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Published Aug 8, 2022 11:37 AM

The best military discounts for car rentals are the rates you get for official government travel, but using that program for leisure may constitute fraud, so don’t do it. The truth is, military discounts for car rentals are few and far between. In fact, the rates might only be marginally better than those offered by travel sites like Priceline or Expedia. Still, there are some perks to the military discount. 

If you’re under the age of 25, a military discount is the best way to access benefit programs offered by most car rental companies. All rental companies have an age requirement (even if they say they don’t). If you’re between the ages of 18 and 24, you’ll likely face an additional daily charge, but most companies waive that fee for military members. 

In this article, we’ll cover the types of military discounts offered by car rental companies, how to access them, and other things you need to know about renting a car.

Enterprise ranks the best overall not just because it offers a military discount with or without a subscription service, but it also received the highest customer satisfaction rating compared to other rental car companies.

For veterans and servicemen, the Enterprise military discount is five percent off the base rate for any leisure travel (and it applies to other Enterprise brands, National and Alamo). Also, Enterprise ranked first in customer satisfaction for 2021 by both the American Customer Satisfaction Index and J.D. Power, both of which survey customers on a number of factors like ease of service, customer service, car selection, and more.

Additionally, Enterprise waives the under 25 age requirement for service members. If you’re military, you must be at least 21 to reserve a car and 18 to rent. Plus, the company has the most locations with some 9,500 in the U.S. and worldwide.

Key Features
  • Five percent military discount off of base rate
  • Additional benefits with discount service
  • Lowers reservation age to 21 and 18 to rent
Why It Made The Cut
  • Enterprise ranked best overall because multiple national surveys put it in the top stop for customer satisfaction and it offers a military discount directly instead of requiring a subscription service.
Best for Veterans

The USAA car rental discount ranks in as our best for veterans and best for families, as well. While the daily rate may only be marginally different from what’s offered on travel sites, you get extended protections and other benefits just for being a USAA member, an option extended to servicemen, veterans, and their families.

You can get a military discount with a USAA membership in one of two ways. The first is you sign up for USAA, which is free, because it gives you access to a marketplace where you can find discounted car rental rates. The second way is to buy USAA car insurance. With that option, you get the discount as well as other benefits like an age waiver and liability coverage on your rental. USAA benefits apply to Avis, Budget, Enterprise, and Hertz rental companies.

Key Features
  • Liability coverage included with USAA insurance
  • Waives 25-year-old age requirement to rent
  • Discount applies to all members and their families
Why It Made The Cut
  • The USAA military discount applies to servicemen, veterans, and their families. While the discount may only be marginal, additional benefits like liability coverage and age waivers are a huge plus.
Best Coupon Code

For the best coupon code, the Avis Budget Group takes the cake. The company, through the brands Avis and Budget, offers a military discount that you submit when you make the reservation and can save you up to 25 percent off of the rental rate.

Whether you pick the Avis military discount code or the Budget military discount code, the terms and conditions are the same. The discount rate is subject to change depending on time and vehicle, and it doesn’t apply to surcharges or certain optional add-ons. Plus, there is a long list of restrictions, as well, like it may or may not waive the age requirement.

Also, Avis and Budget have different rates as well. The Avis brand tailors to higher-end clients like business travelers, so Avis offers newer and nicer vehicles at higher prices. The Budget brand caters to economy travelers, so Budget offers not as nice cars for lower rates. Overall, the Avis Budget Group offers lower rates than Enterprise or Hertz, but it also ranks lower on customer satisfaction surveys.

Key Features
  • Easy to access the discount code on company’s site
  • Discount reduces the rate by as much as 25 percent
Why It Made The Cut
  • Finding a military discount code is not always simple or easy, but both Avis and Budget make them readily available on its websites alongside its terms and conditions.
Honorable Mention

Veterans Advantage ranks in as our honorable mention. It’s referred to as a “Public Benefit Corporation” because it provides services to a specialized group of people, i.e., veterans. While the company has a community marketplace, it offers greater services to VetReward Travel subscribers, but to subscribe, you need to be a veteran.

With a VetReward Travel membership, you get varying deals with eight rental car companies. According to the company’s website, they include Avis, Budget, Hertz, Enterprise, Dollar, Thrifty, National, and Alamo. The discounts range from local perks to up to 25 percent off depending on the company rate as well as age requirement waivers. For some companies, Veterans Advantage is the only way to access a military discount.

Veterans Advantage sells services packaged as a $4.95 30-day trial, a $9.99 month-to-month, or a $4.95 12-month subscription paid in full. Additionally, the benefits of the service include access to seven marketplaces.

Key Features
  • Discounts extend to eight car rental companies
  • Age requirement waiver for some companies
Why It Made The Cut
  • A Veterans Advantage membership gets you military discounts at eight car rental companies, some of which only offer incentives to those with a VetReward Travel membership.

Things to consider before renting a car

From the time you make the reservation to the time you actually pay, the price of a car rental might go through a dramatic transformation. The final bill is the sum of the daily rate multiplied by the number of days you had it with fees, service charges, and taxes. What usually causes the gut punch of a price change are last-minute changes to your reservation. So it should go without saying, it’s a good idea to save where you can when you rent a car. In this section, we’ll cover areas where you can save. According to the Federal Trade Commission, there are four areas you should consider before renting a car. 

Picking a rental car

When you pick a rental car, you’re actually making a number of decisions that ultimately affect your daily rate. Since you’re opting for a military discount, your two primary concerns are the rental company and car category.  

Rental car companies

There are eight major rental car brands in the country, which are owned by three different companies. They separate the brands to cater to different types of customers. While they all have different rates and loyalty programs, they’re generally consistent in policy and car selection. 

  • Enterprise Holdings owns Enterprise, National, and Alamo car rental companies. The Enterprise military discount applies to all three brands. 
  • The Hertz Corporation owns Hertz, Dollar, and Thrifty car rental companies. All three companies offer military discounts through membership programs. Also, they say the minimum age requirement is 20, but there’s still a fee for those under 25. 
  • The Avis Budget Group owns Avis and Budget. Both companies offer their own discount code. Click here for the Avis military discount code and the Budget military discount code

Car category

The car category refers to the size of the car you pick. It’s fairly self-explanatory, but the price of the car increases alongside the size of the car. Economy or compact vehicles are at the low end while luxury cars are at the high end. 

Fees and charges

Rental car companies nickel and dime you with fees and charges. Some of them are useful, some are mandatory, and others are kind of a gamble. 

Useful ones are like a toll pass or a child’s seat; mandatory charges are things like late charges, special taxes or airport surcharges, which local municipalities require so they don’t have to tax residents; and you’re usually gambling with things like roadside assistance or pre-purchased gas. 

However, if you’re under the age of 25, you should pay attention to whether or not the military discount waives the age requirement. While most rental companies will probably rent to you, they’ll do it for an additional daily fee. 

In general, you should comply with your rental contract and return the car early or on time and with a full tank of gas. 

Coverage options

Rental car companies will offer a range of coverage options, i.e., insurance, but for most people, it’s totally unnecessary because chances are you’re covered by something else. For example, your personal car insurance policy will typically cover you while you’re driving a rental, and even some credit card companies provide coverage if you hold an account with them. To know for sure, review the fine print of your financial products. 

Debit or credit card hold

Before you leave the parking lot, the rental car company will need a debit or credit card on file. Once they do, they will take a deposit out of your account, which they will later return, and then they’ll typically use that card to complete the transaction when you return the car. A good rule of thumb is to make sure you have enough cash or credit to cover the deposit. 

FAQs about military car rental discounts

Q: Can I rent a car if I’m active in the military?

A: Yes, you can. Most car rental companies offer a government rate for servicemen traveling on orders and a leisure rate for personal travel. 

Q: How much of a discount can I get with car rentals?

A: It depends on the rental company. In general, most boast up to 25 percent off the base rate, but rates typically vary depending on time, location, and vehicle. 

Q: Can I get a military discount as a spouse of a military service member?

A: Typically, rental companies don’t, but military spouses can get discounts through third-party sources like USAA.

Final thoughts

Renting a car is expensive, so the best way to save money is to look for deals. Unless you’re a loyalty member, you should always check multiple sources, including public travel sites, in addition to your military discount, and then take whichever offers the best deal. However, the Enterprise military discount comes in as the best overall because it offers the most consistency in quality, options, and percentage off. 

Methodology 

I found the best military discounts for car rentals by researching all the major car rental brands, reviewing their options, and seeing if they even offer military discounts. For the ones that did, I reviewed the fine print to learn the rates and how to apply the discount. Although I focused primarily on percentage off and incentives, I did compare prices when there was an open marketplace, as was the case with USAA. Learn more about our methodology in the Task & Purpose review guide.