When booking a vacation, we all want to make sure we’re getting the best deal possible. From comparison sites to price alerts, there are a number of savvy ways we can try and keep costs down.

Our team of researchers looked to see if using a VPN to book flights, hotels, and car hire could save you money on your next vacation.

How does this work?

A VPN “spoofs” your location by giving you an IP address from another country. For example, a customer in the UK could use a VPN in the US to make it look like they’re an American customer. This means they’ll see the same price as an American customer.

So what did we find?

When it comes to flight and hotel prices, using a VPN to alter your location has little effect – if any. But if you use a VPN to book car hire, you could save over $1,800.

We price checked seven car rental bookings across 5 different companies (Enterprise, Sixt, Hertz, Dollar, and RentalCars.com) in 20 different countries. In many cases, we were quoted different prices for the exact same booking with one provider’s pricing differing by as much as 144 percent.

The car rental bookings we used were:

  • LAX Airport, US, October 1, 2020 to October 15, 2020, Pick Up @ 12:00 PM, Drop off @ 12:00 PM, Economy-Style Car
  • CDG Airport, France, November 5, 2020 to November 10, 2020, Pick Up @ 9:00 AM, Drop Off @ 9:00 AM, Compact-Style Car
  • SYD Airport, Australia, December 12, 2020 to December 13, 2020, Pick Up @ 5:00 PM, Drop Off @ 5:00 PM, SUV-Style Car
  • DXB Airport, UAE, September 7, 2020 to September 20, 2020, Pick Up @ 12:00 PM, Drop Off @ 12:00 PM, Premium SUV-Style Car
  • PHL Airport, US, October 25, 2020 to October 30, 2020, Pick Up @ 12:00 PM, Drop Off @ 9:00 AM, Premium/Luxury Car
  • LHR Airport, UK, August 12, 2020 to August 14, 2020, Pick Up @ 6:00 PM, Drop Off @ 6:00 PM, Premium/Luxury Car
  • MAN Airport, UK, November 1, 2020 to November 15, 2020, Pick Up @ 9:00 AM, Drop Off @ 9:00 AM, Standard Car

Are customers from different countries really given different car rental prices for the exact same vehicle?

To see just how much a VPN can change a car rental price, let’s look at how much the ranges differ by location and site. Please note: we aren’t comparing prices by site as different cars and conditions are offered, but rather the range in price differences for each provider. We have also included RentalCars.com so as to feature a comparison site among the other direct providers. (You can see our full methodology here for more information on how we conducted our research.)

The widest range of prices we were quoted were for Hertz in LHR. There was a difference of $1,834.40 in the prices offered – $351.36 for the UK and $2,185.76 for Colombia.

RentalCars.com has the second-highest variation in the quotes we studied. Sixt, Dollar, and Enterprise also have variations but these are around $200 depending on the location.

Furthermore, to ensure the prices quoted aren’t just a quoted figure which rises after booking, we booked one of the cheaper prices for the LHR booking to see if we really could save hundreds of dollars. And to make sure customers can book car rental when spoofing their location, we booked the reservation in France using a UK credit card.

Our booking with Hertz for the cheaper quote in France from London Heathrow Airport. This booking saved us over $800 compared to booking in the US (where we were quoted $1,179.98).

Now, to explore these differences in more detail, let’s take a look at each individual location.

Booking a rental car from LAX with a VPN

LAX Airport, US, October 1, 2020 to October 15, 2020, Pick Up @ 12:00 PM, Drop off @ 12:00 PM, Economy-Style Car.

Country Used for QuoteEconomy Chevrolet Spark (or Similar)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Economy Car (Mitsubishi Mirage or Similar)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Compact Car - Group BDifference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Ford Fiesta (Thrifty)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Toyota Tacoma or SimilarDifference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)
South Korea$708.3933.09$635.9220$1,099.8665.77$542.3017.42$594.6817.73
South Africa$708.3933.09$1,033.0066.01$624.3711.67$500.279.39$542.718.62

Out of all the quotes we received, the company with the biggest range is Hertz. With $754.66 between the lowest ($555.52) and highest ($1310.18) price, this means there is a difference of 81 percent between the two prices. UK prices are quoted as the cheapest, while India, Pakistan, Vietnam, and Myanmar are quoted as the highest.

The UK also receives the cheapest quote with RentalCars.com at $455.41. This is 32 percent cheaper than the most expensive quote (Japan at $629.29). Argentina was also quoted as having the cheapest prices with two providers – Sixt at $497.85 and Dollar at $507.25. These prices are 20 percent and 33 percent cheaper than the most expensive prices, respectively.

We also found that the quotes from Enterprise seemed to vary quite dramatically. The cheapest price is available in Germany ($520.30), while quotes in the US, Brazil, Italy, Colombia, South Africa, and Argentina were significantly higher ($1,033) – 66 percent more.

Prices displayed when we used a VPN to spoof our location as Argentina.
Prices displayed when we used a VPN to spoof our location as Germany.

Booking a rental car from CDG with a VPN

CDG Airport, France, November 5, 2020 to November 10, 2020, Pick Up @ 9:00 AM, Drop Off @ 9:00 AM, Compact-Style Car.

Country Used for QuoteCompact Renault CapturDifference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Compact (Peugeot 308)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Compact Peugeot 2008Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Citroen C4 (Europcar)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Sedan VW Golf or SimilarDifference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)
South Korea$259.610$238.9335.89$227.7315.3$277.0554.98$406.1037.42
South Africa$259.610$238.7735.82$246.0922.98$239.7041.35$349.8822.86

Due to the cheaper pricing overall, we see less variation in the prices with bookings from Paris Airport. However, what is interesting is how the largest variation comes from RentalCars.com, and Dollar doesn’t vary from country to country at all.

Prices displayed when we used a VPN to spoof our location as France.

For Enterprise, four countries received the cheapest quote ($166.23). Argentina, Colombia, Brazil, and the US were quoted around 37 percent cheaper than other countries. (This is in complete contrast to the previous findings for Enterprise where all four of these countries had the most expensive pricing.) Pakistan received the highest quote ($241.58) but was closely followed by all of the remaining countries (within a few dollars) and we can attribute this to currency conversions.

For Sixt, Thailand has the cheapest quote ($278.09) and South Korea the most expensive ($406.10) – a difference of 37 percent. For Hertz and RentalCars.com, the US was the cheapest with prices of $195.36 and $157.57, respectively. These prices are 38 percent and 65 percent cheaper than the most expensive for these two providers – Turkey ($287.19) and Ukraine ($309.36), respectively.

Booking a rental car from SYD with a VPN

SYD Airport, Australia, December 12, 2020 to December 13, 2020, Pick Up @ 5:00 PM, Drop Off @ 5:00 PM, SUV-Style Car.

Country Used for QuotePremium SUV Mitsubishi PajeroDifference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Standard SUV (Mitsubishi Outlander or SImilar)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)SUV Intermediate Group (Group I) Nissan X-TrailDifference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Mitsubishi Eclipse Cross or Similar (Thrifty)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Van (Hyundai Imax or SImilar)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)
South Korea$197.750.41$264.401.65$96.060.41$76.6416.47$191.320
South Africa$197.930.5$264.731.77$96.150.5$80.6121.47$191.320

For Sydney Airport, we get very little variation for all providers. The only providers that do have some variation (outside of currency conversions) are Enterprise and RentalCars.com.

Vietnam gets the cheapest quote with Enterprise ($260.08) and the American countries get the most expensive again – US, Brazil, Colombia, and Argentina ($319.82). This creates a price difference of 20.6 percent. Furthermore, if we take currency conversion into account, every country aside from the most expensive mentioned before are within the cheapest price range by a few dollars.

For RentalCars.com, the cheapest price is $64.98 for Japan, and the most expensive is $80.61 for South Africa. This is a difference of 21.5 percent.

Booking a rental car from DXB with a VPN

DXB Airport, UAE, September 7, 2020 to September 20, 2020, Pick Up @ 12:00 PM, Drop Off @ 12:00 PM, Premium SUV-Style Car.

Country Used for QuoteMid-size Open Air All Terrain (Jeep Wrangler)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Premium Special (Ford Expedition or Similar)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Luxury SUV (Toyota Landcruiser)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Ford Edge (Alamo)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Premium SUV (Maserati Levante S or Similar)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)
South Korea$1,380.480$3,227.260.01$2,282.8826.07$2,152.4817.13$3,823.680
South Africa$1,380.480$3,279.011.6$2,282.8826.07$2,135.3416.33$3,823.680

As the prices increase again for our booking in Dubai, so too do the ranges in pricing. However, both Sixt and Dollar have no difference in pricing whatsoever. Equally, Enterprise’s range is minimal – only 1 percent between the cheapest and most expensive which we can likely attribute to currency conversions.

However, both Hertz and RentalCars.com have large differences.

For Hertz, there is a 32 percent difference between the most expensive price quoted ($2.426.47 for Turkey) and the cheapest ($1,756.35 for the US).

Prices displayed when we used a VPN to spoof our location as the US.
Prices displayed when we used a VPN to spoof our location as Turkey.

For RentalCars, there is a 28 percent difference between the most expensive price quoted ($2,407.87 for the US) and the cheapest ($1,812.93 for Spain).

Booking a rental car from PHL with a VPN

PHL Airport, US, October 25, 2020 to October 30, 2020, Pick Up @ 12:00 PM, Drop Off @ 9:00 AM, Premium/Luxury Car.

Country Used for QuoteLuxury (Chrysler 300)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Premium (Nissan Maxima or Similar)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Luxury 2/4 Door (Group I) Chrysler 300Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Lincoln MKZ or Similar (Avis)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Ford Fusion (Thrifty)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Premium SUV (Range Rover Velar or Similar)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)
South Korea$461.594.54$493.6015.88$747.0564.09$768.9635.38N/AN/A$407.211.13
South Africa$461.594.54$493.2815.81$384.440N/AN/AN/AN/A$467.6014.93

What’s interesting here is how Enterprise has a similar pattern to our other US location – LAX. Germany is again the location where we get the cheapest quote, while all of the most expensive countries bar one (Spain) are based in America (the US, Brazil, and Colombia). Hertz also follows a similar pattern with majority Asian countries receiving high pricing. But South Africa receives cheaper pricing this time.

Furthermore, for Dollar, the US and Argentina are the only places to receive cheaper pricing, with Argentina scoring the best deal. This too follows the same pattern as our LAX booking.

Options displayed when we used a VPN to spoof our location as Argentina.

When it comes to RentalCars.com, we ran two comparisons due to apparent limitations on countries where the cars we selected are offered.

A premium Lincoln MKZ with Avis was only available in 11 of the countries we used with pricing varying from $537.82 in Germany to $1,201.70 in Colombia. This is a difference of 76 percent. A Ford Fusion with Thrifty was available in 15 countries with prices varying from $292.94 in Thailand and $475.12 in the US. A difference of 47 percent.

Options displayed when we used a VPN to spoof our location as Ukraine.

Booking a rental car from LHR with a VPN

LHR Airport, UK, August 12, 2020 to August 14, 2020, Pick Up @ 6:00 PM, Drop Off @ 6:00 PM, Premium/Luxury Car.

Country Used for QuotePremium Wagon (BMW 3 Wagon or Similar)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Luxury Elite Electric (Tesla Model S or Similar)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Premium SUV (Jaguar F-Pace)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Mercedes-Benz E-Class or Similar (Europcar)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Premium SUV (Jaguar F-Pace or SImilar)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)
South Korea$242.430.04$259.140.01$1,408.09120.12$604.4236.2$427.790
South Africa$242.650.13$259.380.1$403.3313.77$603.7336.09$427.790

For Dollar, the prices quoted for bookings from London Heathrow Airport do vary slightly, but this can be attributed to currency exchange rate variation. There is also very little variation for Sixt with two price tiers – lowest, $427.79 and highest, $474.65. This means the US, UK, and Thailand will pay around 10 percent more than other countries based on these quotes.

Slightly larger variations are seen for Enterprise and RentalCars.com. With a variation of $114.75 for Enterprise, some countries’ quotes are 36 percent more. Equally, when we take currency conversions into account, there also seems to be two price tiers here as well. All countries received cheaper quotes aside from the usual American countries (US, Brazil, Argentina, and Colombia) and Thailand.

For RentalCars.com, there is a difference of $189.13 between the lowest ($419.14) and highest ($608.27) price – nearly 37 percent. The cheapest price was quoted in the US while the highest was in Ukraine. However, several other countries are close to Ukraine’s price and are only slightly cheaper due to currency conversions. No other countries come close to the US’s pricing, though.

The biggest difference we see is for Hertz.

For a Premium SUV, we were quoted $351.36 in the UK, with other European counterparts also receiving a very similar price – Spain, France, and Germany. The price jumped to $1,179.98 for the same car when we got a quote in the US (this is 108 percent more) and it jumped even further to around $1,400 for a number of other countries (mainly Asian). But for two Southern American countries – Colombia and Argentina – the prices skyrocketed to as much as $2,185.76. According to these quotes we received, Colombians and Argentinians would be paying 144 percent more for this car.

Options displayed when we used a VPN to spoof our location as Argentina.
Options displayed when we used a VPN to spoof our location as the UK.

Booking a rental car from MAN with a VPN

MAN Airport, UK, November 1, 2020 to November 15, 2020, Pick Up @ 9:00 AM, Drop Off @ 9:00 AM, Standard Car.

Country Used for QuoteStandard (Hyundai i40 or Similar)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Standard (Vauxhall Insignia or Similar)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Midsize Group D (Skoda Octavia or Similar)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Skoda Octavia or Similar (Europcar)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)Sedan (Skoda Octavia or Similar)Difference Compared to Cheapest Price (%)
South Korea$478.900$534.031.29$451.510.28$565.0734.8$552.320.44
South Africa$478.900$534.031.29$706.5344.31$573.4236.22$552.320.44

To see if the vast difference in pricing we noticed above is due to the location of the car rental (England), we ran another comparison from Manchester Airport.

Again, we do see some differences, but nothing quite as dramatic as the previous search.

There is no variation with Dollar and slight variation for Enterprise and Sixt. The US is again hit with higher quoted prices for Enterprise ($591.28) while the UK receives the lower pricing ($527.20). This is a difference of 11 percent. Most of the other countries are within a few dollars of the UK’s pricing, too.

For Sixt, the tables turn and the UK receives the most expensive quote ($611.89) along with the US and Thailand – over 10 percent more. Spain is the cheapest ($549.88) with most other countries being close to this as well.

The US does, however, get the cheapest quote with RentalCars.com. Here the price is $397.58 while the most expensive (South Africa) is $573.42. A difference of 36 percent.

With a difference of almost 58 percent, Hertz once again has the biggest price range. In a number of countries (primarily Asian), our quoted prices were as little as $450.25, while other countries were around $707 (44 percent more) and Turkey, Kenya, and Ukraine were all more than $815.

Why do some car rental prices seem to change with location?

As we have seen, the prices we have been quoted by providers can vary dramatically by location. So, what could be causing this?

Firstly, there’s the fact that some of these providers only have one website. Dollar, for example, is always Dollar.com – meaning, customers aren’t being redirected to local websites. This probably helps Dollar retain its consistency.

Enterprise has separate websites for some countries but will often redirect customers to their “local” website. For India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Japan, Thailand, Myanmar, Kenya, South Korea, South Africa, and Ukraine, this is often Enterprise.co.uk and displayed prices are in British Sterling currency. This explains why their prices are often the same (or close to) the UK.

We also heard from an Enterprise representative who said:

“Comparing rates from different countries can be misleading as often this means not comparing like with like. For example, in certain countries, it is expected that damage waiver protection will be included as part of the rental price quoted online.

“In this specific case, we tried booking the same rental on our enterprise.com website from a number of locations in Europe, and each time the quote we received was $1033, the same as the rental price from the US. However, when we booked through the local websites, the price was different and quoted in the local currency. This reflects competitor rates in those markets. Customers are encouraged to book their hire car as far in advance as possible to secure the best rates.”

Hertz also has some local websites but these display the same pricing as the .com site but in local currency. Other local websites may only display rental options within that specific country, i.e. Hertz.co.za for South Africa. And RentalCars.com is always the same website but tends to offer pricing in local currency.

Sixt does have a handful of local websites but you aren’t redirected to these from the .com site. The two that did throw up different pricing were .jp (Japan) and .kr (Korea). For the last comparison in Manchester, the price on .com was $549.92 in Japan, but $604.35 for .jp (9 percent difference). The price for .kr was similar ($606.89).

We also contacted Hertz and Sixt for comment (we were unable to find press contacts for the other companies). Hertz declined to comment and we will update the article with Sixt’s comments if/when they reply.

Secondly, dynamic pricing could be at play. This allows them to consider various factors when displaying their prices, including previous rental details, shopping trends, location, and more. In turn, this will allow them to display different price categories to different clientele.

And as we have seen with similar results from the same websites, this could be what is causing the difference in prices for some countries and/or providers. For example:

  • Apart from in Paris, a number of Southern and Northern American countries often received the highest pricing from Enterprise, with Germany and other European or Asian countries often receiving the lowest.
  • Hertz almost appears to have several pricing tiers. European countries tend to find themselves in the lowest bracket, while American and Asian countries are in the middle or high brackets.
  • For RentalCars.com, there doesn’t seem to be too much of a pattern. But as the pricing this website displays will be dictated by individual providers’ pricing (to some extent) this perhaps explains the greater variation here.

Dollar and Sixt don’t offer much variation between their prices, if any.

What’s more, this isn’t the first time the vast difference in car rental prices has been noted. Back in 2014, the European Commission investigated claims that car prices were different depending on the consumer’s location. And Hertz was also quoted as saying that it intended to “further improve its online booking system to facilitate the ability of consumers to shop for the best deal across [its] websites by early September.”

Over 6 years later, it appears as though this isn’t the case.

Prices shown to some customers are wildly different to those being shown to others. And for Enterprise and Hertz especially, there seem to be clear groups of countries that see higher prices than others.

So what location should you book car hire in?

Unfortunately, there isn’t one clear-cut winner across the board. European countries do seem to fair well but may find themselves being charged more in some cases. And American countries do tend to receive the heftier pricing for most locations with both Hertz and Enterprise. But you will get “fairer” pricing with Sixt or Dollar.

Ultimately, you may want to shop around a little more next time you book your car hire. If you’re based in the Americas, switch to a European VPN server to see if that helps bring prices down. And try local sites (i.e. .co.uk) as well as the usual .com ones.

Methodology and limitations

The 20 countries we used for the car rental study are the most populated countries where VPNs are available.

Each car rental search was conducted within a five-hour window to try and avoid too much variation, but prices might have gone up or down during these timescales.

All prices were converted into USD so some leeway has to be given when considering price differences due to the varying currency conversions.

Prices noted were the ones given on each provider’s website and may include additional fees. All prices are for the main age group given by the provider (often 30+).

Enterprise, Sixt, and Hertz have some local websites. Enterprise asks you if you would like to be redirected to your “local” website (which is co.uk) for a number of websites. In these cases, the prices always seemed to be the same as the .com pricing available if you chose not to be redirected.

It’s also important to note that there are some “local” websites, i.e. hertz.ua (for Ukraine) but this isn’t operated by Hertz and is instead an imitation website. Sometimes, the local website (i.e. Hertz.co.za) only offers pricing for the country the website is based in. Dollar.com and RentalCars.com are always .com-based.