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Budget Car Rental Review

Find out what Budget offers for car rental services, prices, and customer experience.
03/24/2023 01:56 AM

Having reliable transportation while you travel can make or break a trip, which is why it’s important to pick the right rental car company. In our Budget car rental review, we’ll dig deep into the company’s reputation and rental rates to help you decide if it’s right for you. Our team has compared the best rental car companies on industry standing, availability, cost, options, and customer experience, and we rate Budget as our top pick.

Our Budget Review: 4.7 Stars

Budget was founded in 1958 to cater to price-conscious renters, and it still does that today. Rates from Budget are about 21 percent cheaper than average according to our cost analysis. The company also offers a variety of helpful add-ons and has a wide presence at many major airports and cities around the world.

Budget Pros And Cons

Pros Cheap rates compared to the industry average A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau (BBB) Many Budget locations worldwide
Cons Fewer luxury models compared to competitors Low customer service scores on the BBB and Trustpilot Limited rewards program

Budget Quick Facts

Founded: 1958

Locations: Over 1,400 in U.S., nearly 5,000 worldwide

Headquarters: Parsippany, New Jersey

BBB rating: A+

Loyalty program: Fastbreak®

Vehicle types: Wide variety including compact, mid-size, and full-size sedans plus crossovers, SUVs, sports cars, luxury cars, vans, and pickup trucks

Budget Rental Car Services

First up in our Budget car rental review, we’ll analyze the company’s services and add-ons. Budget offers all the standard rental car services, which include:

  • Short-term rentals: This option covers rental periods of a few days to a few weeks and is the most common way to rent a car.
  • Long-term rentals: Budget offers long-term rentals of up to 11 months at a time.
  • One-way rentals: Budget offers one-way rentals so you can take a road trip or change your plans. However, only about half of Budget’s locations participate in one-way rentals.
  • Group car rentals: Budget offers special meeting and event rates that apply from one week before to one week after the event.

Budget Car Selection

Budget’s car selection includes:

  • Economy and compact cars
  • Mid-size and full-size sedans
  • Mid-size and full-size SUVs
  • Crossovers
  • Minivans
  • Pickup trucks
  • Electric vehicles and hybrids
  • Sports cars
  • Jeeps
  • Luxury cars
  • 15-passenger vans

You may be able to pick from standard, premium, and elite depending on the type of vehicle. For example, a Toyota 4Runner is considered a standard SUV, a Chevrolet Suburban is a premium SUV, and a Cadillac Escalade is a luxury elite SUV.

Compared to other companies, Budget offers a good range of vehicles to choose from. However, some other agencies like Hertz and Enterprise offer more choices in the luxury category. You won’t find a Mercedes AMG or Porsche 911 in Budget’s fleet–but they aren’t exactly “budget” rentals, anyway.

Budget Fastbreak Program

Fastbreak is Budget’s free rewards program that offers two main perks: a faster rental experience and Budget Bucks. With the first benefit, you can skip the counter and just flash your license to pick up your vehicle. You can also drop off your car without waiting in line when you return.

With Budget Bucks, you can get discount coupons the more you rent. Here’s how it works. For every two qualifying rentals, you’ll get $25 in Budget Bucks that you can redeem on a new reservation. Qualifying rentals need to be at least two days long and count within one calendar year.

Compared to other rewards programs from companies like Hertz and Avis, the Budget Bucks program isn’t anything to write home about. You can earn up to 52 $25 coupons each year.

And there’s another restriction that makes earning Budget Bucks a bit of a pain: you don’t get Budget Bucks when you use the pay now option. Budget Bucks only accrue if you make a reservation online with the pay later option. Unfortunately, this is slightly more expensive than using the pay now option. And if you use Budget Bucks to book a rental, that rental won’t count toward new Budget Bucks.


Budget offers a nice variety of add-ons to choose from. Our general advice with add-ons is to use them if you understand what they cover and they give you peace of mind. Don’t feel like you have to add them either now or at check-in. 

If you’ve rented a car with Avis, you may recognize these add-ons. Both companies offer the same options for insurance and additional products.

  • TravelTab Adventurer: This service provides mobile WiFi, international calling, built-in navigation, translation resources, and discounts on dining during your trip.
  • SiriusXM® Radio: Get hundreds of channels of ad-free radio for your reservation.
  • GPS Navigation: Get a hands-free GPS system to avoid using your phone for directions while driving.
  • Child Safety Seats: Budget can provide a variety of safety seats depending on your needs.
  • Fuel Plans: You can pick between different fuel options that let you return the car without a full tank.
  • e-Toll: This device pays tolls automatically during your trip.
  • Extended Roadside Assistance: This option covers key replacement, flat tire assistance, jump-starts, and more.
  • Loss Damage Waiver (LDW): This waives your responsibility if the rental is damaged or stolen and prevents you from using your own insurance company.
  • Personal Accident and Effects: This insurance covers injury and loss of property for you and your passengers.
  • Supplemental Liability Insurance: This option provides coverage for third-party claims if you cause an accident. Budget provides state minimum levels of liability coverage automatically.
  • Emergency Sickness Plan: This covers medical expenses resulting from sickness for international renters visiting the U.S.

Budget Truck

Budget Truck is a division of Budget that rents moving trucks and cargo vans. Budget Truck is a popular choice for moving offices, apartments, and small to medium homes. Options include:

  • Cargo van
  • 12-foot truck
  • 16-foot truck
  • 26-foot truck

Budget Rental Car Cost

Budget lives up to its name and is about 21 percent cheaper than the industry average. Our cost analysis applies to seven-day rentals for multiple locations and vehicle types. Budget’s seven-day rental average was $427 while the industry average was $539. Looking at different vehicles, we found a mid-size sedan costs an average of $403 for one week from Budget and an SUV costs $452.

Vehicle TypeAirportRental Cost per Week
Standard sedanOrlando (MCO)$401.99
Standard SUVOrlando (MCO)$452.99
Standard sedanLos Angeles (LAX)$474.99
Standard SUVLos Angeles (LAX)$488.99
Standard sedanDallas Fort Worth (DFW)$332.99
Standard SUVDallas Fort Worth (DFW)$412.99

Deals And Discounts

Budget rental car costs are pretty good already, but the company also offers a number of deals and discounts to help renters save even more money. Here are a few current deals on

  • Free upgrade for a limited time
  • $10 off $175 on car rentals of three days or more
  • Up to 30% off and 10% back on an Amazon card
  • Save up to 25% by donating 10% to Susan G. Komen®
  • Save 10% on rentals of five days or more
  • SUV rental for as low as $49 per day
  • One-way rental deals for trips from the Northeast to the Southeast
  • Small business rental car discounts
  • AARP members save up to 30%
  • Veterans Advantage members save up to 25%
List of things drivers can do to get the cheapest rental car costs possible, with accompanying images

Taxes And Fees

Unfortunately, there is one thing we don’t appreciate about Budget’s pricing system–it doesn’t initially show the full rate with taxes and fees when you’re shopping for your car rental.

You’ll see the pay now or pay later prices, but these don’t include taxes and fees. As you click on one of those options, you’ll see the total price increase to accommodate these extra charges. All rental car companies charge similar taxes and fees, but most other companies include them in the first price you see for transparency.

Below are the taxes and fees we saw when looking up the cost to rent a Toyota Corolla at Orlando International Airport for a week. These added up to $103.25 for the reservation.

FeeAmount (7-Day Rental)
Concession Recovery Fee$34.78
Customer Facility Fee$21.00
Energy Recovery Fee$3.60
Florida Surcharge$12.00
Vehicle License Fee$4.80
Waste Tire/Battery Fee$0.06
Total Tax$27.01

You’ll notice similar fees if you shop from other agencies at the Orlando International Airport. Most of these fees are business expenses that agencies pass on to their customers. For example, the airport charges fees for using its facilities, and the customer facility fee is one of these. You wouldn’t see this fee if you got your rental car at a neighborhood location in the city, instead.

Young Renter Fee

Just because you can drive doesn’t mean you can rent a car quite yet. In most states, you need to be at least 21 years old to rent a car. In New York and Michigan, drivers 18 and older can rent cars. In any case, you’ll pay a young renter fee if you are below the age of 25. Budget’s fee is $27 per day at most locations for drivers between 21 and 24 years old. Younger drivers in Michigan and New York may pay higher young renter fees.

You may notice that the online booking system doesn’t charge you this fee. That’s because the online system doesn’t account for a driver’s age. If you are under 25 and you prepaid for the reservation, you’ll pay the young renter fee after you return the car. You’ll pay it at the counter at pickup if you selected the pay later option online.

Additional Driver Fee

Your spouse can drive your car for free but not your children, friends, or extended family. To allow another person to drive your car, you’ll pay an additional driver fee of $13 per day. A fellow employee or your boss can also drive your car for free if you’re on a business trip.

Card Authorization Hold

When you rent a car, the company trusts you to bring the car back in one piece, but that doesn’t always happen. That’s why Budget charges a deposit of up to $300 at the time of the rental (not when you book or pay online). Budget will refund this hold after you return the car in good condition, but it can take some time for you to see the funds in your account. Keep this in mind as you are making plans.

It’s best to use a credit card for your car rental, but you can use a debit card in some cases. Renters under the age of 25 can only use credit cards, however. If you choose to use a debit card, the rental location may perform a credit check to determine your creditworthiness. That’s something to watch out for if you don’t want to hurt your credit.

Cancellation Policy

Budget’s cancellation policy depends on how you booked your reservation. If you choose the pay later option, it’s free to cancel. Simply go online and cancel your reservation anytime before pickup.

It’s a different story if you selected the pay now option. In this case, you’ll pay a $50 fee to cancel the reservation anytime until 24 hours before pickup. If you cancel within 24 hours of pickup, you’ll pay a $150 fee.

This is the same cancellation policy that Avis has, which makes sense because both are owned by the same parent company. Compared to other agencies, Budget’s cancellation policy is neither the best nor the worst. Just be aware that you will lose at least $50 if you cancel a pay now reservation.

Budget Rental Car Reviews

Budget has an A+ rating from the BBB, which means it responds to all complaints in a timely manner. However, customers on the site haven’t scored Budget as highly. The company has a 1.1-star rating out of 5.0 stars from just under 300 reviews. Similarly, about 2,800 customers on Trustpilot give Budget a 1.4-star rating out of 5.0 stars.

In our Budget car rental review, we also consider ratings from the J.D. Power 2022 North America Rental Car Satisfaction Study℠. This annual study covers customer service at eight major rental agencies each year. Budget scored 788 out of 1,000, which was slightly below the industry average of 829. Enterprise, National, and Alamo were the top three companies in the study.

Positive Budget Car Rental Reviews

Many customers leave positive reviews of Budget Rent a Car. Here are a few examples from customers on Trustpilot:

  • Excellent service from staff members
  • The correct amount was charged without any surprise additional charges
  • Staff made the pricing and fees clear up front
  • When a car was unavailable Budget staff upgraded the customer to a better vehicle

Many customer reviews also said Budget was the cheapest option they found. This lines up with our own cost analysis.

Negative Budget Car Rental Reviews

Renting a car can be a hassle, and many people have vented their frustrations online. Below are a few pain points we noticed people had with Budget customer service:

  • Budget accepts itinerary changes through a phone number but its locations are closed on the weekend, which makes it hard to make last-minute changes.
  • Budget expects you to return the car with a full tank even if it didn’t have a full tank when you picked it up.
  • Some customers felt pressured to get extra insurance or add-ons.

While Budget does have a fair number of negative reviews, they account for a small percentage of its total customers.

Conclusion: Budget Car Rental Review

Considering Budget’s cheap car rentals, good selection of vehicles, and variety of services, we rate Budget 4.7 out of 5.0 and name it Best Overall. The best company for your situation depends on a wide variety of factors, of course. We recommend comparing rates from multiple companies in the few weeks before you plan on renting a car.

Top Rental Car Alternatives

Below are a few other rental car companies to compare rates from:

  • Avis:  Avis and Budget are both owned by the same company, so you’ll see many similarities between the two. One thing that makes Avis different, though, is its rewards program. It has three tiers and you can use points for free rental days and services.
  • Hertz: Hertz is the largest rental car company with over 10,000 locations worldwide. Hertz is known for providing reliable service and has a 4.4-star rating on Trustpilot.
  • Dollar: Dollar is another good choice for travelers looking to save money. In particular, our team found that Dollar is one of the cheapest options for one-way rentals.

FAQ: Budget Rental Cars

Is Budget the same as Hertz?

Budget and Hertz are two separate companies. Budget is part of the Avis Budget group, which also includes Zipcar, and Hertz Global owns Dollar and Thrifty.

Are Budget and Avis the same company?

Budget and Avis are both part of the Avis Budget group of rental car companies. The group also includes Zipcar. That said, Budget and Avis operate independently and have different pricing structures.

What is the most reputable car rental company?

Our team recognizes Hertz as the most reputable rental car company. Hertz has a 4.4-star rating on Trustpilot from nearly 7,000 customers and an A+ rating from the BBB.

Why are rental cars sold so cheap?

Rental cars are cheap for two main reasons. First, rental companies buy vehicles at scale and can sell them for a discount. Second, rental cars are driven constantly and have more miles than comparable used cars from private owners.