How Much Does It Cost To Rent A Car?

Are you planning your next trip? Are you ready to reserve a car rental? If your mind is racing with all of your plans, it will inevitably land on the question of how much are you going to pay for it? How will it fit into your trip’s budget? 

So, how much does it cost to rent a car? There are so many factors that go into determining your cost. Some of the factors that can affect the price of your rental are the dates of your rental period, the type of car you choose, the options you add, the car rental company you choose to use, and other add-ons to consider. 

Before you look at the specifics of your trip, you can learn a lot about what to expect before you commit to your rental choice. Being prepared is the key to smooth travels, and knowing the prices you can expect will help you budget and plan for your trip.

Factors that can cause fluctuations in the price of your rental

Location, Location, Location

If you have ever looked at buying a car, you know that where you buy your car can impact the cost of your car for reasons like local taxes, the price of gasoline, and the cost of insurance premiums. Car rentals are no different. The average cost of renting a car can vary from region to region, so your destination can really impact your car rental rates.

Typically, places with a well-established car rental infrastructure and relatively safe driving conditions will be among the cheapest. The United States is a good example of this, because even with all the extras added into the total cost, prices in the United States are cheaper than in many developing countries.

If you are planning your trip within the U.S., here are the ten most expensive and least expensive cities to rent a car.

10 of the most expensive cities for car rentals in the U.S.:

  1. Philadelphia
  2. Seattle
  3. Boston
  4. Chicago
  5. Detroit
  6. Portland
  7. Cincinnati
  8. Indianapolis
  9. Denver
  10. Cleveland

10 of the cheapest cities for car rentals in the U.S.:

  1. Orlando
  2. Miami
  3. Tampa
  4. Fort Lauderdale
  5. San Diego
  6. Los Angeles
  7. Las Vegas
  8. Honolulu
  9. Phoenix
  10. Charlotte

Because location can play such an important role in the cost of your rental rates, it is imperative to note that rates can vary dramatically from location to location even within the same company. So, be sure to verify the rate for your location and shop around for the rate and availability that is right for you.

Not just where, when

Now that you know that where you are planning to rent a car can affect your daily rates, it is also important to consider that when you need to rent a car plays its own role. Think about how you would expect to pay a higher price at a hotel if you were staying during the weekend or during a high traffic event. Car rentals work in a similar way. 

So, you will need to know your travel dates to get an accurate rate for your trip’s pricing. 

Also, if you wait until the day of to rent a car, it can cost more or really limit the type of vehicle you can get. So, be sure you plan ahead, and remember that when you book your rental is just as important as when your rental is going to occur.

If you have any flexibility with when you’re planning to travel, it may pay off to play around with your dates weeks in advance to find the best price for your trip.

Also, if you need your rental car for say 5-6 days, you might check the price for a week’s rental (7 days). It could result in a lower daily rate, so it may come out cheaper in total. Just be sure that the company has no penalty fee for turning the car in early.

Supply and demand

When you need access to the supply of rental vehicles, obviously the demand for rental vehicles will have an effect on the rate as well. If you are traveling to a large city that has a large flow of business travellers, you can expect higher prices. For this reason, you will want to shop around for the car rental agency that can provide you the best rate for the area. 

Also, as with other aspects of travel budgeting, if you are planning a trip around a busy time such as weekend dates at popular vacation destinations or over the holidays when travel is high, you can expect the supply and demand to be affected and drive the prices up.

Package options

Sometimes, you may be comfortable with a more compact, economy vehicle. At other times, you may prefer a larger or more luxurious vehicle for your rental, and depending on your needs, you may require a larger vehicle. If you are traveling for business, you may need a nicer model because you will be transporting clients. 

If you are on a budget, the more economic choice is going to be the economy vehicle, but again, you have to choose what meets your car rental needs. But, it is nice to be prepared with the knowledge that the car category you choose will also affect your daily rate. 


It is never fun to think about insurance, but it is necessary to think about it and have it. You will most likely be required to purchase a collision damage waiver, and you’ll want to ask if the cost is included in the quoted price of your rental. It actually relieves you of responsibility for loss and/or damage to the car. Your own insurance might extend to cover the rental car, but you’ll want to check. If you don’t have the collision damage waiver or personal auto insurance that covers you, you could be responsible for the full price of the vehicle if something happens.

You may be upsold a more comprehensive insurance policy at the time of pick-up. Just be sure to get as much information on the insurance costs as you can in advance as you do your travel research.

Additional Fees

You can incur additional fees for a variety of reasons. If you add a second driver there can be a fee. There might also be prepaid fuel or GPS service fees. Where you drop off can also add unforeseen costs. 

If you choose to go directly through a rental car company or use a broker can also affect the additional fees you have to pay. This is why it’s important to shop around. You’d be pretty frustrated if you went with the first thing you found and you learned later on that you paid twice as much as the other available company at your destination just because you didn’t do a little research.

Your age can affect your price too. If you’re not 25 yet, a lot of companies will still let you rent a car, but it can cost you a bit more because you are in a riskier age group.

You want a clean car when you rent a car, but you could pay a cleaning fee. When you’re doing your research, this will be a question you want to ask. 

Your payment method can cause you to pay a higher price too. Car rental companies prefer that you pay with a credit card, but if you choose to pay with a debit card, the car rental company is bearing a greater risk on the car rental. You will likely pay a higher deposit and pay for the full estimated price of the car rental upfront. 

Lastly, you will want to read your rental agreement carefully. If you aren’t prepared for the possible added fees and how to avoid them, you may be surprised when you drop off your rental car to learn that the price has changed significantly from the estimate. Some things to look for are drop-off times, the requested fuel level you leave the car with, and mileage limitations.

Parking fees, tolls, and traffic violations can also affect your cost. As a general rule, you don’t want to ever break the law, especially when you’re traveling. This is even more true when you are in a rental car. So, it’s best to be aware of traffic laws and save yourself money.

The average base cost of renting a car is about $30 per day, but as you can see there are many factors that can cause that price to be higher. 


If you are ready for your trip and you need to rent a car, remember to plan ahead, do your research, and use all the available information to give you an exact idea on your daily rate to rent a car. Remember that where you rent, when you rent, the supply and demand of vehicles, package options, insurance, and additional fees can all play a part in the cost of your car rental.


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