As New York-based travelers, we’ve been fortunate to have easy access to 3 airports: LaGuardia, JFK, and Newark. To take full advantage of our options, we initiate every flight search by entering “New York, NY” into the Departure and/or Arrivals box of our chosen travel site, which automatically searches for flights from every airport in the New York area.
Most travel sites, including Google Flights (our personal favorite), know that travelers with access to more than one airport typically don’t have a strong opinion about which airport they fly to or from. So a city-based search is almost always enabled to maximize the number of options available.
For some reason, rental car companies haven’t quite caught on to city-based searches and are light years behind airlines when it comes to offering flexibility and choice to the consumer. Visit your favorite car rental site and you’ll usually find that a blanket search for all rental locations within your desired city is not an option – you have to pick a single rental location before proceeding with your search.
Take Avis.com as an example. If you try to search all New York Avis locations at once, you are redirected to a list of every location and required to select a single location before proceeding. It goes without saying that this is insanely inconvenient and obviously not useful for a consumer that values options.
Unfortunately, a Google Flights equivalent doesn’t (yet) exist for car rentals at the moment. So imagine our dread when faced with the prospect of finding an affordable one-way minivan rental to commence our move from New York to Georgia before we set off for Italy.
While Kayak.com isn’t nearly as good as Google Flights when it comes to booking airline travel, we found it to be our best option for searching affordable car rental options. The big difference? City-based search functionality that allows you to search multiple car rental locations at once.
Using Kayak.com, we searched for all rental car pick-up locations in the New York City area and all rental car drop-off locations in the Atlanta area. We ultimately found a great deal at an Alamo location in Jersey City, which offered a 48-hour one-way minivan rental for $284. This rate was an absolute steal when compared to the $1000+ rate that was available if we specified our closest airport as the pick-up location.
There are other websites that allow for city-based car rental searches (Hotwire and Orbitz are two examples), but in our experience those sites got very glitchy when searching for a one-way rental. Specifically, both Hotwire and Orbitz only appeared to search for Enterprise cars when conducting a one way rental search from New York, NY to Atlanta, GA (and it didn’t help that those cars were over $1000). Kayak was the only site that we used which consistently returned competitive rates from multiple different rental companies for our one-way search parameters.
It’s worth noting that we ultimately made our booking directly through the Alamo website (which we accessed through Rakuten for an additional 2.5% cash back) and not through Kayak. But we wouldn’t have known to select Alamo’s Jersey City location from their website if it weren’t for Kayak.
We can only hope that Google will one day build a Google Rental Car site with the same functionality as Google Flights. Until then, consider using Kayak.com to find the cheapest rate possible on your next rental car.
What’s your strategy for finding cheap car rentals?