The Most and Least Expensive Cities to Rent a Car This Holiday Season

FinanceBuzz collected data on rental car costs in 100 of the most popular U.S. Thanksgiving and Christmas destinations to find the most and least expensive cities for renting a car, including EVs and SUVs.

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Updated May 13, 2024
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Every year, millions of people fly home to celebrate the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. For many of those travelers, renting a car is a necessary part of the journey. But rental car prices vary greatly across the country, and some people will have to pay more (and in some cases much more) than others for their holiday rental.

To help travelers avoid sticker shock, we looked at rental car prices in the 100 most popular cities for holiday travel, including SUV and electric vehicle (EV) prices. Thanksgiving data covers a four-day period beginning the day before the holiday (Nov. 22) and ending the Sunday after (Nov. 26). Christmas data covers a 10-day period starting on Dec. 23 and ending on Jan. 2.

In this article

How much does it cost to rent a car for the holidays?

The short answer is it depends on the rental car. Different people have different preferences and needs. While you might be fine with whatever is available, others need an SUV or want to drive a more eco-friendly car.

Travelers who don’t need a specific kind of vehicle can get the best deal on a rental, as the average car rental costs just $79 per day at Thanksgiving and $69 per day at Christmas.

But families or people with lots of luggage may prefer an SUV. Renting an SUV costs $129 per day at Thanksgiving and $105 per day at Christmas. Those costs are similar to what it costs to rent an electric vehicle during the holidays, as an EV has daily average costs of $120 at Thanksgiving and $107 at Christmas.

Where it costs the most to rent a car for Christmas

Unfortunately, not everyone has access to a sleigh and team of magical reindeer to help them get around during Christmastime, so travelers have to pay to rent a car instead.

Ranking City Average cost per day
1 Pensacola, FL $102.10
2 Lihue, HI $99.60
3 Kona, HI $96.40
4 Jackson, MS $94.30
5 Columbia, SC $92.10
6 Newark, NJ $91.20
7 Rochester, NY $90.30
8 Baton Rouge, LA $89.90
9 Anchorage, AK $88.10
10 Colorado Springs, CO $88.00

At the high end, rental cars are more affordable around Christmas and New Year’s than during Thanksgiving. This is good news for anyone traveling at this time of year, but especially for anyone traveling far away for both of those holidays. Saving money on your car rental could free up funds to cover other rental-related expenses, such as gas and rental insurance.

Pensacola, Florida, is the most expensive city to rent a car at Christmas, costing $102 per day on average. At Thanksgiving, it cost $110 on average to rent a car in the same city, which was the 10th-highest rate in the country for that holiday.

Newark, New Jersey, the most expensive city for Thanksgiving rentals, joins Pensacola among the most costly. It’s the sixth-most expensive at Christmas ($91 on average).

Interestingly, one city that was among the least expensive for Thanksgiving rentals (Kona, HI) is among the most expensive at Christmastime. While Thanksgiving rentals cost just $53 per day on average in Kona, those costs jump to $96 per day at Christmas.

Where it costs the least to rent a car for Christmas

Just like the highs aren’t quite as high when it comes to rental car costs at Christmas compared to Thanksgiving, the lows aren’t quite as low either.

Ranking City Average cost per day
1 Akron, OH $45.90
2 Philadelphia, PA $46.10
3 Norfolk, VA $47.40
4 Manchester, NH $47.60
5 Indianapolis, IN $48.30
6 Tampa, FL $48.40
7 Raleigh, NC $48.70
8 Boston, MA $49.70
9 Richmond, VA $50.10
10 San Jose, CA $50.70

Akron, Ohio, is the city where Christmas rental cars are most affordable, costing $46 per day on average. In fact, seven of the cities on this list are located on the U.S. East Coast, including the only two cities that were also among the least expensive for Thanksgiving rental cars (Philadelphia and Tampa).

San Jose, California, is the only city in the entire Western portion of the country to land in the top 10.

How much does it cost to rent an SUV for Christmas?

Extra room can be especially important at Christmastime, as presents from Santa can mean travelers go home with more stuff than they left with. Across the country, the average SUV rental costs $105 per day during Christmas and New Year’s (Dec. 23 through Jan. 2).

How much does it cost to rent an EV for Christmas?

Electric vehicles follow the same pattern as cars and SUVs in that they are generally more affordable at Christmas compared to Thanksgiving. Across the country, the average EV rental costs $107 per day during Christmas and New Year’s (Dec. 23 through Jan. 2).

Where it costs the most to rent a car for Thanksgiving

So which Turkey Day travelers will have to pony up the most money for a rental car before enjoying a day full of food, football, and parade floats?

Ranking City Average cost per day
1 Newark, NJ $174.00
2 New York, NY $155.25
3 White Plains, NY $139.00
4 Boston, MA $138.50
5 Palm Springs, CA $118.25
6 Buffalo, NY $113.50
7 Fayetteville, AR $113.25
8 Memphis, TN $112.25
9 Little Rock, AR $110.00
10 Pensacola, FL $109.50

No matter how you slice it, anyone planning to celebrate Thanksgiving in the Big Apple should expect to pay a pretty penny if they want to rent a car. The three most expensive cities in the country to rent a car for Thanksgiving are all in the greater New York City area, with Newark leading the way, thanks to an average daily cost of $174.

A variety of factors contribute to the costs of car rentals this year. Julie Bausch Lent, Managing Editor at NPR's Car Talk, explains:

“The 2023 holiday season will be a little less drastic in terms of rental car rates due to the rental car companies having slightly more robust rental fleets as vehicle shortages begin to ease up. Rates will not be what they were prior to the pandemic, however. Inflation, cost of fuel, lack of charging infrastructure in some areas (if you're renting EVs), and the US mechanic shortage all play their own small part in keeping prices high.

I would conjecture that New York is still one of the most expensive cities to rent a car for the holidays. I don't see that changing anytime soon. There's a lot of demand and a lot of options as well. Multiple airports and multiple transportation options for consumers. More remote areas with less tourism draw will undoubtedly be less expensive.”

New York City proper is second at $155.25 daily, while nearby White Plains, New York, is third at $139 per day. Even renting a car in Boston and driving down to NYC would result in minimal savings, as Boston is the fourth-most expensive ($138.50).

Where it costs the least to rent a car for Thanksgiving

While renting a car in some cities will cost travelers hundreds of dollars over the course of the holiday weekend, rentals for the same time frame in other places cost just a fraction of that price.

Ranking City Average cost per day
1 Miami, FL $22.75
2 Fort Lauderdale, FL $27.00
3 Kahului, HI $48.25
4 Fort Myers, FL $48.75
5 Tampa, FL $49.75
6 Kona, HI $52.75
7 Honolulu, HI $54.25
8 Sacramento, CA $54.50
T-9 Orlando, FL $54.75
T-9 Philadelphia, PA $54.75

Cities in two warm-weather vacation hotspots — Florida and Hawaii — take up 8 of the 10 spots where Thanksgiving rentals are most affordable.

Overall, Miami, Florida, is the most affordable city for holiday car rentals at just $22.75 per day. A little farther north in Fort Lauderdale, costs are similar, with travelers paying just $27 per day on average. Fort Myers ($48.75), Tampa ($49.75), and Orlando ($54.75) are three more cities in the Sunshine State that made the cheap list.

Three cities on three different Hawaiian islands also landed in the top 10, with Kahului being the most affordable at $48 per day on average. That’s the third-lowest rate in the country. Rental cars in Kona cost $52.75 per day during Thanksgiving, while rentals in the state capital of Honolulu will set travelers back just slightly more, with an average cost of $54 per day.

How much does it cost to rent an SUV for Thanksgiving?

Thanksgiving kicks off the busy holiday season as people visit family for food and fun. Across the country, the average SUV rental costs $129 per day during Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 22 through Nov. 26).

How much does it cost to rent an EV for Thanksgiving?

Most rental car companies now include electric vehicles as part of their fleets. These are great options for environmentally-conscious travelers or others looking to try out an EV.

Beyond the benefits EVs provide to the environment, electric vehicles are also a way to save money on gas during long road trips. Even the best gas rewards credit cards can’t compete with EV fuel savings.

For anyone who is looking to rent an EV for the road, we found the cities where electric vehicles are the most and least affordable.

Electric vehicles cost a little less than SUVs to rent during Thanksgiving but a good deal more than gas-powered cars. Across the country, the average EV rental costs $120 per day during Thanksgiving weekend (Nov. 22 through Nov. 26).

Tips for finding the best rental car deals

There are many factors to consider when choosing a rental car company — whether it’s the peak holiday season or you’re just looking to get away for a weekend. Here are some tips for how you can stay true to your budget.

  • Book in advance to avoid unnecessary fees. Waiting until the last minute to reserve a car can result in extra expenses and vehicle shortages. Book well in advance, and follow our tips and tricks in order to save some extra money on car rentals.
  • Decide where to get auto rental car insurance. If you opt for primary auto rental coverage through the rental agency (rather than your personal insurance policy), then you might avoid filing a claim on your personal policy in case of an accident.
  • Consider joining a rental rewards program. Many rental car companies have rewards programs for upgrades and freebies. One example is Hertz Gold Plus Rewards, which offers loyalty perks at various status levels. Earned points can be put towards future free car rentals, or they may be transferred for use at select airlines.


FinanceBuzz collected data on the total and daily costs to rent cars in each of the cities on BestPlace’s list of the 100 most popular U.S. cities for the holidays. Data was collected via Kayak using their “Recommended” results setting. We collected data covering all available vehicles as well as data relating to EVs and SUVs specifically. For each category, we collected data on 45 listings or a location’s full inventory if fewer than 45 cars were available.

Author Details

Josh Koebert

Josh Koebert is an experienced content marketer that loves exploring how personal finance overlaps with topics such as sports, food, pop culture, and more. His work has been featured on sites such as CNN, ESPN, Business Insider, and Lifehacker.