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Best and worst car hire companies

Which car hire company should you use for your next trip? Our survey of thousands of Which? members reveals which car rental companies are rated the best and worst
Guy Hobbs

Deciding which car hire company to use when you're travelling abroad or in the UK can be tricky because hidden charges make it difficult to compare the deals on offer. That's especially true now, as car hire prices in 2022 have gone through the roof. 

You need to consider which brands offer the best value for money. And, because of Covid, you also need to consider how likely you are to get a refund if your trip is cancelled or disrupted. To help you steer clear of shoddy service, and unnecessary price hikes we asked thousands of Which? members to tell us their experiences of using different car hire companies. 

Firms were compared on a range of criteria, including the clarity of information provided on extra charges, insurance, and terms and conditions, as well as the process of picking up and returning the car. 

Only the top performing car hire companies that also met our Covid refund requirements and have taken steps to keep price rises down, and maintain a supply of cars, are eligible for Which? Recommended Provider status. 

If you are still struggling to find an affordable price, read our guide to how to get cheaper car hire in 2022.

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Best and worst car hire companies rated

  

The bookingThe experience
Which? Recommended ProviderSupplier (sample size)Customer Score
Read full reviewClarity of extra chargesClarity of final hire costDescription matching realityValue for money
Auto Reisen (76)96%
Auto Reisen review
Cicar (40)91%
Cicar review
Alamo (137)83%
Alamo review
Enterprise (274)80%
Enterprise review
 Hertz (212)70%
Hertz review
 Avis (344)69%
Avis review

Best UK car hire 

Enterprise is the only car hire provider with hundreds of branches in the UK that holds the coveted Which? Recommended Provider status, and its response to the price-rise crisis of 2022 gives you some idea why. 

It gets four stars for value and has kept price rises at bay better than any other major provider. 

It says it has avoided passing on extra costs to customers by hanging on to vehicles for longer, moving them between branches to meet demand and working with manufacturers to secure more cars.

Enterprise has also ditched its fees if you’ve paid in advance but have to change plans. There’s no charge for cancellations and amendments right up to the collection date for some bookings. For the rest, you can cancel for free up to three days before pick-up.

Book with: Enterprise rent-a-car

Best USA car hire 

For car hire in the USA, readers have rated Alamo the best. Every element of the booking process was rated five stars, including the important ‘clarity of final hire cost’ – something no other multinational company achieved. 

And if you check in online, you won’t even have to go to the desk. Instead, you go straight to the car park, choose a vehicle from your category and drive off - great for social distancing. 

Like its sister company, Enterprise, Alamo says it has kept price rises to a minimum because it owns the majority of its fleet (rather than leasing it), which means it can keep cars for longer, avoiding the shortages that are pushing prices up.

With five-star cars, fuel policy and customer service, it ‘gets the basics right’. And, it has scrapped its fees for amendments. There’s no charge for cancellations and amendments right up to the collection date for some bookings. For the rest, you can cancel for free up to three days before pick-up.

Book with: Alamo

Goldcar reviews

Goldcar's results are nothing short of a car crash. The low-cost arm of Europcar earned itself a dreadful customer rating.

Goldcar's headline-grabbing rates may look tempting, but a third of people received unexpected or unexplained charges from the company after their hire ended. Many reported the company took money from their credit cards without prior warning after they’d returned to the UK. 

When a company offers cheap rates but scores so badly on value for money overall, you know something’s not right. 

With reports of long waits at the counters too, there’s nothing that redeems this company.

Read our full Goldcar review.

Flexible car hire during Covid - how to book safely

When we asked Which? members about their experience of getting refunds for car hire that was cancelled because of Covid, the response was very positive. 

Many of you booked your rental without paying anything up front. This can be a good idea as it means there's no need to claim a refund if your plans are disrupted, but it will cost you more. We found that pay on collection options are around £20 to £50 more expensive for a week's hire. 

But our survey found that even those who had chosen the cheaper, 'non-refundable' rates mostly got their money back - 79% of people told us they got a full cash refund. These were mostly received quickly. No-one waited more than three months for a refund. 

If you are booking now, make sure you choose a company with a flexible policy. All of our recommended car hire companies offer fee-free cancellation with a full refund up to a few days before collection, for any reason. Read more car hire tips for booking, collecting and returning your rental car. 

Covid-safe car rental

Many of us might choose car hire over public transport this year to reduce the risk of infection. The good news is that when we asked Which? members about their recent car hire experiences, they reported glowingly on the health measures firms had taken.

An impressive 92% of people said they were confident that the rental company had done everything it could to minimise the risk of coronavirus transmission.

Crucially, Which? members told us that in the vast majority of cases the cars themselves were 'spotless' and 'freshly sanitised'.

How we research car hire companies

In January 2020 we asked 2,282 Which? members to complete an online survey about their experience of using a car hire company in the past 12 months. In January 2021 we asked a further 843 Which? members about their satisfaction with Covid safe measures and Covid refunds. And in January 2022, we gained additional pricing information and reader comments from a survey of 657 Which? members.

Only those car hire companies that were top of the table, met our Covid refund requirements, and convinced us they had taken steps to mitigate price increases and maintain a steady supply of cars in 2022 are eligible for Which? Recommended Provider status.

You can have your say on what we research and help us achieve change by joining our online panel of members, Which? Connect.