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      5 Best San Francisco Airport Rental Car Companies – Browse Tips on Renting a Car in San Francisco in 2024

      Holly Riddle
      Best San Francisco Airport Car Rental Companies

      San Francisco International Airport (or SFO) serves millions of passengers yearly and for good reason. The northern California hub offers lots for leisure travelers to do nearby, but is a frequent stop for business travelers in the region, too. 

      While, if you’re staying around San Francisco, you can probably rely on ride shares and public transportation to get around, that’s not the case if you’re leaving the city’s borders. Suppose you want to see any of the other sights and sounds around this region or travel to one of the nearby cities like San Jose or Sacramento, or up and down the coast. In those cases, you’ll need a rental car.

      Luckily, San Francisco’s airport boasts a convenient, centralized rental car facility where you can rent a variety of car options from nine different providers. 

      Here’s everything you need to know to ensure you rent only the best car for your upcoming trip, as well as some tips for getting around the airport and the city.  

      The Vacationer Tip

      Check out before booking your San Francisco car rental.

      Which Car Rental Companies are Best at San Francisco Airport?

      The four-floor Rental Car Center at San Francisco International Airport is home to many major car rental brands. However, some providers are better than others when it comes to car selection, customer service, and pricing. 

      Here are the top five rental car providers at SFO, according to traveler reviews from Google and Kayak. 

      1. Alamo 

      Alamo Rent a Car San Francisco

      Firstly, as one of the top-rated rental car providers at the airport, Alamo ranks highly among Kayak and Google travelers. Satisfied customers mention the agreeable rates, even for luxury vehicles; the quick and easy pick-up and drop-off processes; the condition of the cars; and the knowledgeable and friendly staff.

      The few negative comments for the SFO Alamo outpost are more industry-related than Alamo-specific. For example, some mentioned the overall cost of rental cars at the moment, across the board, while others mentioned wait times that are standard at most airports. 

      This location offers the Alamo amenities that prior renters will likely have come to know and love, such as the self-service kiosks, accelerated check-in service, and skip-the-counter service.

      Pros: Excellent staff and a nice selection of well-maintained cars.

      Cons: Fees, overall costs, and occasional long wait times. 

      Phone: (844) 370-8302

      Hours: Daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

      Google Rating: 4.3 stars

      Kayak Rating: 8.7 (Very Good)

      Click Here to See the Best Car Rental Deals at Alamo

      2. National Car Rental

      National Car Rental San Francisco

      National Car Rental ranks even higher than Alamo at San Francisco International Airport — though just by a smidge. Since the difference between the two isn’t terribly high, you can expect nearly the same level of service. 

      Happy reviewers mention a super-friendly staff, including staff members who patiently helped customers become accustomed to unfamiliar cars, answering any questions as needed. 

      Poor reviews mentioned issues such as dirty cars and cars in poor condition. 

      Emerald Club (National’s take on a loyalty program) members are on both sides of the spectrum, with some saying that they’ve experienced exceptional service at National’s San Francisco airport rental car counter. Others, however, say they’ve had some of their first poor experiences at this location. 

      All that said, it seems like most customers have a more than satisfactory experience at this National outpost (which has all added up to the brand’s excellent ratings on Kayak and Google), but there are the occasional outliers. 

      Pros: Very friendly, patient staff. 

      Cons: The occasional bad experience is not out of the question.

      Phone: (844) 370-8301

      Hours: Daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

      Google Rating: 4.4 stars

      Kayak Rating: 8.7 (Very Good)

      Click Here to See the Best Car Rental Deals at National

      3. Enterprise Rent-A-Car

      Enterprise Car Rental San Francisco

      Enterprise Rent-A-Car frequently takes a top spot among car rental companies nationwide, not just at San Francisco’s airport. However, at the San Francisco airport in particular, reviewers mention a super-fast pick-up and drop-off process and a great and accommodating staff.

      The few complaints mention issues with Enterprise’s corporate help staff (so not the staff at the San Francisco location) and not getting the vehicle that they requested at check-in time. 

      Much like Alamo, Enterprise offers a range of extra amenities, such as expedited check-in, to make the car rental process that much easier. At this location, though, pick-up service is not available. However, after-hours returns are an option. 

      Pros: Great staff and quick pick-up and drop-off. 

      Cons: Poor corporate customer service.

      Phone: (833) 635-0431

      Hours: Daily from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m.

      Google Rating: 4.4 stars

      Kayak Rating: 8.5 (Very Good)

      Click Here to See the Best Car Rental Deals at Enterprise

      4. Sixt Rent a Car

      Sixt Rental Car San Francisco

      Sixt may not be as well known as the other car rental companies on our list thus far, and Sixt might not be as highly ranked, but it stands out in a few different key ways. For one, Sixt is open far later than the other providers on our list — which is highly convenient if you have a late flight. 

      Reviewers also mention that Sixt offers a great car selection and prices, and several mention free upgrades to luxury cars. Others say how seamless and effortless the rental experience is, as well as how there was no wait during their check-in, compared to other providers with longer lines. 

      As for the poor experiences (because there’s always some, no matter what rental car company you go with), complaints include not receiving the car originally booked and a customer support experience that leaves a little to be desired. 

      Pros: This may be your most affordable option if you want a luxury rental.

      Cons: The level of service might not be what you’d get with other car rental providers.

      Phone: (888) 749-8227

      Hours: Daily from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m.

      Google Rating: 3.8 stars

      Kayak Rating: 7.5 (Good)

      Click Here to See the Best Car Rental Deals at Sixt

      5. Budget Car Rental

      Budget Car Rental San Francisco

      Down toward the middle of the pack (but still not at rock bottom — these are just your top five choices at the airport, so you could definitely sink lower) is Budget Car Rental. 

      Here, you’ll get a mostly “eh” experience. It won’t blow your socks off, but it won’t be a disaster, either. As mentioned, it’s the middle of the pack, and, as you could likely expect, you’ll get a budget deal here but also a budget experience.

      Complaints include long lines due to understaffing and an inefficient check-in process. However, satisfied customers admit that the Budget team is helpful in the event of any issues that arise during the rental process and that, despite the understaffing, the staff is as useful and polite as possible, given their difficult situation. 

      Pros: Friendly staff and helpful customer service — plus budget-friendly prices. 

      Cons: Long lines and inefficiencies. 

      Phone: (650) 877-0998

      Hours: 24 Hours

      Google Rating: 3.1 stars

      Kayak Rating: 6.9 (Okay)

      Click Here to See the Best Car Rental Deals at Budget

      The Vacationer Tip

      Before booking your San Francisco rental car, browse our Best Websites to Book Cheap Car Rentals guide and our How to Find and Book Cheap Car Rentals tutorial. And, if you’re flying to San Francisco, see our Best Websites to Book Cheap Flights guide.

      Comparing the 5 Best Car Rental Companies at San Francisco International Airport

      Get a quick glimpse of these five best car rental companies, so you know which is best for you.  

      Brand/Rental ProviderGoogle/Kayak RatingTypes of available vehiclesBudget or Luxury?
      Budget Car Rental3.1/6.9Cars, SUVs, luxury vehicles, trucks, vans Budget
      Alamo 4.3/8.7Cars, SUVs, luxury vehicles, trucks, vansMid-Range
      Enterprise4.4/8.5Cars, trucks, SUVs, vans, luxury vehiclesLuxury
      National4.4/8.7Cars, trucks, SUVs, vans, luxury vehiclesMid-Range
      Sixt3.8/7.5Cars, trucks, SUVs, vans, luxury vehicles Mid-Range

      Tips for Renting a Car in San Francisco 

      But there’s more to know about renting a car in San Francisco than just where to book the rental. Here’s everything else you need to know, including how to get from your gate to the rental counter and your other options if you don’t want to book a rental car. 

      How to get to the rental car center at San Francisco airport 

      The San Francisco International Airport Rental Car Center houses nine different rental car companies, including:

      • Alamo
      • Avis
      • Budget 
      • Dollar
      • Enterprise
      • Sixt
      • Hertz
      • National 
      • Thrifty

      All of these rental car companies have counters on the center’s fourth floor, except for Hertz, situated on the center’s first floor. 

      The center is located at 780 North McDonnell Road. You’ll need to take the AirTrain Blue Line people mover system to access it from the terminals and gates within the airport. The system operates 24 hours a day, so it’s much easier to take the AirTrain to the rental car center than to take a bus or shuttle (as is the case at other airports). 

      Just look for an AirTrain station (there are stations in every terminal and terminal garage). Then, ride the station to the rental car center. 

      Your other rental car options at the San Francisco airport

      You don’t have to book your rental car from one of the above nine rental car companies located at the airport rental car center, though. If you’d prefer, you can rent a car from one of the off-airport rental car agencies. 

      Four other agencies offer off-airport service, with free shuttle service from the rental car center to the agencies’ offices. These agencies include Airport Van Rental, NU Car Rentals, Payless Car Rental, and Fox. 

      Your other transportation options at San Francisco airport

      There are other transportation options to take you to and from San Francisco International Airport if you don’t want to rent a car at all. 

      You can grab a ride share via Lyft or Uber. If you’re traveling in on a domestic flight, Lyft and Uber pick up passengers on Level 5 of the Domestic Garage. 

      If you’re traveling in on an international flight, Lyft and Uber will pick you up at the pick-up and drop-off zones 14-17, at the departures and ticketing level’s center island.

      Public transit also services the airport, including BART Rapid Rail, Caltrain Commuter Rail, and SamTrans public buses. The buses stop at the rental car center.


      Where are the car rental companies located at SFO?

      The on-site rental car companies are located at the airport’s rental car center. To get to the rental car center, take the AirTrain Blue Line people mover system, which is free and runs 24/7. The AirTrain will take you directly to the rental car center from every terminal.

      Do I have to rent a car to get around San Francisco?

      No! You may find it more convenient to not rent a car when you visit San Francisco, as parking in the city is notoriously difficult. Instead, just take public transportation and ride shares to get around. If, however, you plan on leaving San Francisco to visit nearby tourist hot spots like Napa Valley, you will need a car.

      Do I have to rent a car at the airport in San Francisco?

      No. You can rent a car at an off-site rental car office. Some will even pick you up at the airport and take you to the office.

      Do I need to pay tolls when renting a car in San Francisco?

      Yes, several different toll bridges are scattered throughout the San Francisco area. 

      You’ll want to ask your rental car agency how they process tolls. Some will have a tolling program through which you can pay the rental car agency directly (including a convenience fee). 

      If there is no agency tolling program, you can pay your tolls via a one-time payment either before you drive on the toll road or up to 48 hours afterward; you can do this at 

      If you plan on driving on the road multiple times during your trip and you’d prefer to open a limited-duration license plate account on the website, that’s also an option. This will track your rental car’s license plate only during your rental period and then charge you accordingly.

      How much does renting a car at the San Francisco airport cost?

      According to data from Kayak, the average rental car fee per day for cars rented at San Francisco International Airport is $79.

      Editorial Disclosure: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, hotel, airline, or other entity. This content has not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any of the entities included within the post. 

      Holly Riddle Headshot

      By Holly Riddle

      Holly Riddle is a freelance travel, food, and lifestyle journalist who also dabbles in ghostwriting and fiction. Her work appears in publications ranging from Global Traveler to Golf Magazine, Mashed to Forbes, and Bloomberg. When she’s not writing, you can find her exploring the mountains near her home in the Adirondacks. Her favorite travel destinations include Chicago and New Orleans.