5 Best Seattle Airport Car Rental Companies — Browse Tips on Renting a Car in Seattle (September 2023)
As one of the busiest airports on the West Coast, Seattle-Tacoma International Airport (SEA) is where you’ll very likely fly in if you’re planning to explore the Pacific Northwest. It’s likewise a popular airport to fly into for a brief layover if you’re traveling further west, to an Asia-Pacific destination. It’s additionally a popular place to fly in if you plan on taking an Alaskan cruise that departs from Seattle.
No matter your reason for landing here, though, if you’re exploring the city and surrounding region either for your entire vacation or during a layover, you’ll need a rental car.
Here’s everything you need to know about renting a car at Seattle’s airport. Plus, we’ll also give you a few tips and advice on renting a car in downtown Seattle instead.
The Vacationer Tip
Check out RentalCars.com before booking your Seattle car rental.
Table of Contents
Which Car Rental Companies are Best at Seattle Airport?
Seattle’s airport does not have an on-site rental car facility. Instead, there’s an off-site facility with shuttles traveling between the facility and the airport, 24 hours a day.
Twelve rental car companies operate out of the facility. Here are the best five.
One of the best-rated rental car companies at SEA-TAC is also one of the more affordable. Reviewers report that this Alamo outpost offers not just the more affordable prices that the national brand is known for. It also offers clean vehicles and friendly customer service.
Multiple reviewers mention turning to Alamo after having poor experiences with other rental car companies in Seattle and liking what they found.
Alamo just in general typically allows for a very easy vehicle pick-up and drop-off experience. Thanks to amenities such as skip-the-counter service, self-service kiosks, and after-hours return service, you can get to your vehicle quickly. Then, you can get on the road faster and easier.
Pros: Good rates, good service, and easy processes.
Cons: While some customers like the fast service and no hand-holding, others prefer a more hands-on customer service approach, which they might not always get at this busy locale.
Phone: (833) 329-8466
Hours: Daily from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Google Rating: 4.3 stars
Kayak Rating: 9 (Wonderful)
Another relatively affordable rental car company, the SEA Sixt location also boasts similar, good ratings on Google and Kayak. Reviewers report that the cars here are in great condition and often on the newer side and that the employees are incredibly helpful.
As for the less-than-stellar feedback, most of Sixt’s customers’ complaints deal with not realizing they’d been charged for something, like damage to a car or an upgrade. So, just be sure you look over the fine print and know exactly what you’re paying for, before you sign on the dotted line. If you do, you’ll likely have a great experience, and get a great car for seeing the sights around Seattle.
Pros: Nice vehicles for an agreeable price.
Cons: Sometimes, during the booking or pick-up process, you might not notice the extra fees that can incur. Watch out for those, so you know what you’re paying for. Additionally, Sixt’s daily opening hours aren’t as extensive as what you might find with another provider.
Phone: (888) 749-8227
Hours: Daily from 6 a.m. to 12 a.m.
Google Rating: 4.1 stars
Kayak Rating: 8.2 (Very Good)
The Enterprise location at Seattle-Tacoma receives rave reviews for its customer service — as should be expected from a rental car provider that’s a little more on the pricey end.
Unfortunately, the one downside to renting with this Enterprise location? Customers frequently noted the lack of vehicles and problems with the vehicles they were given. Still, if it’s customer service that matters most to you in any travel experience, then you’re going to want to go with Enterprise.
This location does allow for after-hours returns (though the hours the rental counter is open are long enough that this shouldn’t be an issue anyway), but it does not provide a pick-up service.
Pros: Great customer service.
Cons: Poor vehicle selection and/or vehicles are dirty or not what the renter would prefer.
Phone: (833) 329-8464
Hours: Daily from 5 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Google Rating: 4.4 stars
Kayak Rating: N/A
If you can’t get a car with one of the above three rental options at Seattle airport, then consider Hertz. While Hertz can be slightly on the more expensive side, and this particular location doesn’t get as high of ratings as some of the other rental car providers in the area, it does make up for that fact in a few ways. That is … if you’re a Hertz Gold Plus Rewards member.
Whereas some rental car companies may give you amenities like what you’ll find within the Hertz Gold Plus Rewards membership program, with no strings attached, Hertz is going to ask you to sign up first. However, if you do, you will get some pretty sweet amenities that can make your travel days easier.
You’ll be able to skip any lines and go straight to pick up your car upon arrival. You’ll have priority access to the cars you want. You’ll also be able to add a free additional driver to your rental agreement.
If you do rent with Hertz for your trip to Seattle, be sure to pay special attention to the Hertz location you’re renting from. Several reviewers noted that they’d accidentally booked a rental at a nearby Hertz location adjacent to the airport, but not actually at the airport.
Pros: If you sign up for the Hertz loyalty program, you’ll find lots to love and lots of travel benefits.
Cons: If you’re not a member of the Hertz loyalty program, you may not find renting here to be worth the price.
Phone: (206) 277-2300
Hours: Daily from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m.
Google Rating: 3.6 stars
Kayak Rating: N/A
Last up and ranked only slightly higher than the Seattle airport Hertz location, Avis offers a similar experience, but you can usually find slightly more affordable cars here than you might at Hertz.
Do note that this location says that it’s open 24 hours a day, but it also has an after-hours drop-off service, so, depending on when you visit, you might not find an actual person there. Make sure to check the current hours before your pick-up time.
Positive reviews note friendly customer service, but several negative reviews mentioned long wait times, up to half an hour or even an hour spent in line.
Pros: Friendly service
Cons: Sometimes long wait times for your rental car.
Phone: (206) 433-5231
Hours: 24 Hours
Google Rating: 3.6 stars
Kayak Rating: 7.2 (Good)
The Vacationer Tip
Comparing the 5 Best Car Rental Companies at Seattle Airport
Get a quick glimpse of these five best car rental companies so you know which is best for you.
|Brand/Rental Provider||Google/Kayak Rating||Types of available vehicles||Budget or Luxury?|
|Hertz||3.6/NA||Cars, SUVs, luxury vehicles, trucks||Luxury|
|Alamo||4.3/9||Cars, trucks, SUVs, vans, luxury vehicles||Budget|
|Enterprise||4.4/NA||Cars, trucks, SUVs, vans, luxury vehicles||Luxury|
|Avis||3.6/7.2||Cars, trucks, SUVs, vans, luxury vehicles||Mid-Range|
|Sixt||4.1/8.2||Cars, trucks, SUVs, vans, luxury vehicles||Mid-Range|
How To: Renting Cars at Seattle Airport
Whichever of the five best rental car companies you go with for your trip to Seattle, there are a few more things you’ll need to know.
As mentioned, there are 12 car rental companies located at the official, off-site rental car facility. These include:
- Fox Rent A Car
To reach the rental car facility, you can take a free shuttle bus. The free shuttle buses at the airport operate 24 hours per day, every day.
The shuttle pick-up spots are situated on the airport’s baggage claim level. One is on the north side of the terminal, while the other is on the opposite end. After picking up your luggage, go outside to the lower drive and the shuttles will swing by, pick you up, and take you to the rental car facility. The drive takes about five minutes.
Once you reach the rental car facility, the rental car counters will be directly inside. After you check in at the counter, you’ll take an elevator or escalator to reach the rental cars.
When you bring the rental car back and park at the rental car facility, you’ll take a shuttle back to the airport’s departure terminal. However, the process will change slightly, as departing shuttles headed back to the airport are located on the opposite side of the building from which you entered when picking up your rental car.
Renting Cars Downtown in Seattle
But what if you would prefer to wait until you’re in downtown Seattle to rent your car? Maybe you’re spending a few days in downtown Seattle, where you can easily get around using ride-share services, but then you want to take a rental out later in your trip, to sightsee around the greater region.
In that case, you’ll, again, have lots of options for renting a car beyond the airport, in downtown. There, you’ll find car rental offices from top brands, including Enterprise, Avis, Hertz, Budget, and Thrifty.
Getting downtown from the Seattle airport
Before you pick up your rental car in downtown Seattle, though, you have to get from the airport to downtown. Luckily, this is pretty easy and there are lots of ways to go about it.
You can, of course, take a ride-share service, but other options include bus services, hotel shuttles, taxis, and the Link light rail.
Driving around Seattle in a rental car
Once you do have your rental car, there are some other things to keep in mind, for the best rental car experience possible (plus the least chances of ending up with fines and fees!).
Seattle driving can be challenging, especially if you’re not accustomed to driving in heavy, hectic traffic. Traffic is heaviest right after the work day ends. However, it’s not just the other cars you’ll need to look out for. Plenty of cyclists are also on the roads.
While you drive, pay careful attention to signage and look out for one-way streets, carpool lanes, and toll roads.
Additionally, if you’re not accustomed to driving in both heavy traffic and rainy weather, you might want to check the forecast before you head out for your day of driving around the city. The weather here can get slick and rainy, and you don’t want to be driving up one of those steep Seattle hills and feel your wheels slip.
When parking, make sure you pay as needed. As a rule, you can expect parking to be paid, unless you’re parking downtown on a Sunday, when some spots on the street are free.
If you can handle all this, then you can get around Seattle with ease and travel beyond the city’s main hub and downtown. Popular driving destinations near Seattle and in the surrounding region include Mount Rainier, Olympic National Park, the San Juan Islands, Vancouver, and Portland.
The Vacationer Tip
The car rental companies at Seattle’s airport are located in an off-site facility that’s accessible via a 24/7 bus shuttle. To take the five-minute shuttle ride, just go directly outside the baggage claim area and find the shuttle pick-up point.
If you’re planning on staying just right in downtown Seattle, then, no, you do not need a rental car. You can get around via ride-share services, taxis, and public transportation. However, if you plan on exploring outside the city, a rental car will be necessary — and there are so many great spots to see right outside Seattle that you’ll want to get that rental car.
You can expect to encounter tolls when driving in I-405 express lanes or SR 167 carpool lanes, as well as when crossing the SR 520 bridge or the Tacoma Narrows bridge. Tolls also apply to the SR 99 tunnel. The good news? Your rental car company will offer a toll pass that will keep you covered in most instances, either for a set daily fee or a charge after you return your rental (depending on your provider).
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.
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