Budget vs Avis: Which Car Rental Company is Better?

When it comes to renting a car, two big names always seem to come up – Budget and Avis. As major players in the car rental industry, Budget and Avis compete heavily for customers looking for good deals on rental cars. 

But which one actually provides better service and value?

I recently took a close look at both Budget and Avis to see how they compare on pricing, vehicle options, pick-up/drop-off services, loyalty programs and more. 

After crunching the numbers and poring through the fine print, a clear winner emerged for certain rental needs. Here’s a detailed comparison of Budget vs Avis car rental to help you decide which fits your needs better.

Pricing and Vehicle Options

When comparing Budget vs Avis for car rentals, pricing is often the first consideration. Both companies offer a variety of cars across categories like economy, compact, midsize, standard, full-size, premium and more. But their daily and weekly rates can differ quite a bit.

For a basic rental of an economy or compact car, I found Budget to have cheaper base rates in most popular destinations. Avis charges a bit more per day on average – around $10-20 extra for a weekend or weekly rental. However, Avis sometimes matches or beats Budget with special offers and coupons, especially for last-minute rentals.

In terms of quality and variety of rental vehicles, Avis maintains a slight edge over Budget. While both provide all the popular makes and models, Avis boasts newer cars on average and more unique vehicles like convertibles and SUVs. So enthusiasts may prefer an Avis location for access to higher-end cars.

When it comes to pricing and vehicle options for car rentals, Budget typically wins for everyday value while Avis shines for promotions and premium vehicle selections.

Pick-Up and Drop-Off Experience

An often overlooked aspect of car rental comparisons is the pick-up and drop-off experience which can vary greatly by location. Budget has over 3,000 rental counters worldwide while Avis maintains around 2,100. So Budget likely wins for sheer accessibility, especially in smaller regions.

However, when it comes to speed and customer service during pick-up/drop-off, Avis tends to shine brighter according to consumer reviews. While complaints abound online about Budget’s long waits and lackluster service, Avis locations frequently receive praise for quick Hertz car rentals and helpful reps that get customers on their way rapidly.

Additionally, both companies now offer apps to expedite check-in and rental processes. But Avis’ app consistently earns higher ratings and reviews for skipping lines to pick up keys and cars with minimal hassle. If quick and quality service matters most for your rental experience, Avis may be the safer bet over Budget.

Loyalty Programs

Budget and Avis know that repeat business is crucial in the car rental game. That’s why they both offer loyalty programs that reward frequent customers with free rental days, upgrades and other perks.

Budget’s frequent renter program is called RapidRez while Avis provides discounts and deals through its Avis Preferred program. They have similar reward tier structures where members earn points toward free days. 

However, most reviews rate Avis Preferred as the better program since points don’t expire and free days kick in quickly. Budget RapidRez requires more rentals annually to unlock main perks.

For business travelers and those who routinely require rentals, Avis Preferred provides significant savings over time. Infrequent renters may benefit slightly more from Budget’s basic loyalty program. But serious renters who want to maximize rewards over the years should lean towards Avis.

The Avis Advantage for Rental Add-Ons

When choosing between Budget or Avis, you must also consider the costs of important rental add-ons that tack on fees like:

  • Additional drivers
  • One-way rentals
  • Satellite Radio
  • Child safety seats
  • GPS navigation devices

The costs for these services again tend to run lower with Budget on average. However, Avis gives renters more flexibility by waiving add-on fees for valuable perks like added drivers and GPS if you join the Avis Preferred program. Budget RapidRez doesn’t unlock similar waivers.

So while Budget ekes out a minor victory on base add-on pricing, Avis rewards loyal customers by including many fees in the overall rental rate. If you pile on lots of extras like added insurance when renting, the savings from Avis Preferred can be substantial.

Insurance Coverage Options

Both car rental giants enable customers to lower costs by skipping supplemental liability insurance if covered by a personal policy like auto insurance. Make sure to check with your insurer before declining.

For additional or premium insurance offerings, however, Avis typically offers more tiers and “a la carte” selections so renters can customize coverage and costs appropriately. Options include personal accident insurance, personal effects coverage and speciality equipment protection perfect for renting vehicles like convertibles.

With Budget, supplemental insurance choices are usually more black-and-white and premium packages may seem overkill for some renters. Overall, Avis wins on insurance flexibility by catering better to different risk tolerances and coverage needs.

The Local Experience

So far, Avis comes out ahead for customer service, loyalty perks and insurance selection while Budget claims cheaper base rental costs. But what about sheer availability and the on-location experience?

With over 100,000 vehicles globally across Asia Pacific, the Americas and Europe/Africa/Middle East, Budget simply dominates in terms of accessibility, locations and fleet size. While lagging in service quality, Budget allows more convenient renting in remote locales or smaller destinations compared to Avis.

Additionally, for airports and cities they share in common, Budget locations frequently offer cheaper “neighborhood” rates for picking up or dropping off just outside the airport premises. This perk especially appeals to rideshare users who don’t require airport delivery of rental cars.

Avis certainly delivers savings through promotions and loyalty programs, but Budget gives car renters cheaper proximity options that impress.

The Damage: Where Budget and Avis Falter

When making a major Budget vs Avis decision for your next car rental, it also pays to know each company’s pain points as called out repeatedly in consumer feedback:

Budget Cons:

  • Long waits and poor service during pick-up/drop-off
  • Confusing fee disclosures and surprise charges
  • Vehicles not cleaned thoroughly between rentals
  • Upselling of insurance and pre-paid fuel options

Avis Cons:

  • Website/app problems including booking issues
  • Billing errors and disputes not handled promptly
  • Sudden location closures forcing re-bookings
  • Staff lacking knowledge of loyalty programs

While Avis shines in several categories above, renters report frustration with its apps and IT systems that fail at critical junctures – even for loyalty members. Budget wins on base pricing, yet continues to alienate customers with opaque fees and overcharging.

Bottom Line

When comparing Budget vs Avis for car rentals, Budget typically justifies its reputation for cheaper everyday pricing on basic vehicles. Avis fights back by managing fleets of newer in-demand cars while providing more insurance choices. For premium vehicles or custom coverage, Avis is my recommendation.

However, leisure renters who simply need solid transportation at affordable rates can’t go wrong with a value-focused company like Budget either. Just beware of its spotty service history depending on location.

In terms of loyalty perks and customer experience though, Avis appears one step ahead as evidenced by reviews praising their amenities, apps and overall satisfaction rates. International travelers may also prefer Avis’ wider global presence and multi-lingual support.

So while Budget seduces the bargain shopper in all of us, car renters focused on service, efficiency and building travel rewards should ultimately lean into Avis as the superior choice in my opinion. Getting you on the road happily without hassle or surprise fees goes a long way when vacationing far from home.