San Francisco abounds with rolling hills, eclectic architecture, and so many amazing things to do here.
But the distance between one destination and another can be quite far, and using a taxi (even online ones) every time will add up.
We certainly found this during our time driving around and exploring San Francisco.
So, renting a car might be a great idea, especially if you want to explore surrounding cities like Los Angeles, or even plan a road trip across several states.
With so many car rental companies in San Francisco, choosing the right one can be tricky.
Don’t worry! We’ve compiled 10 of the best options for you; based on personal experience renting cars all around the world.
Let’s jump right in…
As mentioned, there are quite a lot of car rentals in the San Francisco area.
When picking the best one with the right vehicle and deal, you might want to compare multiple options.
Instead of doing this manually, it will be easier to use comparison sites like DiscoverCars, which will make booking a car rental much more convenient.
It is one of the top car rental search and comparison websites in San Francisco and even the world.
DiscoverCars collaborates with 500 partners in more than 10,000 locations across the globe.
In San Francisco alone, you can browse from over 214 deals (and counting)!
This is a great way to compare vehicles from different companies and check the availability for your travel dates.
They have a free cancellation and no hidden cost policy too, which is a huge plus (honestly, using this company is a great way to save money while travelling).
Here are some more benefits from booking with DiscoverCars:
Enterprise Rent-a-car is one of the largest car rental companies in the world with more than 8,000 locations.
Founded all the way back in 1957, this American company is our top pick as the best place to rent a car when you’re in San Francisco.
Wherever you're in the state, it’s really easy to pick the nearest branch to pick up your car, including at the airport (OAK and SFO).
Moreover, you can rent the cars one-way in all participating Enterprise locations, which means starting your trip in San Francisco and ending it elsewhere in the country.
If you book directly on their website, you can also earn points towards free rental days, free cancellations, and other benefits.
Their rental vehicles range widely from economy and full-size cars to SUVs, luxury sedans, and even 4x4s.
In San Francisco, Enterprise offers exotic sports cars too! Basically, they have nearly everything you might want.
Whether you’re on a budget trip or want to splurge on luxury rides, you’ll be able to find the perfect vehicle.
Although most of their vehicles are cars and trucks, Enterprise also has a lot of vans that you can browse through. If you want to save on accommodation, renting a campervan in San Francisco can be a great idea too!
SIXT is more than a regular rental company.
With car rental locations in more than 100 countries, they’re a handy all-in-one solution that includes carsharing, daily rental, and even long-term rental.
The SIXT mobile app makes everything seamless and flexible.
But what’s most unique is the SIXT Car Subscription program, which varies in coverage options and mileage packages.
This is great if you want to explore San Francisco (and beyond) for a few months, yet want the flexibility of switching your cars without having to rent new ones every time.
SIXT also allows one-way rentals between different stations across several states, making them one of the top options for car rental in the USA.
In terms of vehicle offerings, the cheapest option would be a standard convertible, aka Ford Mustang Convertible or similar.
There are also midsize sedans, SUVs, and multi seaters, which can be great if you’re travelling in a group!
They have more than 90 years of experience and are arguably one of the oldest players in the car rental industry.
One of the best things about Hertz is the frequency of promotions and offers you’ll find, from massive discounts on advanced bookings and free additional drivers, to upgrades.
You can get vehicles with automatic or manual transmission.
From economy models, sedans, to SUVs, the range is quite impressive.
Hertz is also one of the few rental companies that offer Teslas. Choose from the Model 3, Model 3 Long Range, or Model Y to experience a full-torque sedan with zero emissions.
This is definitely a cool way to explore the roads of San Francisco!
You might have heard of Avis too, which is known for providing superior services and thus perfect if you want a stress-free car rental experience.
As they have locations near many popular destinations across the USA, you can also take advantage of one-way rentals.
Moreover, the Pay Now program on the Avis website also qualifies you for the Best Price Guarantee.
The company will match whatever lower price you get from another site and give you a 10% extra discount. Terms and conditions apply, of course, but still!
There are so many cars to choose from at Avis
From Toyota Corolla and VW Jetta to luxury cars like the Chrysler 300, you’ll find all sorts to suit your budget.
Plus, if you have the Avis mobile app, you can actually change or upgrade your car before arriving. There are other cool features including faster pick-up and quick returns.
Thrifty Car Rental is hands-down one of the best budget-friendly car rentals out there.
They began in 1958 and were acquired by Hertz in 2012, which means you know you’re in good hands as the company knows how to provide the best experience for renters.
There are a total of 1,020 locations in approximately 95 countries, including San Francisco!
You can score lots of great deals with Thrifty, such as a 10% discount when you prepay.
The car selection at Thrifty is quite impressive, ranging from various economy cars, convertibles, SUVs, and luxury models.
They even have vans and trucks if these are what you’re looking for.
For those on a strict budget, the Wild Card program is a unique one where you can spend less in exchange for letting them choose a car for you.
The best thing? There’s a possibility of receiving a free upgrade to a mid-size car, minivan, or even electric vehicle, depending on availability.
When it comes to San Fran car hire, Alamo is a top choice. In fact, it was the first car rental company to launch a real-time online check-in system.
Their site is so easy to navigate and user-friendly, and today you can benefit from some of their tools to check the weather, directions, and other activities.
Alamo’s Complete Clean Pledge ensures that they go through rigorous cleaning protocols and sanitization, which will definitely give you peace of mind when renting one of their cars.
Alamo has 80 vehicle options, including 34 different car types!
Whether you want a compact car, a spacious full size, or luxury convertible, there is something for everyone.
They even have EVs, hybrids, and muscle cars.
National Car Rental is part of Enterprise Holdings and is worth a consideration for those of you wanting to rent a car in San Francisco.
The only downside is that there are only two pick-up locations, which are the airport and Fisherman’s Wharf.
However, you can opt for a different return somewhere else in California or even other states!
You can find a variety of cars from National, and most of them are quite affordable.
From mid size models like a Toyota Corolla, a full-size model like a Chevrolet Malibu, and even SUVs, sporty cars, and luxury ones!
If you’re planning to splurge and want a more premium ride to hit the roads of San Francisco, you can get a Chrysler 300.
With three main locations in the city, Dollar Car Rental is a great option if you’re looking for excellent rates and discounts.
You can save up to 15% off the base rate simply by prepaying, meaning they offer some of the cheapest car rentals in San Francisco.
The Prestige Collection is also nice if you want premium car rentals at a lower price.
Not to mention other deals with their partners, such as earning miles from various airlines when you rent with them!
Again, there are lots of different cars to choose from to suit everyone’s needs.
The Manager’s Special is where Dollar is quite unique.
This will give you either a compact car or larger one at the price of a compact one—with low mileage and new models, of course. There’s even the possibility of landing EVs!
For a cheap car rental straight from San Francisco International Airport, we would recommend Fox.
You can hop on the free BLUE line AirTrain from the terminals to the Rental Car Center.
One of the main benefits of choosing Fox is the fast and easy booking, as well as the option for one-way rental and a young driver from 19 years of age!
The SFO Secret City Special is one of their ongoing deals, which is fantastic for maximising your savings.
This makes them a great option if you're looking to hire a car in San Francisco!
In terms of vehicles, you can choose from economy cars to minivans and hybrids.
Some manufacturers that they offer include Jeep, Toyota, Chevrolet, Ford, Chrysler, Mazda, and more!
There are also luxury options like various SUVs, from compact and mid-size to full-size and premium lines.
Finally, consider renting a car from Budget, who are known for their great value and deals.
There are various add-ons to make your rental more convenient, from a GPS unit to having a full tank ready to use on your first day.
Plus, Budget has a long-term rental plan if you want to travel across the US for over a month or longer.
This will give you excellent rates, flexible dates (as opposed to a lease), one-way rental options, and a Loss Damage Waiver discount.
Not to mention that you can easily schedule a change of your car at any point of your trip.
So if you're after cheap rental cars in SF then make sure you check out this company!
Want a budget-friendly car for your short trip? Economy models like the Kia Rio will be perfect, or you can opt for the more spacious Kia Soul or Toyota Corolla.
Although Budget is best known for their cheap and affordable car rental options, they also have some luxury cars in their fleet.
You can also try out an all-electric, gas-free car that’s so much more eco-friendly. Examples include the Tesla Model 3 and Chevrolet Bolt.
Renting a car in San Francisco can go as low as $26 a day for an economy model, although this depends on how long you’re renting for and the time of the year.
The costs will also vary depending on any add-on you choose, insurance, the car type itself, etc.
You have to be 21 years old to rent a car in San Francisco. Some rentals require you to be at least 25 years old, though places like Fox will allow young drivers from 19 years old.
Just be aware, that if you're planning to explore more of the United States, the minimum age for car hire may differ depending on the state.
Yes, it’s worth renting a car in San Francisco as it will be much easier to explore all the attractions and nearby cities, such as Santa Barbara. You don’t have to worry about public transportation or getting a taxi either.
The only exception would be if you’re planning to only stay in one neighbourhood or downtown. In this case, you may not need a car rental.
The exact documents and requirements range from company to company. In general, you’ll need a valid driver’s licence with a photo, and a credit or debit card.
Alright, that wraps up our guide to the best car rentals in San Francisco.
I hope it’s helped you in making a choice for your upcoming trip.
Which of these companies are you going for?
Did we miss any good ones? Drop a comment below and let us know!
Now you've got an idea of car rental companies, it's time to plan your trip.
San Francisco is a great starting point for any California road trip, and from there, your options are endless.
Just make sure you explore the city before heading out, with highlights including the famous Golden Gate Bridge, Alcatraz, and Pier 39!
Of course, you can always head out of California too, and explore the nearby states including Arizona, Nevada, Oregon, and Utah.
Here are some other guides you may find helpful: