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I have no experience in renting cars whatsoever. I was wondering what's the best way to do this in the US? Should I book a car rental on a website like Expedia, or should I book directly from the companies' websites (like Budget), or should I just book it at the counter with no reservation?

For hotels, it is typically better to book with travel agencies like Expedia since they protect you in case something weird happens, whereas it's better to book flights directly with airlines to avoid unnecessary fees in case one needs to make changes/cancellations. But what's the best way to rent a car?

  • Do you have a US driver's license? For those without, the recommendation to book with an agency of the home country is quite common, as this ensures that the correct insurance package is already priced in. Buying insurance on the spot at the rental car provider is often reported as more expensive. If you however have a US driver's license and some insurance already, this may be different. – DCTLib Mar 30 at 19:00
  • Not sure iif this applies, but if you have an 'old-style' paper (no photo) UK Driving Licence it might be a good idea to get a new photo driving licence for use in the USA. Some rental companies insist on this and don't welcome reconciling passport details to non-photo driving licences. – canonacer Mar 30 at 19:58
  • Be careful renting a car in the US. I failed to read the online reviews of a car rental place, and after returning the car they charged me $1200 for a 4cm dent that was already there when I rented it. (No, I didn't have proof that it was already there. I was lucky, my credit card paid for it.) Turned out the reviews would have alerted me that they were doing this to other customers as well. – krubo Mar 30 at 23:22
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probably opinion based.

First, I disagree strongly with your statement to book hotels through agencies - they are slightly more expensive (than booking through each hotel's chain website), and often mess things up, don't allow you to change, etc. My experiences are pretty negative, one time the hotel didn't even know about the my 'confirmed' booking and was full - the agency ignored my requests.

For Car Rentals, my experience is the same. Booking through their websites works smooth and easy, and there are never issues. Free cancellation, no prepayment, and better prices.

Your mileage may vary...

[for context: I book about 30 rental cars a year, and about 60 hotel nights]

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