10 Alternatives to Traditional Rental Car Companies

Young woman smiling and driving her car on a sunny day

Renting a car can be an expensive way to get around, especially if you're traveling to an area experiencing a rental car shortage.

Fortunately, traditional car rental companies are no longer the only source of vehicles when you're traveling or need a rental for another reason. Here are some of the top options to help you potentially save money and get the experience you want.

10 Alternatives to Car Rentals

If you're looking for transportation but don't want to use a standard, fleet-based car rental service, here are some of the alternatives to consider.

1. Ride-hailing

Depending on how much you need to drive around once you arrive at your destination, you may consider using a service like Uber or Lyft instead of renting a car. Because rates can vary by location and time of day, take some time to research what you might pay based on your plans for the trip.

However, if you're not planning to get around too much or the city you're visiting is walkable, this can be a cheaper alternative to renting a car.

2. Borrow a Friend's or Family Member's Car

If you're visiting a friend or family member, ask if they have a spare vehicle you can drive while you're there. Your total cost may only be the fuel for the car, though you may also consider offering to pay for the convenience or take them to dinner to say thanks.

3. Rent an RV

If you're taking a trip to a destination where you plan to do a lot of outdoor activities, it might make sense to rent an RV instead of a car. In fact, this approach could even save you money because it means you don't have to pay for a hotel or vacation rental.

Popular RV rental websites include Outdoorsy, RVshare, Cruise America and RVnGO. Keep in mind, though, that some RV rental companies may try to charge you extra for amenities like bedding, cookware, generator use and more.

4. Public Transportation

Many large cities have well-established public transportation systems, so you may not even need a vehicle to get around.

In some places, such as New York City or Los Angeles, it may even be easier to get around using the subway or metro than navigating the city yourself and trying to find a place to park.

If you're planning to visit a large city, do some research on the public transportation system to determine if it's a better fit for you.

5. Zipcar

Zipcar is a car-sharing company that works on an hourly or daily basis. If you think you'll need a vehicle for only part of the time you're traveling, but you prefer to avoid ridesharing, Zipcar can be an excellent alternative to renting a car for the full time.

To start, you'll need to pay to join Zipcar, which costs $7 per month or $70 per year. Once you're a member, driving rates start at $10 per hour and $83 per day but can vary based on various factors. You need to be at least 21 years old to join unless you live in New York, Michigan or Maryland, or you're applying with a college that partners with Zipcar; then the minimum age is 18.

Also, keep in mind that you may be charged a fee if you cancel a reservation. To avoid the fee, cancel more than three hours before the trip if it's less than eight hours and more than 24 hours before a trip that's eight hours or longer.

6. Turo

Turo is the largest car-sharing marketplace and allows you to break down your search based on the type of vehicle you want, vehicles that are pet-friendly and more.

Depending on what you need, you can either pick up the car from the host or have it delivered to you for a fee. Pricing will vary based on the location and the host. You can generally cancel up to 24 hours before your trip starts.

You must be at least 18 years old to rent a car through a peer-to-peer host, though users under the age of 21 must pay a "young driver" fee and can't decline insurance. Drivers under the age of 25 will also need to pay the young driver fee with peer-to-peer hosts.

You must be at least 21 years old to book with a commercial host, and your age will also dictate the types of vehicles you can rent.

7. Avail

Another car-sharing service, Avail offers some perks that you won't get everywhere. For example, every rental includes full coverage from Allstate, so you don't have to worry about picking an insurance plan.

Also, you can rent a car through Avail if you're 18 years or older, and you don't have to pay a fee for being under 25 years old.

Instead of picking up your car at a host's home or having it delivered, you'll visit Avail's airport lot. You can cancel your trip anytime before it starts for free. If you cancel after it starts, you'll only pay for the time you used the vehicle.

The only major drawback with Avail is that it's only located in 15 cities.

8. Getaround

Getaround functions similarly to Zipcar by allowing you to rent vehicles in your area on an hourly basis. The biggest difference is that there's no membership fee to join. Hourly rates depend on the location, the vehicle and other factors.

Once you find a vehicle, you can reserve it and pick it up at its home location. There's no need to speak with the owner, either, because you'll be able to unlock the vehicle with your phone.

For most locations, you have to be at least 19 years old to use Getaround, though there are some limitations for drivers under the age of 25.

If you need to cancel a Getaround trip, there's no fee if you cancel within an hour of booking. Beyond that period, you can also cancel without a fee if it's more than 24 hours before the trip starts.

9. Lyft Rentals

In addition to providing ridesharing, Lyft also has a car rental business that you can access through its mobile app. You'll even get a $20 credit with every rental when you take a Lyft to pick up your rental car. Rental rates vary based on location, vehicle type and other factors.

While some other options don't have a human element, each Lyft lot has a Lyft employee to help you get your keys and get everything set up for your trip. Unlike traditional rental car companies that charge exorbitant fees if you don't fill up the tank, Lyft will do it for you at the local market rate. There's also no mileage limit, which is common for other car-sharing and rental alternatives.

You need to be at least 22 years old to rent a vehicle with Lyft. If you want to cancel your trip, you can do so for free 24 hours or more in advance.

10. Silvercar by Audi

If you prefer driving in style, Silvercar by Audi lets you rent Audi sedans and SUVs directly from dealerships. While you may need to visit the dealership to pick up your car in some areas, you may also be able to have it delivered to you.

Rental rates can vary by location and vehicle type, but you can generally expect to pay more because every option is a premium vehicle. In most states, you need to be at least 22 years old to use this service.

If you need to cancel, you can do so anytime before your trip for free.

What to Keep in Mind With Car Rental Alternatives

Using one of these alternatives to a traditional rental car service can save you money and make for a better travel experience. But it's important to understand that there are also some potential drawbacks.

For example, many of these services have mileage limits, and if you go over, you may be charged extra by the mile. Additionally, your personal auto insurance policy and credit card rental car coverage likely won't apply with most, if not all, of these services. This means you'll typically need to pay for coverage, which can raise the cost of your rental.

Finally, some of these services are peer-to-peer platforms, which means that your host may also decide to cancel your trip. A last-minute cancellation could put a damper on your travel plans.

As you consider both the benefits and drawbacks of using a traditional car rental alternative, take your time to research all of your options to find the best fit for you.