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Which is the best car rental firm in the UK?

If you drive, sooner or later you’ll most likely find yourself in a situation, by choice or through necessity, where you need to hire a car. 

But where do you start when it comes to deciding which company to go with? 

Allow us to help. 

We’ve checked out the offers from some of the mass market players to come up with seven great car rental companies that will get you motoring for less money, for more time, for more mileage or with greater levels of luxury than you might expect.

Read more: The ultimate road trip essentials

Browse the best car rental services

Best car rental company for one-way journeys in the UK

blue car driving on motorway
Photo: Sam Pearce-Warrilow/Unsplash

When you need to make a one-way journey in a hire car you really need to be looking for a car rental company that has a BIG network of branches dotted around the country.

The convenience of being able to drop off your hire car as close as possible to your ultimate destination is not to be underestimated as you could quickly burn through both cash and time getting from a drop-off location to where you ultimately want to be, if you pick the wrong company. 

According to its website, which quotes the Experian data services company, Enterprise has branches and vehicles within 10 miles of 93% of the UK population. Handy!

Best car rental company for newer, higher quality cars

Photo: Gordon Plant/Unsplash

Sixt is a German company that has been around for over a century. Albeit with a couple of exceptions, it tends to favour German manufacturers, or those that fall under the Volkswagen Audi Group banner, including Skoda and SEAT, for the majority of its rental vehicles. 

It also has Lucky Dip and Mystery Premium rental options for those who are prepared to trust their luck in terms of getting any one of a range of vehicles, but generally, Sixt is a good choice if you like a well-presented, very recent model hire car.  

Best international car rental company for journeys across Europe

Photo: Sofiane Zhi/Unsplash

If you fancy a European road trip that starts in the UK, you may well find that car rental companies prohibit you from taking a vehicle across the Channel. Avis, however, makes a virtue of the fact that it offers one-way rentals across international borders from the UK. 

We tested out the claim on its booking site and sure enough, when attempting to hire in Manchester and drop off in Madrid we were offered everything from a Fiat 500 to a Mercedes V Class people carrier, though it has to be said, a lot of dates were unavailable. 

Nevertheless, availability issues aside, this will be a useful option for many and if you are looking to book an eight-seater Mercedes V Class vehicle it could work out much cheaper than flying eight individuals to and from a mainland European destination.

Best car rental company for a date with your dream car

Photo: Anthony Fomin/Unsplash

For some of us, driving a bona fide, head-turning, drop-dead gorgeous dream car might be a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Of course, for many, it may be a never-in-a-lifetime experience but if you don’t want to be one of their number, then the Hertz Dream Collection might just be the answer. The range of cars starts with the nice, but relatively modest, Mercedes CLA AMG priced from an equally modest  £115 per day based on a seven-day hire period. 

Your options progress through a couple more Mercedes, a BMW coupe and an Audi Q7 before things really start to get a bit more interesting with the choice of a Porsche Macan or Maserati Levante for £215 per day based on the same seven-day rental duration. 

Indeed, there are numerous mouthwatering options in the £200 – £499 bracket with Porsches and Range Rovers aplenty. Us? We’d be eyeing the current 992-generation Porsche 911 Carrera if we were in that particular market. 

Thereafter things enter the stratosphere from a Bentley Bentayga at £550 a day through a Maybach (£695 per day) and a Ferrari 296GTB (£950 per day) all the way up to a Rolls Royce Ghost Black Badge. That particular piece of automotive opulence can be yours for the week starting from £7,700. Well, it is branded the Dream Collection…

Best long-term car rental company for business users

Photo: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

If you are self-employed or run a business then Europcar offers some great options to get you motoring at a fixed cost and with a huge amount of flexibility in terms of your commitment options.

This can be a great way to help you budget, ensuring that your motoring costs are fully fixed and easily accounted for in your end-of-year profit and loss accounts.

With the company’s Flex, Duoflex and Superflex options, you can rent, lease and even buy vehicles in a way that suits your business and personal needs.

The best car rental company for under 25s and young drivers

Photo: Andrea Piacquadio/Pexels

Young drivers are generally penalised for being, well, young by car rental companies, but some twist the knife a bit more than others.

One operation that has a reasonably generous approach to the young and to people who’ve only recently got a full driving licence is the Enterprise Car Club. A spin-off from Enterprise Car Rental, this is an app-based car hire company that allows young drivers, once accepted to the scheme, to hire cars by the day or even by the hour using an app, with the cars picked up from street locations rather than a dedicated branch. 

Another great benefit is that low-emission vehicles are available, meaning that if you need to nip into a low-emission zone to collect a bulky item or help someone move house, for example, you can do so without worrying about risking a fine. As such, this option is probably the best for car rental in London.

Naturally, there are terms and conditions to fulfil before acceptance, but the club is open to young drivers with a minimum age of 19, which is obviously a much more liberal approach than some competitor car rental companies.

Of course, like any club, if you don’t abide by the rules and expectations you could find your membership being revoked.

Best car rental in Scotland

Photo: Piotr Musiol/Unsplash

For many in the southern half of the UK or Northern Ireland, flying into Scotland and renting a car is the most convenient way to head to the land of lochs and glens and to get motoring once there. 

The Arnold Clark Group is one of Scotland’s business success stories and as Europe’s largest independent car dealer group company as well as a major player nationally in the car rental field, it naturally has a very strong presence in its home country. 

We make it 17 urban and six airport locations, so whether you’re already in the country or travelling to Scotland from elsewhere, you’ll never be far from one of the company’s car rental branches.

Which is the best car rental company?

Despite the various awards and comparison tables out there, it’s really impossible to say which car hire company is best. In reality ‘best’ will depend on so many factors that comparisons can be largely meaningless.

You may need features and add-ons such as additional drivers, a lower minimum age or less stringent cancellation fees but some, including Sixt, Enterprise and Europcar are generally well-rated in terms of their particular niches.

How do I choose a good car rental?

Well, you could start with this guide! But of course ‘good’ will depend on whether a particular car hire company meets your wants and needs. And indeed the company considered the best car rental in the USA may not be the best car rental in Europe and vice versa.

But the good news is that competition is fierce within the industry to be the ultimate car hire operation, so there’s always plenty of choice and always plenty of deals on offer.

Prices updated on 10/05/2023. We are not responsible for any changes made to the prices listed.


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