Renting a car in the US: Best and Worst Cities by Price

There's a large range of rates and options when it comes to renting a car in the U.S. Here is a survey of the priciest and cheapest cities. Photo: Zipcar

LOS ANGELES, CA – Where is the most expensive place to rent a car in the U.S. these days? It’s not likely to surprise that New York City is holds the title for skyscraping car rental rates. But it might be surprising to learn those rates are quite a bit less than what those top rates were a year ago.

As crowded New York City has edged out slow-paced Anchorage in 2013 as the most expensive place to rent a car in the USA car rental rates seemed to have dropped by around 20 percent in this strange deflationary economy. The latest survey by has New York topping some 50 U.S. cities with car rental rates averaging $72 a day when booked by out-of-towners and picked up (and dropped off) at central airport locations.

That rate comes in a full $24 lower than last year’s top charger. A 2012 car rental rate survey gave Anchorage top billing with rates of $96 a day. But now Anchorage comes in 12 ticks lower on the survey with rates of only $46 a day.

Visitors to New York who decide to eschew Taxis and subway systems with a personal carriage option still have some choices when it comes to car rentals and rates. Zipcar, recently acquired by Avis, is installing its network of shared vehicles at three airports in the Greater New York City area, including Newark Liberty, LaGuardia and John F. Kennedy (JFK) airports. The cars are conveniently located in Zipcar branded parking spaces at the Avis Car Rental pick-up facility at each airport.

Zipcar is currently offering four vehicles at Newark Liberty Airport, four vehicles at LaGuardia Airport and five Zipcar vehicles at JFK Airport. The Zipcars in these locations include Honda Civic and Nissan Sentra models, with pricing starting from $12 per hour and $89 per day. But at these rates by day this hip new option can dwarf the country’s top car rental rates – but then no one needs rent a Zipcar by the day. Gas, insurance and 180 miles per day are included in the reservation price for these vehicles. The vehicles contain E-ZPass readers, and drivers will be billed separately for the toll charges.

Detailed instructions on how to locate the Zipcars are included in the reservation confirmations with drop off spots throughout the city noted. The Zipcars at JFK and Newark Liberty airports are accessible via the airports’ monorail systems, and all three airports can be reached using public transportation. 

For those who need to keep their rented car with them all day and for days at a time, rather than dropping off and picking up Zipcars for an hour here or three hours there, they may want to know that Milwaukee is the least expensive city for renting a car by the day. Renters pay an average of $27.

Surprisingly, San Diego, Seattle and Los Angeles were also bargains in comparison with other U.S. cities in the car rental survey. All three cities rank among the least expensive car rental destinations, averaging only about $30 daily. That figure positions the trio at a sound 60% less than costly NYC.

Top 50 U.S. cities by daily car rental rates*:

  • New York City 
  • New Orleans 
  • Honolulu
  • Washington DC 
  • Houston
  • Boston 
  • Newark
  • Charlotte
  • Austin 
  • Sacramento 
  • Jacksonville
  • Anchorage 
  • Buffalo
  • Nashville
  • West Palm Beach 
  • Denver
  • Baltimore 
  • Kansas City 
  • Phoenix 
  • St. Louis 
  • Pittburgh 
  • Detroit 
  • Minneapolis
  • Portland
  • Raleigh
  • Tampa 
  • Dallas
  • San Antonio
  • Memphis
  • Chicago 
  • San Francisco 
  • Indianapolis 
  • Cincinnati 
  • Oakland 
  • San Jose
  • Oakland
  • Fort Lauderdale 
  • Atlanta
  • Cleveland
  • Miami
  • Philadelphia 
  • Albuquerque 
  • Salt Lake City
  • San Diego 
  • Seattle 
  • Las Vegas 
  • Louisville
  • Los Angeles
  • Columbus
  • Milwaukee

*cheapest available car for the time period spanning April 2012 to March 2013

Join Lark Gould’s circle on Google+ Stay informed about the world of travel: Travel-Intel, a news site for travel Also find out more about Lark Gould’s travels at



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Lark Gould


Lark Ellen Gould is an award-winning journalist who has spent the last few decades reporting on news, trends and nuances in the travel industry for top travel publications with a focus on Las Vegas, California, Africa, Asia, Pacific and the Middle East.
As a veteran news reporter covering hot spots (and cool spots) around the world, Lark knows where to go – and where not to go. Follow her findings in the Communities Digital News, LLC at The Washington Times where she is an associate editor for Food & Travel; also Larkslist and Travel-Intel, a weekly news publication that goes out to the travel industry.

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