz and Dollar all ranked among the cheapest. We looked at average weekly rental car prices. At Enterprise, the average was $560. At Avis it was $711. That is a price difference of over $150.

How much you truly save when you rent a car outside of the airport

The cost of renting a car from the airport versus a downtown location from the same firm was the second thing we compared. It turns out that renting a car from the airport is 30% more expensive than doing so at the downtown location. That isn’t necessarily due to the fact that car rental agencies believe they can increase pricing at the airport location. Actually, a lot of it boils down to airport fees.

The rental car firms that operate in airports often have to pay fees. Airport-specific fees and what they really cover are different. However, most airports claim to include services like cleaning, security, and shuttles to rental car facilities, which may be a short distance away from the airport itself. Sincerely, even if it costs 30% more, there are situations when renting a car directly from the airport is more convenient. The simplicity of renting a car and driving out on vacation is one convenience.

Having said that, we encourage you to really reserve the downtown rental car. And it’s not just to get the rental for less money. You might also save money in other ways. First of all, you only pay for the day that the car is really used. Imagine that you are arriving by plane in Zurich. You might have plans to go on a ski trip in the mountains for the middle of your trip, but on the first night, you might be spending it in downtown Zurich. There you probably don’t need a rental car. The train from the airport to downtown is super fast and convenient. And when you’re in downtown Zurich, it’s a really walkable, public, transit friendly city. You also typically have to pay for parking in downtown Zurich.

Therefore, if you hire a car downtown, you won’t have to pay for parking on nights when you aren’t using it and will only have to pay for it when you use it. We also want you to think about the possibility of time savings while renting off-site as opposed to downtown. Many of the rental vehicle agencies that an airport lists as being on site aren’t actually there. To reach there, you have to use a shuttle. Now take into account the time it will take to actually board the shuttle as well as the time it will take to wait for the shuttle.

You might discover that the shuttle only runs every 20 or 30 minutes, which might be a huge waste of time. The lines are something else to think about. Now, we’re not claiming that lineups at airports and downtown locations would always be longer or shorter, but think about the possibility that if a large flight has just landed, there may be a longer line at the airport location than there would be downtown.

Benefits of booking a rental car down-town

Booking a rental car off-site as opposed to at the airport can come with several benefits. These benefits not only include potential cost savings but can also improve the overall convenience and efficiency of your travel experience.

  1. Cost Savings: As we wrote, it’s about 30% more expensive to rent a car at the airport versus at its downtown counterpart. Our study found that weekly car rentals for downtown locations were, on average, $156 cheaper than airport locations. For rentals longer than one week, the savings could be even more substantial.
  2. Avoiding Additional Fees: Airports usually charge rental car companies to operate on their site. These fees, which can cover costs such as shuttle, cleaning, and security services, are often passed onto renters, which contributes to the increased price of airport rentals. Moreover, some states levy tourism fees on cars rented from airport locations, a fee that is usually not applied to cars rented at standalone locations.
  3. You’ll pay only for the days you need a car – You might just need to rent a car for a short period of time depending on the purpose of your vacation and use public transportation for part of your trip.

  4. Less Queuing Time: Rental companies that are not located at the airport tend to have less customer traffic, which can result in shorter wait times. Off-site locations usually have more room, which allows for more staff members to attend to customers.
  5. Better Vehicle Inspection: Airport car parks can often be dark, making it difficult to properly inspect the rental car for any damage. On the other hand, vehicles at off-site locations are usually parked in open areas, allowing you to easily inspect the car before leaving the premises.
  6. Less Stressful Driving Conditions: When picking up a car at the airport, you may have to immediately navigate through busy airport traffic. However, off-site locations are often located away from the congestion, providing a more relaxed environment to familiarize yourself with the vehicle before heading onto main roads.
  7. Hassle-Free Return: When returning the car to the depot, the shuttle bus can take you straight to departures, saving you time and stress.
  8. Credit Card Benefits: If you book your rental car through a credit card portal, you might be able to take advantage of travel credits. For example, certain credit cards offer statement credits when you reserve rental cars through their associated travel portal.

These benefits can make booking a rental car off-site a convenient and cost-effective choice. It’s always wise to compare options and decide based on your individual needs and preferences.

How to Research Off-Airport Car Rental Deals

Researching off-airport car rental deals can help you find better prices compared to the often high rates found at airport rental car services. Here are some steps to guide your research:

  1. Expand your options: When airport car rental rates are high, look into one-way rentals and non-airport locations. Often, the savings can be significant even after factoring in the cost of an Uber or taxi ride from the airport to the off-airport rental car location.
  2. Factor in transportation costs: When you rent from an off-airport rental car agency, be sure to factor in the cost of getting to the pickup location. To compare prices accurately, you need to add the cost of transportation to the rental rate.
  3. Plan for flight delays: You need a contingency plan in case your flight is delayed and you arrive too late to pick up off-airport. That means finding a location with long hours that is convenient to the airport.
  4. Compare prices: Research rates at different locations and compare prices. While the off-airport location might not offer the absolute cheapest price, it may end up being the cheapest when factoring in the cost of getting there from the airport.
  5. Reserve early: Given the high demand and low inventory for rental cars, it is recommended to book your car rental as early as possible, preferably at the same time as your flight.
  6. Look at nearby airports: You may also want to consider renting a car at a less popular nearby airport. Larger international airports often see high demand for car rentals, but smaller nearby airports may have inventory available.
  7. Use price comparison websites: Websites like allow you to compare prices from different brands and choose from airport pick-up or a shuttle to the relevant depot. These sites can often find cheaper deals online and can save you money if you’re willing to take one more short journey.

Remember, flexibility and advanced planning can often lead to substantial savings when it comes to car rentals. Keep these tips in mind the next time you need to rent a car.

Consider CarInsuRent Car Rental Excess Insurance

It is important to research and understand the coverage options and costs to make an informed decision that best fits your needs. CarInsuRent car hire excess insurance starts from as low as $6.49 per day* to $94.90 for an annual car hire excess insurance policy. Our policies covers the excess on damage and theft up to €2,500 and provide full protection that Includes single vehicle damage, roof and undercarriage damage, auto glass and widescreen damagetowing expenses, misfuelling, loss of car key and tire damage. We cover multiple drivers between the ages of 21 and 84 years.

See How Much You Can Save on Your Rental Car Excess Insurance

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One Response

  1. says:

    I love it whenever people come together and share opinions.
    Great site, keep it up!

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I buy a plan for just one day?

Yes. Insurance for a single day is available.

Can I buy a plan for part of my rental only?

No. We provide a single journey plan. You are covered from the time you pick up the rental car up to the time you return it or on the last date written on your Certificate of Insurance, whichever comes first.

Can I buy a plan when I pick up my rental car?

No. You should purchase a policy before starting your travel.

Find the answers you’re looking for to the most frequently asked car hire insurance questions as well as other questions relating to our products and services.

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