San Francisco Airport Car Rental: The Best Companies

by Elizabeth Penney  |  Published August 26, 2017

Visitors to San Francisco International Airport (SFO) have nine rental car companies to choose from.  It can be tough to choose the right one, but has done all the research to make the decision a bit easier. We looked at all available options at SFO and chose the best in three categories: most affordable, best for families, and best for business travelers.

Rental car companies at San Francisco airport are located at the Rental Car Center on N. McDonnell Road. The center is serviced by SFO’s fully automated AirTrain Blue Line, with stops at domestic and international terminals. All rental car counters are open 24 hours, with the exception of Enterprise, which is open 5 a.m.–midnight.

The international terminal at San Francisco International Airport in California (photo courtesy SFO).

Our car rental company review results

In preparing our recommendations for the best rental car companies in each of the three categories, examined the rates, services, fleet availability, reviews and policies of each SFO car rental company. Following are our results.

Most affordable: Fox

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Fox was the low-price leader in SFO, beating out Dollar and Thrifty by a sweeping margin on several dates, as much as $200 for a weekly rental. This was true not only of economy and compact cars, such as the Toyota Yaris and Nissan Versa, but also for full-size options such as the Toyota Camry. Availability was somewhat lacking for larger vehicles, such as the Ford Explorer and Jeep Grand Cherokee, but it wasn’t surprising considering the lack of practicality a large vehicle presents in a congested city like San Francisco. Fox doesn’t earn ratings as high as its pricier competitors, including Enterprise or Alamo, and reviewers noted longer-than-average pick-up times, but it is a small sacrifice for saving money in a city known for its exorbitant prices.

Best for families: Alamo

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Travelers to San Francisco International Airport seeking a vehicle that can tote around a large family (and accompanying luggage) need turn no further than Alamo. Whether a van, SUV or full-size car, Alamo carries a large fleet of vehicles that can accommodate the whole brood. Infant, child and booster seats can be rented for an additional fee, and prices were on par with other rental car companies at SFO for vehicles in similar classes on the several dates. Reviewers on gave Alamo an 8.7 out of 10, noting short wait times for both pick-up and drop-off. Renters can check in online or at a self-service kiosk, skipping the counter entirely and going directly to their vehicle. As any family traveler knows, with kids in tow every second counts, making Alamo the best choice for families flying into SFO.

Best for business travelers: Hertz

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Business travelers to SFO will find many options for rental car companies, but none with the number of benefits and options offered by Hertz. For one, availability at SFO is expansive, offering plenty of options in varying classes. Hertz Business Rewards offers special rates and members-only promotions, customized billing options, free car rental days and no fee for additional qualified drivers. Hertz Gold Plus Rewards membership allows employees to earn free rental days using company discounts, or exchanged for airline or hotel points through Hertz’s travel and business partners. Renters can skip the rental counter entirely and go straight to their pre-assigned car, saving valuable time when rushing to a meeting or catching a return flight home.