How To Avoid Getting Stuck At The Airport Rental Car Counter

The concept of renting a car while traveling is designed to be a service that ideally makes life more convenient. Whether you're heading out on a long-awaited vacation, a family road trip, or you're traveling for business, not having to put miles on your personal vehicle is a big perk. It can also be fun to have the option to rent a luxury car for your getaway when you're looking to elevate the experience without having to make a long-term investment.

The convenience of simply having a car waiting for you upon landing at the airport can't be overlooked either. That is until you head to the rental counter and find yourself standing in a line that might just be longer than the security check you passed through earlier. The popularity of rental cars is definitely on the rise with Statista projecting it to be an industry worth nearly $30 billion by the end of 2023 in the U.S.

While the increase in revenue likely means increased rental car accessibility at airports, longer lines tend to follow in that wake. The good news is that there are options to avoid getting stuck in those rental car counter lines if you plan ahead. With a little organization and strategy, you can be out of line and on the open road in no time.

Enjoy the ease of early check-in

Travelers sometimes tend to fall into old habits at the airport. It can be easy to assume you don't have options beyond that rental car counter line when you arrive at your destination because that's simply the way you've always done things. However, more car rental companies are providing passengers with the option of avoiding the check-in counter altogether and checking in online instead.

Alamo is a great example of a company that has made picking up your rental car more convenient than you might remember it being once upon a time. At select locations, those who have booked their rental car in advance can check in online once they arrive at the airport and sign rental agreements digitally. The program is referred to as Skip the Counter and once the details are in order, all that's left is to head to the lot and pick up your keys and vehicle in person.

They also provide options to skip the line and check in at some locations using handy rental kiosks. The screen walks you through the check-in process step-by-step. Simply make your payment, sign the rental agreement, and be on your way stress-free.

Loyalty goes a long way

Sometimes, skipping the line at the airport rental car counter means aligning yourself with a preferred company before you rent. Loyalty can go a surprisingly long way within the rental car industry. Depending on the company you select, being part of a loyalty rewards program can earn you the privilege of opting out of the line entirely and enjoying getting to your rental car more quickly at the airport.

While there are many car rental companies out there that offer perks through their loyalty program, Hertz Gold Plus Rewards members are notorious for enjoying easy access to the rental lot at major airports. If you're part of this program, you'll enjoy more options when it comes to selecting your rental car as well as the convenience of never having to stand in line at the counter. Upon landing, you can head straight to the rental lot, pick up the keys, and hit the road. Just be sure to include your loyalty program member number when you book through the app and you'll be good to go.

Expand your credit card benefits

If standing in line at the rental car counter just isn't your style, you don't have to stress. In fact, your way out of the line might already be available through your credit card rewards program. If you happen to be the proud owner of an American Express Platinum Card, there's a good chance you're eligible to directly enroll as an elite status member in some of the major car rental company loyalty programs too.

While you'll want to be sure to check on the most up-to-date details for each loyalty program specifically, the American Express Platinum Card does have a partnership with National Car Rental's Emerald Club. This loyalty program utilizes Emerald Checkout. Through this program, members can access their rental car faster at the airport as a loyalty benefit.

If you have an American Express Platinum Card, you can also enroll in Avis Preferred. This membership program includes skip-the-line perks sending participants straight to the rental lot to pick up their vehicle with ease. Members of Avis' Preferred Plus and President's Club can earn vehicle upgrades as well.

Avoid the line by skipping the airport

In some instances, travelers will find the best way to avoid the car rental counter line at the airport is to skip the airport option itself. While this doesn't necessarily seem like a time-saving choice on the surface, it's often surprisingly effective and efficient. If you're not part of a car rental loyalty program, and you don't have elite card member status, heading away from the airport to pick up a rental car could save you both time and money.

Car rentals at the airport are convenient in terms of location. However, they're often significantly higher priced due to airport fees and taxes that are included just for being able to rent on-site. You're also going to run into those long lines simply due to logistics. 

If the airport you're landing at has shuttle services to off-site rental car pick-up destinations, it's often a good way to go. Don't want to hassle with the shuttle? Go for a ride-share instead and confidently leave the stress behind.

Swap rental companies for local hosts

Perhaps a less common but equally available option for skipping the rental counter line at the airport is to choose a car-sharing service like Turo. This is a convenient alternative to going through a traditional car rental company. Turo is a peer-to-peer car rental solution that gives you the choice to select a vehicle online at your destination that an owner is looking to rent out.

Upon arrival, your car is dropped off to you directly at the airport. Through the website, service users can make arrangements for specific drop-off times and dates as well. Cars rented out through local hosts through Turo come with protection plans in place as well as comprehensive cancellation policies for peace of mind.

If you're not in a rush and willing to wait, standing in line at the rental car counter is always an option. That said, hitting the road in a rental car doesn't have to be a hassle when you want to avoid the line. From rewards program benefits and credit card perks to making early check-in a priority, there are simple routes available to get in your rental car and on your way as soon as possible.