Car Rental in California – The Best Tricks to Save Money

Petr Novk

If you plan to travel around the west of the USA, I recommend selecting one of the car rental companies in Los Angeles to rent a car in California. While rental fees may not be significantly cheaper there, airfare usually is, making it more convenient to plan your entire tour with arrival and departure from Los Angeles.

Car Rental in California – The Best Tricks to Save Money

You can compare rental prices using the form below. It accommodates dozens of different rental companies and displays available cars across all classes.

Car Rental Prices in California

Rates for car rental in California vary widely, influenced by a number of factors. Furthermore, prices change almost constantly.

⏳ Duration and Rental Period

During the peak season, which in California is during the summer holidays, demand can be so high at some car rental companies that prices increase. Conversely, during months of low demand, rental rates may decrease.

🗓️ Booking Deadline

The date you book your car also affects the price. Based on my own research, I recommend booking a car approximately 2 to 3 months in advance. The price should be the lowest at this point.

🗺️ Where is the Car Rental Company Located?

Car rental prices in California do not vary much from city to city. Generally speaking, it’s worthier to pick up a car at airports, where there is more competition, and the rental companies are larger, enabling them to offer better prices.

🏎️ Category of Rental Car

Smaller cars tend to be cheaper, but they don’t provide the comfort of mid-range cars or spacious SUVs. The price difference is usually around 10-20%. Convertibles and sports cars are up to twice as expensive as economy cars.

🔞 Driver’s Age

Most car rental companies charge drivers under 25 an additional fee of around $25 per day.

☂️ Insurance Included

Insurance is mandatory for every rental car, and you can opt to purchase additional collision or loss or damage insurance. I advise against skimping on this. A friend of mine managed to gradually shatter the rear window, damage the sunroof mechanism, and lose the rear bumper of her Ford Mustang over the course of a week. Thanks to her insurance, she didn’t have to pay a dime.

🛰️ Additional Accessories and Services

During the booking process, you can request GPS navigation, a child car seat, satellite radio, or add multiple drivers to your contract. Each item carries an additional charge.

Don’t rent a car from the first company you stumble upon; finding the lowest rental price can be a challenge. It’s better to compare several car rental companies in California at once and choose the most affordable one. For example, I’ve had positive experiences with RentalCars.com, which compares deals from 200 rental companies at once and guarantees the lowest rental price.

Below is a table displaying the lowest car rental prices in California for 24 hours that I could find.

Economy Middle SUV Convertible
Cheap Car Rental in California Car Rental in California SUV Rental in California Convertible Rental in California
from $36 from $36 from $41 from $57
Get a Quote Get a Quote Get a Quote Get a Quote

California Car Rental Companies

California car rental companies are typically situated at airports, which is convenient as you can pick up your car immediately without having to arrange transportation to the city center.

Over 40 car rental companies operate in and around Los Angeles Airport. Companies such as Alamo, Avis, Advantage, Dollar, Budget, Fox, Enterprise, Thrifty, Hertz, and National Car Rental have desks in the LAX arrivals hall. Most of them offer pick-up services at any time, day or night.

San Francisco Airport Rental Car Services operate from their own building, the SFO Rental Car Center. On its fourth floor, you can find Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, National, and Thrifty offering car rental services.

Several other larger and smaller rental companies have downtown garages in Los Angeles, San Francisco, and other cities. While they tend to offer a smaller selection of cars, their prices may be higher.

Tips for Road Trips in California

Perhaps no other place in the world offers better conditions for road trips by car than California.

The Los Angeles-San Francisco-Las Vegas-Los Angeles loop is the most popular, showcasing over 1,243 mi of the best the western USA has to offer. The world center of the film industry, Los Angeles, Las Vegas with its ceaseless entertainment, and the unique ambiance of San Francisco each offer something different.

Moreover, part of the trip can be traversed on two legendary highways. From Los Angeles to Las Vegas, you can travel the historic Route 66, and from LA north to San Francisco, you can take the scenic Pacific Coast Highway, famous for its ocean views.

The stops between cities are mostly national parks, and depending on your schedule, you can visit as many as you wish. Death Valley, Yosemite, Sequoia, and the Grand Canyon, along with Hoover Dam, are well worth the several-hour detour.

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