Car rental companies - are the smaller ones just as good?

When searching online, I’ve noticed an increasing number of car rental companies beyond the well-known ones.

Couldn’t find any comparisons by CHOICE so wondering if anyone has any experience with these or has compared conditions, quality etc of small ones (eg Enterprise, No Birds) with the big ones (eg Avis)


In the US Enterprise is not exactly small. They started catering to locals who needed a replacement during servicing and smash repairs and grew from that. I have rented from them in the USA many times with never a bad experience. They since have been expanding globally. Their systems are not as slick as the majors but IME their vehicle quality and service was right up there with competitive prices.

I also have used Avis, Hertz, and Budget from time to time and found that particular depots / agencies were often more disparate than the experiences across brands, from customer service to the vehicles on hand to their opening hours to their convenience.


It’s a good question to ask.

I’ve used Meteor in Townsville and Mount Isa. I’d rate the Mount Isa Branch as Ok, Townsville a 5/10 and have not used their Cairns branch.

Some of the smaller companies only operate in one location, or region. It may be difficult to find sufficient numbers of users able to provide reliable assessments?

We have regular experience of the big three for work and private use over 40 years. My experience is similar to @PhilT. The quality of service depends more on the branch location and staff than the brand.

When I tried to book some time past with ‘No Birds’ and another smaller provider in Brisbane they were all booked out. Smaller operators may have less vehicles to call on. It is not a common experience with the larger national brands.


While we’ve never published a side-by-side comparison, I’ll be sure to mention your post for consideration of a future review.

This advice on hidden car hire fees and other catches may also assist.


I’ve also used Enterprise in the USA, and was very happy with them. I booked a deal online that seemed too good to be true - a ‘luxury’ model at the same price as a ‘compact’. The car we got was a Chrysler 300C with less than 50 miles on the clock. The staff were very helpful and friendly.


We’ve used No Birds and were pleasantly surprised with the quality of the vehicle and the staff.

i agree with @PhilT that it is often down to the staff, having experienced an unpleasant staff member when taking a vehicle and a very pleasant one on returning it at the same office of a big brand firm.


They could not be worse than the experience which I previouslt posted under the topic

In 2009, our elder daughter experienced a customer disservice from hell with Budget Car Rentals’ Darwin branch, which I posted on the former Not Good Enough website, and which I have copied below.

“27.06.2009. My daughter arrived at Budget Darwin airport desk for car she reserved with 2 baby seats for 3 year & 16-month-old girls. Employee couldn’t enter vouchers in system. Finally completed. Told to fit baby seats herself. 45 minutes from arrival to driving off.

On return, had to get girls & baggage from furthest point in car park. No trolley. Left mobile in car. Budget desk unattended.

Rang me from Bali that night re mobile left behind.

28.06.2009. I rang it. Answered by Budget employee at airport desk. Asked her to return it. I would pay costs. Said she would & advise manager.

09.07.2009. Called again. Spoke to manager, Nadia, who knew nothing about it. Gave me city number. Spoke with Chantelle. Said mobile was in office desk & would be sent by Pack & Send, as Australia Post do not accept mobiles. Charges COD. Gave address again.

16.07.2009. Spoke with Nadia. Still knew nothing. Said Chantelle in city. Spoke with Andrew. Said Chantelle at airport. Asked him to get her to call me.

She called and asked for brand of mobile and address. I said it was third time, to which she retorted that she was not the one who left it in the hire car.

Said she would post mobile. I reminded her what she told me on last call re Pack & Send.

22.07.2009. Called city office. Spoke with Andrew. Said it had been sent. Didn’t know how, when or who sent it, or where Chantelle was.

Called airport. Kate said she didn’t know where Chantelle was. Nadia was in meeting.

Called Pack & Send Darwin. Manager was extremely helpful & called back to advise no pickups from Budget Darwin in past 2 weeks. & nothing sent to me. If shipment was COD, they would have contacted me to payment.

Rang Budget’s HO to speak with customer service manager. Given NZ email address.

23.07.2009. Received email from Daria. Asked Darwin regional manager, Phil, to investigate & return mobile.

Advised her that my daughter had no means of communication when travelling between mine site and coast with 2 young girls in event of breakdown, accident, or other mishap, and mobiles were not sold on the island where she lives.

Two of my daughter’s friends were returning to mine site on 27.07.2009. Had same 5 hour wait in Darwin. Requested mobile be available at Budget airport desk.

No response. Phoned NZ. Said she would contact Darwin. Mobile not found. Last opportunity to return it to Indonesia lost.

24.07.2009. Received email from Phil. Believed mobile sent, but if they lost it, they would pay for replacement.

August. Phil called. Said mobile found behind cabinet during cleanup. Would be sent. Again asked for my address.

11.09.2009. Called Phil again. Said he would follow up.

22.09.2009. Sent Phil email. Rejected as incorrect address, as per previous emails Same one he sent email on 24.07.2009. Rang him. Said he would follow up.

24.09.2009. Phil called. Said Pack & Send had mobile. Definitely be delivered that afternoon. They could not understand how it took 3 weeks.

Waited all day & next day. Rang Phil. Said they would call Pack & Send Monday.

28.09.2009. No response. To my amazement, mobile arrived, 3 months to day I first contacted Budget.

Contrary to claim it was sent with Pack & Send, it arrived in Australia Post padded bag, inside Australia Post Express satchel. Battery detached from phone. Placed together in bag. Same signature on Dangerous Goods Declaration on bag and satchel.

Called Pack & Send Darwin. Manager advised they didn’t sent it. They would not have used Australia Post.

I have dealt with Budget for many years, spending thousands on business hire cars, starting in the early 1970’s when Bob Ansett’s motto was “We try harder”, and their customer service was excellent.

Unfortunately, the only motto that would befit the Darwin operations would be “We could not be more trying”.

Needless to say, our family will never deal with Budget again."


From the time I posted the above article about the disgraceful service at Budget Darwin on the former Not Good Enough website in 2009 to the time NGE shut down around 2012, the post had been read around 2,000 times.

Now it has another lease of life here.

Some businesses just seem to prefer to learn the hard way.

Bad customer service reviews. “The gift that just keeps on giving”."


That’s been my experience with no birds, too. Decent cars, great rates, and no scams. My last experience with Budget was a rental that I unfortunately damaged when I backed into a low fence. Budget’s first response was to debit my credit card account $4,000 and then I went through a tortuous process getting back the difference between what the repair actually cost and the $4,000. Never again.


I have rented cars in the US and in Europe and never had any problems with the cars and the rental firms. One problem in US is that there may be a shortage of cars ready at the smaller airports - pays to get to the booking desk fast on landing. Mostly i have had no issues with Australian rental firms in Australia but the difference of terms and conditions, high costs, add-on costs, unreasonable damage conditions, prohibition of driving on non-tarred roads - many of these are not found in US, Asia and Europe.
I did use a small WA company which decided to charge me for a car damaged by some thieves that I had rented but had returned to the company’s car park.
In summary upon hearing stories from tourists to our country I consider that legislation is necessary to make Australian car rental firms have reasonable conditions and prices.


Hope these two videos from the ABC’s Checkout help.

I have rented a people mover from a small company that I found on Gumreee. I personally did not have any issues and the reason that I went with them was the cost and according to my agreement, my liability was limited to their insurance excess which was about $1500. I got car hire excess insurance to cover that.

Even with this insurance, it was still cheaper for me to get the car from them than getting it from established companies.

If you watch those two videos, you’d find that some people have found out that:

  • There can still be out of pocket expenses even you have the highest cover
  • Insurances offered at the car rental companies are not good and wont cover you in certain instances

Please also check if there are extra costs for taking the car out of the state.



It is ‘prohibited’ to take a rental around the NW-N of Maui (Hawaiians). It is a fairly remote and interesting drive with narrow paved windy roads with services far between (as the islands go). If you have a breakdown you either pay to have the vehicle repatriated or buy them a new one. The conditions for rental remind one of home :wink:



An interesesting article warning consumers about vehicle rental rip-offs.