United States

Car Rental / RV Rental in the Bay Area : The best companies

by Paul Joseph  |  Published September 21, 2020

Spanning the Northern California city of San Francisco and the counties that surround it, the San Francisco Bay Area is perhaps best known for the iconic Golden Gate Bridge. But its appeal extends far beyond that awe-inspiring structure, encompassing world class vineyards, gourmet food and streets lined with elegant Victorian houses, not to mention a veritable bonanza of natural vistas and wildlife.

A view down one of San Francisco’s famously steep roads (Photo: Franco Folini via Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0)

With its limited public transport, most visitors to the Bay Area tend to rely on having their own car to get around, especially with so much potential ground to cover. To cater for this demand, there are several cheap car rental agencies dotted across the area. Picking the right car deal can often be a challenge, so we’ve taken a deep dive and picked out the best agencies located at each major Bay Area airports – where most people tend to pick up their rental cars. What’s more, we’ve also looked into Recreational Vehicles that feature amenities such as beds and kitchenettes and picked out our favourite Bay Area RV rental company.

San Francisco Airport: Sixt

Book at Rentalcars.com

Situated 13 miles south of downtown San Francisco, San Francisco Airport welcomes visitors from across North America, Europe and Asia. There are 9 rental car agencies in the on-site SFO Rental Car Center, which can be reached 24/7 via an Air Train from all terminals, as well as five off-airport agencies, reachable by free shuttle service from the Car Center. Our pick for best agency at this airport is Sixt, whose rental counter is located on the Center’s 4th floor. Sixt offers a range of car categories to fit every group size and budget, from economy and family sedans, to convertibles, SUVs, minivans, pickup trucks and luxury cars. Among the best deals we found was a spacious Hyundai Elantra, priced at $282 for a week’s rental. Sixt also let you personalise your rental with add-ons like extra protection, Express Toll Unlimited, SIXT Connect, GPS, and child seats. Their desk is open Monday-Sundays 7am to 11pm, with 24-hour returns.

San Jose Airport: Payless

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If you’re planning to pick up a car from San Jose Airport, which is around 45 miles southeast of downtown San Fran, there are 12 rental counters located an easy walk directly across from Terminal B, or by shuttle bus from Terminal A. Our favourite agency is Payless, who cater particularly well for those seeking something spacious. Indeed, one of the best deal we found was for a Nissan Tiida which would cost $212 for a week’s rental and offers high performance along with plenty of boot space. Or for $391 per week, large families or other big travelling parties could even get themselves a 12-seat Hyundai H. If you’re on a budget and don’t need space, meanwhile, then how about a Suzuki Alto for $190 per week? Individual agency hours vary so you should always check the listed hours for your agency, through Payless provide an after-hours service for delayed arrivals.

Oakland Airport: Thrifty

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Nestled a 25-minute drive from downtown San Francisco in the heart of the Bay Area, Oakland Airport is another popular arrival point for domestic and international visitors. The airport’s Rental Car Center is open 24/7 and is situated a quick shuttle ride from the main terminals, with shuttles usually running every 10 minutes, or on demand between 1.30am and 4.30am. There are 10 car rental agencies located here, and our favourite is Thrifty, primarily for the sheer variety of their fleet but also for their customer ratings, which are consistently high. One of the standout deals we found with Thrifty at Oakland Airport was actually the cheapest – just $269 for renting a Buick Encore SUV for a week.

RV Rental: Outdoorsy

Book at Outdoorsy.com

Outdoorsy is an online peer-to-peer marketplace for RV owners who can use the platform to promote their vehicles to other campers seeking a short term RV rental. RVs come in all shapes and sizes, from modest 2-person trailers through to much bigger varieties. One benefit of booking an RV through Outdoorsy is that you’ll usually come across more affordable offers than with conventional rental agencies. When we searched for RVs in the Bay Area, we found many options available. Among them were a Camper Van for $985 per week that that sleeps 2 and can be picked up in Berkeley, on the east side of San Francisco Bay, or via delivery within a certain radius. Or for something bigger, there was also a Dutchmen Aerolite that sleeps 6 and is offered in Oakland for an impressive $849 per week. Outdoorsy also let you add insurance onto your booking covering a range of indemnities.