As exciting as it is to go on vacation, the planning, like renting a car, can be time-consuming and frustrating. Sure, you could call a local rental agency or check out a car rental booking site and go with whatever vehicle is the least expensive and large enough to accommodate your family. However, that means you could be in for a not-so-good travel experience. Choose the wrong agency or car, and what was supposed to be the start of a relaxing getaway can quickly become a long wait at the rental counter, hidden fees, or uncomfortable seating in a ride that’s so not what you expected.
Finding the right car for your family’s vacation doesn’t have to be difficult—if you know where to look. Regardless of where you decide to book your rental, be sure to do the following:
- Comparison Shop: There’s a possibility that you can find a vehicle in the same car class for much cheaper. Many car booking sites allow you to compare prices from multiple agencies on one site. Sometimes if you go to the rental agency’s website, you may get an exclusive deal if you book directly through the site.
- Turn to Google: Even if the booking site has its own reviews, you can find out more by turning to Mr. Google. If you know the name and address of the rental agency, look up customer reviews for that specific location. Your friendly search engine may also help you find promo codes.
- Look for the Fine Print: Read over the cancellation policy, terms and conditions and the complete rental agreement before you reserve a vehicle. That will help you catch—and avoid—hidden fees or other issues that could spell trouble for you later.
Whether you’re in search of a small car for a weekend trip or a large vehicle that will carry multiple car seats or be super comfy for an extended road trip, we’ve rounded up the best car rental websites for your needs.
Scroll down to read more in-depth summaries on why these are the best car rental booking options for families.
Expedia is like an online travel mega mall. You can book a flight, reserve a hotel, find a vacation rental, rent a car, book a cruise or bundle and save. On the car side of things, the process is straightforward. Plug in the date, time and location for which your family needs a vehicle and voila, listings galore! If you’re feeling fancy, narrow the results by car type, rental car company, price range, automatic or manual transmission, customer recommendations, and whether you want to pay now or later. Before you book, you can add on any accessories like car seats or a ski rack.
Best Feature for Families: The many available accessories. In addition to car seats for infants, toddlers and booster seats, you can request additional options such as in-car navigation systems, portable navigation units, satellite radio, a ski rack and toll pass. There’s also an option to add a seat belt extender to some vehicles. (Note: Never use a seat belt extender with a child’s car seat or booster seat.)
This is the best car rental website for European vacations. AutoEurope.com has more than 20,000 pickup locations worldwide. You can find a vehicle anywhere in Europe—France, Iceland, Spain, Italy, wherever. Although it’s mainly designed for international travel, you’ll see names of rental companies you recognize, such as Enterprise, Avis, Budget and National. Since you’re traveling out of the country, why not try a foreign car like the Renault Talisman or the Peugeot 3008? Or, go with your favorite domestic model, if you prefer. It’s easy to choose because AutoEurope.com lays it all out in a nice little table so you can see the car class, rental agency and prices. It even highlights the cheapest rates. Better still, the site has a low-rate guarantee. If you find a comparable vehicle with the same terms for cheaper, AutoEurope.com will beat the price.
Best Feature for Families: The driving information pages. Renting and operating a vehicle in another country can be very different than it is in the U.S. AutoEurope.com provides lots of advice to make it less nerve-wracking. It has info about speed limits, gas station hours, parking and tolls, rules of the road, general driving tips and more, all broken down by country. Knowing these details beforehand can be helpful, especially when you’re on a crowded street in an unfamiliar country with a toddler screaming in the back seat.
Sixt has more than 2,200 locations all around the world, including in the U.S., Europe, South America, Africa, Asia and Australia. As soon as you enter your pick-up and return information and hit “Show Offers,” you’ll notice a big difference between Sixt and many other booking sites. It doesn’t use labels like “economy” or “mid-size.” Instead, the site includes a vehicle make and model (and the term “or similar”). That’s a good thing because what one company considers to be a mid-sized car may be more like a compact. By knowing the make and model of the vehicle, you’ll be better able to gauge its true size. The site allows you to filter results by vehicle type, the number of seats, and whether you prefer automatic or manual transmission (a manual transmission is the norm in many countries, so it’s good to have a choice if you can only drive an automatic). You can also choose to have the most popular listings or lowest or highest prices show first. One particularly cool feature is Sixt’s “Guaranteed Model” listings. If you choose a vehicle with that tag, you’re guaranteed to get that particular car. So, no worries about expecting one vehicle and then having the agent pull around in something different when it’s time to pick up your rental.
Best Feature for Families: Big rides! Of course, the site offers vehicles of all sizes. However, if you have a large family or you’re bringing along the grandparents, a group of mom friends or extended family, look no further. Sixt has large, luxury SUVs and mini-vans that can seat up to seven people and passenger vans that can carry 12 to 15 people.
When it comes to booking any kind of vacation deal—flights, hotels, car rentals or bundle deals, many people consider Hotwire a fave. For your vehicle needs, it has listings from the top brand rental agencies, so you don’t have to go from site to site. You can search by car type, rental agency, and then sort your results by best deals, lowest price, size and nearest location. With Hotwire, you can score a great deal if you keep your options open. The site has “Hot Rate Car” deals, which are vehicles available for rent at discounted prices. You won’t know which rental agency the car comes from until after booking. However, it’s sure to be either Hertz, Enterprise, Dollar, Sixt, Thrifty, National, Ace Rent A Car, NU Car Rentals, Alamo or Advantage. By the way, the “Hot Rate Car” doesn’t apply only to cars. We found some deals on SUVs that were nearly half off the usual rates.
Best Feature for Families: If you have some time before your trip, set up a “Price Alert.” The site will email you when prices change for your itinerary and vehicle class. The dough you save means you can splurge on your kids (or yourself) during your trip.
Don’t let the name fool you. EconomyBookings.com offers the same high-quality vehicles you would get from any of the other best car rental websites. It searches and compares prices from Hertz, Alamo, Thrifty, Dollar and other major rental agencies. One good thing about EconomyBookings.com is its simplicity. It has a clean layout and everything is presented in a non-confusing way. Even the terms and conditions for each vehicle are available on the results page. You can check them out before you even click the car selection. To sort and filter, there are the usual options: car type, supplier, price and whether you prefer an automatic or manual transmission. You can also choose to see selections by Review Score, which is based on customers’ input about that specific rental agency and location. The scores look at the overall condition of the car, the time it took to pick up and drop off the car, the helpfulness of the staff at the rental counter and more. EconomyBookings.com works with rental companies at more than than 20,000 locations, so it’s able to provide automobiles of all sizes, from small cars on up to full-size vans that can carry 15 passengers.
Best Feature for Families: You can rent a car just like your own (but probably better). Sometimes, when you’re traveling with young kids, you don’t want to have to get acquainted with a new car. It can be easier (and safer) to go with a vehicle that you’re used to driving. EconomyBookings.com allows you to search by car name and it will pull up the closest locations and deals for that ride. Don’t want to stick with your usual wheels? If there’s a particular car you or your spouse have always wanted to drive, look it up and go for it.
This is another car rental booking site that allows you to see multiple vehicles from many different agencies. RentalCars.com works with more than 900 companies in 160 countries, so you’re sure to find something regardless of your destination. The site can accommodate your extra needs, too. Select a car and then add on a car seat for your baby, toddler or child. Ski racks are also available for some vehicles. RentalCars.com has its own Best Price Guarantee. Find something cheaper (with the same car class and rental details, of course), and they’ll match the price.
Best Feature for Families: The site has customer reviews for the agency and the specific location. Some only include a numerical rating. However, others really give you the details. You’ll be able to see in customer reviews, long it took to pick up the vehicle and whether there were complaints. There’s even background information on the customer doing the review. For instance, whether it’s an individual, a couple, group, a family with at least one child under 10 or a family will all children over age 10. You can filter the results by customer type.
Priceline is a hub for everything related to planning your vacation—flights, hotels, car rentals, cruises and package deals. The site works with more than 290 rental agencies and has 18,500 rental car locations worldwide. So, if your family wants to stay stateside, no problem. Want to travel internationally? Look here for the best car rental in Europe, Mexico, New Zealand, Brazil, and more. Priceline has you covered. The site works like most other travel booking websites. Enter your pick-up location, date, time and drop-off information to receive your results. Many have the rental agency listed, but some others use a semi-opaque sales model. That means you won’t know which company will supply the car until after you’ve reserved it. However, your ride is guaranteed to come from one of the major agencies listed with the result. Like the other best car rental websites, Priceline has a best price guarantee. Find a lower price online that matches your itinerary and they’ll refund the difference.
Best Feature for Families: If you’ve been procrastinating on making a car reservation, or your family is planning a last-minute trip, check out Priceline’s Express Deals. For bookings within days (or up to a week in some cases), you can get a hefty discount, if you’re not too picky about who supplies the car. Express Deals use the semi-opaque sales model. Also, Express Deals are non-refundable and non-changeable once booked.
This is the best car rental website if you want to shop all of the best car rental websites in one spot. Kayak digs up deals from hundreds of travel sites at once, including those from Priceline, RentalCars.com, Expedia, Hotwire and more. On the search results page, you can filter the selection by car type, car options, rental agency, how many people and bags the vehicle holds, whether you want to pay now or at the counter and total price range. Since Kayak searches so many car rental websites, it’s almost guaranteed that you’ll find a vehicle that fits your needs. No matter where your family decides to vacation—Iceland, Paris, Egypt and beyond—look here for the best car rental.
Best Feature for Families: If you’re planning to vacation with the grandparents, your siblings, in-laws or whoever, Kayak’s Trip Huddle tool can prevent it from turning into a travel nightmare. Create an account and it allows you and your soon-to-be travel buddies to decide together on dates of the trip, destinations, hotels and activities. Everyone can vote and leave comments (just invite them by email). That means when it’s time for the trip, everything should, hopefully, be smooth sailing.
Tamekia Reece lives in Houston, TX with her husband, son and two spoiled Shih Tzus. Tamekia has written for Parents, Woman’s Day, GoodHousekeeping.com, Oprahmag.com, American Airlines, and more. Find Tamekia on her website, TamekiaReece.com.
What to Pack for Your Next Trip
Women’s/Mom’s Comfy Fall Outfit with Jeans and Combat Boots
Dad’s/Men’s Hiking Outfit
Baby Boy’s Comfy Jacket with Pants Outfit
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