Hire Cars Review

Canstar Blue’s review of hire car providers compares Avis, Thrifty, Europcar, Budget and Hertz on their customer service, transparency of costs and fees, value for money, availability of vehicle, quality of vehicle and overall satisfaction.

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Canstar Blue 2021 Hire Cars Award Logo

Most Satisfied Customers | Avis

Avis waved the competition goodbye in the rear-view mirror after it rated best for overall satisfaction for the second year in a row! It earned five stars in most categories, including customer service, transparency of costs & fees, quality of vehicle, availability of vehicle and overall satisfaction.

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Avis up to speed for second year running in hire car ratings

Travelling can be an exciting time, even if you’re just staying in the country. However, while a road trip with friends can be an ideal getaway, you may not be able to do it in your own car. Thankfully, there are plenty of rental car options available around Australia, but which one should you choose for your next trip? While it’s tempting to simply go for the cheapest option available, it may not pay off in the long run, as you might get an experience that matches the price tag. And with 78% of respondents to Canstar Blue’s latest survey on the subject stating that they had hired a car for leisure, you don’t want a disappointing rental experience ruining the rest of your holiday.

Our annual review of major hire car operators aims to find out which are the best-rated in the eyes of the people who know best – Aussie consumers. That’s why we sought feedback from more than 350 people who hired a car within Australia in the last 12 months. They scored companies on customer service, availability of vehicle type, quality of the vehicle, transparency of costs and fees, value for money and overall satisfaction. Hire car provides that met the minimum sample size (30 responses) are included in this year’s report.

Whether you need a set of wheels for your next holiday or business trip in a new city, read on to find out which provider may be the best option for you, as well as what you can expect when you get behind the wheel.

Best Hire Cars

Canstar Blue’s review of hire car providers saw five major brands rated by consumers. Here’s how each compared, in order of overall customer satisfaction:

  1. Avis
  2. Thrifty
  3. Europcar
  4. Budget
  5. Hertz

The good news is that several hire car providers scored five-star ratings in at least one category, with Avis, Thrifty and Europcar all receiving five-star reviews in at least one area. Avis took the lead with five stars for overall satisfaction, followed by Thrifty and Europcar on four stars. Budget and Hertz ‘wheeled’ in on three stars overall.

Thrifty impressed the most when it came to value for money, customer service, and the transparency of cost and fees, earning full marks in all three categories. Europcar saw the same result for its quality of vehicles.

Our survey revealed lots of insights into what Aussies think about hire car companies and their personal experiences:

Top Hire Car Providers


Avis hire cars

Avis has been operating for more than 70 years, with thousands of locations in more than 160 countries. And with over 200 centres in Australia, local consumers have plenty of options for hire cars regardless of where their next trip takes them.

Fees and charges are outlined via the Avis website, with FAQs and car rental terms and conditions also available online to help with the planning stage of your next trip. To also assist with that planning, Avis outlines various promotional offers, with users potentially scoring vehicle upgrades and car hire for additional days, giving consumers plenty of options when it comes to that weekend away.

The Avis mobile app will also streamline the rental process, allowing you to skip the queue when you go to pick up your rental car as well as manage or upgrade your booking on the go. Receipts and a record of your trip histories are also available through the app, making it easier for businesses to track expenses. Avis offers Qantas Points for individuals and businesses, helping to set you up for your next trip.

  • For the second year in a row, Avis scored five stars in multiple categories, including customer service, transparency of costs, availability of vehicle type, quality of vehicle and overall satisfaction. It scored four stars for value for money.


Thrifty hire cars

With more than 170 locations around Australia, Thrifty stocks a range of vehicles for you to drive away in, including compact cars, SUVs, luxury models and even trucks available for hire. A driver’s licence or equivalent is necessary, with additional permits required for those looking to hire trucks or other larger vehicles.

Thrifty has a minimum age of 21 to hire a vehicle, although those aged between 21 and 24 will incur an additional cost. Thrifty has a minimum 24-hour rental period, but also offers discounted rates for those looking for long-term hire.

For businesses with employees who regularly travel, Thrifty provides small business and corporate accounts, potentially offering savings across rentals, accommodation and roadside assistance in addition to Virgin Velocity points and even free vehicle upgrades. Thrifty provides a number of additional extras, including prepaid fuel, GPS units and strollers, plus baby and booster seats to help the whole family enjoy the trip.

  • The only brand to score a five-star rating for value for money, Thrifty was also rated five stars for transparency of costs and customer service, with four stars in all remaining categories, including overall satisfaction.


Europcar hire cars

Originating in France over 70 years ago, Europcar now has locations in 140 countries worldwide, with more than 100 in Australia. With a number of vehicle types available to rent, travelers can narrow down their options by transmission type, luggage space, seat numbers and emission levels, helping you to stay comfortable on the road.

Europcar offers 24/7 service in most major airports, as well as offering 24-hour roadside assistance, with a number of offers and discounts available through its website to help those on a budget. Europcar also has a fleet of vans and trucks available for those looking to move house or to help those likely to pack big for business trips.

Europcar also provides a free worldwide loyalty program that includes multiple tiers to suit your rental habits, giving you the opportunity to save on your next rental. You can sign-up to the Privilege program through Europcar’s website. Europcar additionally offers a mobile app for those on the go, allowing users to book, manage or alter their bookings regardless of where they are, as well as find the nearest centre.

  • Europcar scored a five-star rating for quality of vehicle and four stars for all remaining categories, including the availability of vehicle type, customer service and overall satisfaction.


Budget hire cars

Budget provides hire car centres across the globe, including more than 200 locations in Australia to help with your next family holiday, business trip, and everything in between. Offering a variety of cars – including luxury models for the adventurous type, people movers for the whole family, as well as small cars and 4WDs for those after something specific – Budget also offers truck hire, which includes utes, vans and small trucks, to help you with whatever you’ve got planned. You can also score some Qantas Points, so be sure to enter your details when booking for maximum rewards.

Budget generally accepts credit and debit cards, cheques, and prepaid vouchers bought through travel agencies, although it’s best to confirm specific payment methods before you set out on your big adventure. Additionally, age restrictions may also apply in some locations, with those under 25 likely to incur additional costs.

Budget offers plenty of information through its website, including the terms and conditions for you to peruse beforehand, making the final decision less stressful when it comes to putting pen to paper. Offers are also outlined on Budget’s website, allowing families and businesses to save on their next trip. Bookings and car hire may be subject to availability, as well as how many other customers are looking to make the same trip, so be sure to book in advance. You can also book and manage your car hire via the Budget app, available through the App Store and Google Play.

  • Scoring four stars for customer service, value for money and transparency of costs and fees, Budget also rated three stars in the remaining categories, including availability of vehicle type, quality of vehicle and overall satisfaction.


Hertz hire cars

Founded over 100 years ago, Hertz has expanded to nearly 10,000 locations across the globe and operates in more than 150 countries. In Australia, Hertz has over 200 locations, helping Aussies get to where they need to be. And with a wide variety of vehicles available – including small cars, convertibles, hatchbacks and people movers with wheelchair access – Hertz may be the car hire company of choice for many.

Hertz offers discounts and partnerships to help save customers while on the road, while also providing reward programs for both individuals and businesses to make further savings. Hertz’ Gold Plus Rewards plan offers priority service at car hire locations, plus discounts and the opportunity to earn bonus points for future upgrades.

Additionally, the Hertz Business Solutions program provides similar incentives for future trips, including lower accident excess costs, no surcharge for younger drivers, a dedicated billing website and the ability to earn Virgin Velocity points. The Hertz mobile app allows users to reserve a car, find parking, access roadside assistance, and update their reservations.

  • Hertz was rated three stars across all categories, including value for money, transparency of costs and overall satisfaction.

Other Car Rental Companies

Beyond the major hire car names, there are a few alternatives floating around that can offer something different. Here are just a few of the other hire car operators to keep an eye out for.

  • Jucy: best known for its unique lime green and purple coloured minivans, Jucy also covers cars in its fleet for hire. Jucy stands out for its friendliness for younger drivers – you only need to be aged 18 to hire and drive a Jucy rental, rather than the minimum age of 21 that most other hire car providers require.
  • Redspot: a well-known smaller operator, Redspot offers a number of vehicles for hire and extras to add on to make your trip more comfortable. Available in all states and territories, as well as in New Zealand, Redspot may be worth checking out if you’re looking to fit a tight budget.
  • Enterprise: while an older hand in the global market, Enterprise is one of the many newer entrants to the Australian hire car market, primarily operating out of major metro areas and airports, focussing on short-term rentals for those who are only getting away for a few days.
  • Sixt: a car hire company that has been operating for over 100 years in Europe, Sixt provides rentals around Australia, including luxury cars, to help you get to where you need to be. Sixt also offers a range of deals on its website for those looking to snag a bargain.
  • East Coast Car Rentals: services major cities along the east coast of Australia, as well as Adelaide and Tasmania. The company claims it’s one of the largest independent car hire companies in the country and customers can expect lower prices with better value for money.

Things to know when hiring a car

When it comes to choosing a provider to hire from, there’s plenty to consider before you sign on the dotted line, especially if it’s your first time. The first thing that should be on your to-do list is to read the rental agreement, as this will ensure that you avoid any nasty surprises and that you know what you’re covered for in case you get into an accident. Most providers publish their terms and conditions online, but only 36% (up from 29% last year) of respondents to our survey said they read the T&Cs before finalising their agreement.

Regardless of whether or not you pick through the agreement with a fine-tooth comb, it’s a good idea to inspect your vehicle before you drive off, as you won’t want to be paying for any damage that you didn’t cause. Our latest survey revealed 53% of respondents said they checked the vehicle for any damage before driving off, while 37% read the vehicle condition report before driving off. Taking precautions like these could help you avoid a costly and uncomfortable experience when handing back the keys.

Where can I hire a car?

Where to hire car in Australia

Nothing can put the brakes on your trip like realising you’ll have to add extra travel time to simply pick up your ride. While there are plenty of hire car providers available for you to choose from, location, as well as the ability to drop off your rental at a different location, might be the biggest factor in deciding which operator you book through.

If you’re looking to visit a major city, here are a few guides to help you find the best provider for your journey:

Common hire car fees and costs

Regardless of whether you’re just traveling for the day, or you’re looking to set off for a few weeks, hire cars can quickly rack up a larger bill than expected. Our survey showed 12% of survey respondents found the actual cost of hiring a car was more than what they had originally been quoted (up from 8% last year). Plus, 7% said that they had to pay additional charges they weren’t expecting after returning the vehicle. Here is a list of common costs that you could find on your final invoice:

  • Daily rate
  • Vehicle Registration Fee
  • Goods and Service Tax (GST)
  • Administration fee
  • A debit or credit card fee
  • Late charges
  • Fuel fee
  • One-way fee

To avoid forking out more than you need to, there are a number of things you can do to cut your rental costs, including booking in advance, cutting back on any extras, as well as sticking close to the agreed terms to avoid any additional fees.

Do you need car hire insurance?

Do I need car insurance

Insurance is a daunting thing to tackle, particularly if you’re not sure what you should be getting. While you’ll need some form of insurance to get behind the wheel of your own car, insurance isn’t compulsory when you hire a vehicle. However, it is generally recommended to ensure you won’t be left dealing with the costly aftermath if you meet with an accident. The vehicle you take off the lot will be insured against any damage, with providers also outlining what to do if you get in an accident in their terms and conditions. But the excess could still set you back hundreds (or thousands)of dollars, which can cut your holiday short. So, should you buy hire car insurance, and should you get it from your hire car provider?

In our latest survey, 24% of respondents took out car insurance with the hire car company they booked through – down from 61% last year – but 4% felt they were unnecessarily upsold hire car insurance. While it might be convenient to just take out insurance through your hire car provider when you go to pick up the keys, it may prove to be a costly expense. Did you know that many domestic travel insurance policies will cover you for hire car excess? Just 18% of survey respondents were aware, meaning many could have saved themselves a few bucks!

Does my car insurance cover a hire car?

Depending on which provider you have insurance with, and what policy you have, you will generally be covered behind the wheel of a hire car. But before you rush out the door, you should note this generally applies in the event where your primary car has been in an accident and you’ve received a hire car as a short-term replacement. So while you can technically be covered under your insurance to drive a rental, you won’t be able to book a trip away and use a hire car under your insurance policy, meaning it’s best to take out insurance with your provider, or check if you’re covered under your travel insurance.

With so much to consider when it comes to getting away for a few days, looking into all of your options before setting off could save you a bit of money, as well as a lot of heartbreak if your trip doesn’t go to plan. While some providers may offer the cheapest price tag, looking into areas such as insurance and provider locations can also play a big part in which provider you go through. After all, you don’t want to be stressed out before your trip.

About the author of this page

Dean Heckscher

This report was written by Canstar Blue’s Content Projects Lead, Dean Heckscher. He’s our resident expert on all things automotive, health & fitness, streaming and more. Dean is also one of Canstar Blue’s customer research report producers, helping to turn complicated subjects into easily-digestible information for our readers. He’s passionate about helping consumers make better-informed purchase decisions on all manner of consumer goods and services.

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More about Hire Cars

Our latest customer satisfaction research on hire car providers saw a number of brands rated best in different categories:

  • Best overall: Avis was rated best for overall satisfaction, followed by Thrifty and Europcar.
  • Best customer service: Avis was rated best for customer service, followed by Thrifty and Europcar.
  • Best transparency of costs: Avis was rated best for transparency of costs, followed by Thrifty and Budget.
  • Best value for money: Thrifty was rated best on value for money, followed by Avis and Europcar.
  • Best quality of vehicle: Europcar was rated best for quality of vehicle, followed by Avis and Thrifty.
  • Best availability of vehicle type/model: Avis was rated best on availability of vehicle type/model, followed by Thrifty and Europcar.

Frequently Asked Questions

Canstar Blue surveyed more than 3,000 Australian adults across a range of categories to measure and track customer satisfaction, via ISO 26362 accredited research panels managed by Qualtrics. The outcomes reported are the results from customers within the survey group who have hired a car within Australia in the last 12 months – in this case, 352 people.

Brands must have received at least 30 responses to be included. Results are comparative and it should be noted that brands receiving three stars have still achieved a satisfaction measure of at least six out of 10. Not all brands available in the market have been compared in this survey. The ratings table is first sorted by star ratings and then by mean overall satisfaction. A rated brand may receive a ‘N/A’ (Not Applicable) rating if it does not receive the minimum number of responses for that criteria.

Below are the previous winners of Canstar Blue’s hire car reviews:

  • 2020: Avis
  • 2019: Europcar
  • 2018: Budget
  • 2017: Thrifty
  • 2016: Avis
  • 2015: Avis
  • 2014: Budget

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