Airlines and flying get the lion’s share of attention when it comes to travel planning, but renting a car can actually be the most logistically annoying part of a trip. There are shuttle buses from the airport to off-site counters; the surprise of what type of car is actually available; and long pick-up lines if you aren’t strategic about how you book. Then there are all the extra fees that appear if you aren’t really careful. Add kids, car seats and lots of luggage to the equation, and I legitimately hate the car rental process.
That’s why, since it launched in 2012, I’ve been a Silvercar fan. Nothing can take away all of the car rental pain points, but Silvercar has done a reasonable job trying.
You know you’re getting an Audi (high-quality car seats are included), and Wi-Fi is free. Fees for fuel refueling ($9.95) and using the toll transponder ($4.95), while not as low as they used to be, are still better than many competitors.
If you’re considering renting with Silvercar for the first time, here’s what to expect.
Related: Best credit cards for car rentals
Vehicle types and prices
Once upon a time, Silvercar’s fleet was entirely silver Audi A4 sedans. Now, you have more choices of color (gray, silver or black) and vehicle type, though still all Audis. In fact, Silvercar is now actually owned by Audi, so I don’t expect the vehicle line-up to expand beyond Audi offerings. The exact vehicle line-up varies a bit from location to location, but may include:
- Audi A4 (sedan)
- Audi Q5 (small- to medium-sized crossover SUV)
- Audi A5 Cabriolet (convertible)
- Audi Q7 (three-row SUV)
I’d argue that, if you’re traveling with more than four people — especially with luggage — you really need to get the Q7. The others just aren’t all that specious. Even with just a family of four, we had luggage piled everywhere on a ski trip, making the drive to the mountains from Denver in an A4 a bit too cozy.
The price generally goes up as you progress from the A4 to the Q7. Outside of discounts (we’ll get to that in a minute), the A4 usually starts around $60 per day and the Q7 starts around $90 per day. Obviously, those rates can vary depending on the exact rental location, season and demand. But, though Silvercar is almost never the cheapest rental car option, it isn’t always an order of magnitude higher than competitors when you start stacking discounts.
Silvercar has certainly expanded since its beginnings, but it’s far from everywhere. Currently, you can rent from Silvercar at the following locations:
- Austin-Bergstrom (AUS)
- Boston Logan (BOS)
- Chicago O’Hare (ORD)
- Charlotte Douglas (CLT)
- Dallas Love Field (DAL)
- Denver International (DEN)
- Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood (FLL)
- McCarran International in Las Vegas (LAS)
- Los Angeles International (LAX)
- Miami International (MIA)
- Miami South Beach
- Newark Liberty (EWR)
- New York City — Brooklyn Williamsburg
- New York City — Brooklyn Downtown
- New York City — Manhattan Columbus Circle
- New York City — Manhattan West 42nd Street
- John Wayne Airport in Orange County (SNA)
- Orlando International (MCO)
- Sky Harbor International in Phoenix (PHX)
- San Diego International (SAN)
- Seattle-Tacoma (SEA)
- Salt Lake City (SLC)
- San Francisco International (SFO)
- San Francisco Downtown — Union Square
- Tampa International (TPA)
- Dulles International in Washington, D.C. (IAD)
Silvercar is pretty tech-friendly, which is also to say, if you don’t have a smart phone and don’t use apps, you aren’t probably going to like Silvercar. You can book your Silvercar in either the Silvercar app or on the Silvercar website.
If you need something special, like a car seat, you have to request that directly after you make your rental. It would be nice if you could note those requests at the same time you book your vehicle, but it doesn’t work that way.
Whether or not you want to add something extra to your reservation, be sure to download the Silvercar app prior to picking up your rental, as you’ll need it to pick up the car.
Silvercar has the best car seats in the car rental industry and doesn’t charge for them, but they do run out of stock. If you need the Peg Perego Primo Viaggio Convertible or Peg Perego Viaggio Flex Booster car seats, submit a car seat request, which utilizes Silvercar’s chat feature.
Silvercar’s Denver and Salt Lake City locations offer ski racks at no extra charge, but again, you need to request them online and well in advance.
Pet hammocks are available upon request and cost $25 for the duration of the rental.
Surf racks are available upon request at Silvercar’s San Diego location for no additional charge.
Silvercar’s pick-up process is quirky and variable. It varies dramatically from airport to airport and from city to city.
Earlier this year in Salt Lake City, for example, Silvercar picked my family up at the terminal and away we went in our rental car. The Austin location is also known for that service. But in Denver, you board a shuttle bus and head to an off-site rental facility to get your Silvercar. Sometimes, at drop-off, you can pick-up a Silvercar employee at their airport location, and that employee drives you (and your kids and belongings) to the airport without having to unload a second time. However, that feature isn’t consistently available anymore, so the experience really varies.
To learn the exact pick-up process for your airport location, you’ll need to either check Silvercar’s website or pay attention to the instructions they’ll text you on the day of pick up. You can notify Silvercar of your arrival in the app when you land at your chosen airport and pick-up instructions will display.
If you are renting from one of the city locations in Brooklyn, Manhattan and San Francisco, Silvercar will deliver and/or pick up the vehicle upon request from you for a fee of $75 to $100, depending on the day of the week.
Regardless of when and where you retrieve your Silvercar, you will need the app to scan a code on the car to pick it up and complete the rental pick-up process.
There are no paper contracts, upsells or lines to wait in, which is pretty nice. On the other hand, I’ve never experienced an upgrade with Silvercar, so be sure to book exactly the vehicle you want.
Save on Silvercar
New customer offers
If you are a new Silvercar customer, you’ll save 20% on your first rental with the code FIRST20. You can also stack a referral code to earn a $25 virtual Visa gift card with your first completed rental. My Silvercar referral code is SHULL, and here are some instructions on how to enter the code in the account section of a Silvercar profile prior to the first rental to earn that perk.
- If you have a Visa Infinite credit card, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve, the code VISAINF20 will save you 20% on Silvercar rentals.
- Silvercar periodically releases seasonal discount codes. Currently, FALL20 will save you 20% through Nov. 24.
- Stay on the lookout for Amex Offers that can sometimes help you save on rentals.
Audi owner’s program
If you own an Audi, you can score additional Silvercar deals. Through Dec. 31, 2019, Audi owners get one free day on each two-day rental and two free days on four-day rentals. If you are in the market for a 2019 Audi, those purchases and leases come with seven free Silvercar rental days.
In August 2019, Silvercar introduced a loyalty program called Premium Rewards. You earn one point per dollar spent on the base car rental rate. Points can then be used to offset the base rate of a future rental at a rate of approximately 9.5 cents per point, based on our tests.
Once you have enough points to cover at least 50% of the base rate of a rental you can cash them in. Taxes and fees will still have to be paid with good old-fashioned cash.
Is it worth it?
Sometimes, a Silvercar rental feels infinitely more luxurious and high-tech than your regular car rental experience. Those situations are usually when you are picked-up and/or dropped off at the terminal, the app is downloaded and works as it should and you are on your way within minutes in the Audi of your rental car dreams. In those cases, it has always felt worth it — especially if you needed a ski rack or child seat.
For example, last year we rented Silvercar for a Colorado ski trip, and our Silvercar Audi rental handled the icy and snowy roads just fine, whereas my parent’s compact rental car was literally sliding down the the driveway and had to be manually pushed up a hill. (Don’t try that at home.)
But in cases where you are still dealing with the off-airport shuttle, don’t require a specific type of car or you couldn’t secure the complimentary extras you needed (like a car seat), Silvercar isn’t always worth the price tag.
Since I am still in the car seat phase of life and like to know exactly what type of vehicle I’m getting, those issues alone make Silvercar worth it for family vacations that involve time spent in a car. But if it’s just me, and I simply need a car to get me from Point A to Point B, I don’t always decide Silvercar is worth the premium on those trips — especially at locations where the pick-up process isn’t much better than what you’d find with competitors.
Featured image courtesy of Silvercar