It’s not hard to see why many drivers choose car rental over ownership: delivery times for new cars often exceed six months and used car prices are at an all-time high. Car rental – by the hour or by the day – means you don’t have a depreciating asset on your driveway and you’re not responsible for costly repairs, maintenance or tax road.
This is especially true for motorists living in cities where on-street parking is limited. But for any motorist, car rental can be the perfect solution for those one-off trips with a bit of anticipation.
And if you have to travel for work, renting a car in the UK limits the wear and tear on your own car. You simply pay for the time you need, or the mileage you’re going to travel, and away you go.
The prices below are based on the cheapest available town cars collected and returned to Birmingham Airport for a week’s loan.
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Best car hire in the UK: at a glance
- Ideal for young drivers: sixth
- Ideal for model choice: Alamo
- Ideal for national coverage: Company
How to choose the best UK car rental for you
How much does it cost to rent a car?
With such a wide range of car hire companies in the UK, it’s well worth shopping around; our recommendations below represent the most well-known players, so these are great starting points. In the most basic terms, you can expect city car rental costs to start at around £70 per day, while an executive sedan rental could cost close to £200 per day. Costs vary depending on where you pick up the car, the length of your reservation, the number of kilometers driven and your age.
What car rental supplements do I have to pay?
Depending on the car rental company you deal with, you can rent child seats, portable sat navs, or even pay a carbon offset. You can also add additional drivers to your car rental agreement. But what is worth considering for all car hirers is the range of insurance policies; for a fee, you can reduce the excess you’ll have to pay if the car is damaged or you get a flat tire. These costs can be high – some have a car hire excess of over £1000 – so adding a few Euros to the total car hire cost could provide real peace of mind.
What types of cars can I rent?
Short answer: you can hire just about anything. The main national players on the common or garden models you would expect: Ford Fiesta, Vauxhall Astra, Nissan Qashqai. If you’re willing to pay more, you might find yourself behind the wheel of something more luxurious like a Mercedes E-Class or a roomier seven-seat Volkswagen Caddy.
Rental cars are really a big church. If you’re looking for something more exotic, there are even supercar rental companies.
How old do I have to be to rent a car?
The older you are, the cheaper renting a car is likely to be. Generally, you – and any other drivers you add to the policy – will need to be 25 or older. Some rent cars to young drivers, but you can expect the costs to rise. Regardless of your age, some car hire companies may want you to have held your license for a certain period of time and you will need to show your photo driver’s license card and complete a DVLA verification code, allowing them to see how many points penalty you have.
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The best car hire in the UK in 2022
1. Alamo: Best Car Rental for Model Choice
Price: £318 | Shop now at Alamo
Alamo is a brand more familiar to travelers in the US, but it now operates from 40 locations in 27 cities across the UK, from Aberdeen to Truro. It offers a particularly wide range of models, from city cars to minivans through the usual SUVs and sedans, including convertibles, limousines, electric cars and hybrids.
The website is relatively easy to navigate, although some of the terminology leaves a bit to be desired: what is Class F Standard or Elite Compact?
Still, for a Toyota Aygo or similar, Alamo’s pricing is competitive, and the costs of extra drivers and excess-reduction waivers are at the lower end of the spectrum — which is just as well, because the The standard overage of £1,500 if you get involved in a bump is the priciest joint here.
There’s a fair amount of flexibility, though. There is no charge if you cancel with more than three days’ notice; Alamo will refund you £40 or the full cost (whichever is less) if you cancel with less than three days’ notice.
Key Details – Locations: 40; Cost per week: £314; Minimum age: 25; Mileage limits: Unlimited; Standard deductible: £1,500
Shop now at Alamo
2. Sixt: The best car rental for young drivers
Price: £201 | Shop now at Sixt
German firm Sixt boasts that its cars are on average less than three months old – and that alone could be a deal breaker for those looking to get behind the wheel of something modern.
That’s not the only reason to recommend either: our price analysis found that picking up and dropping off a car at Birmingham Airport cost just £28.70 per day, or £201 for the week – comfortably the cheapest of the car rental companies here. Of course, this will vary by date and location, but it’s still very impressive. And it’s the best choice for young drivers, with a minimum age of just 21.
Naturally, Sixt doesn’t have it all: it’s the only one of our conventional carriers with a mileage limit, although you’d struggle to cover more than 1,200 miles in a week. And at £18.17 per day, the additional driver fee is the most expensive here. But it backs off with a £1,000 deductible which can be reduced to zero for a one-off fee of £149.
Key Details – Locations: 79; Cost per week: £201; Minimum age: 21; Mileage limits: 1,200; Standard deductible: £1,000
Shop now at Sixt
3. Company: Best car rental for nationwide coverage
Price: £317 | Buy now from Enterprise
With over 400 locations across the country, including 24 airports, no other car rental company comes close if you’re looking for a location near you. Less pragmatically, Enterprise also offers supercar rentals with models such as the Aston Martin DB11, Ferrari Portofino and Lamborghini Huracan on its books. Tesla rental and other exotic electric vehicle rentals are also possible.
Both are positives, as the rest of our analysis found Enterprise to be more in the middle of the table. Its policies and costs are virtually identical to sister company Alamo, meaning the same standard £1,500 deductible, a £15.60 per day charge for additional drivers and an opportunity cost of £140. Interestingly, while Alamo allows drivers as young as 25 to access its cars, you’ll need to be at least 30 to rent an Enterprise car.
Key Details – Locations: 414; Cost per week: £317; Minimum age: 30; Mileage limits: Unlimited; Standard deductible: £1,500
Buy now from Enterprise