Love satellite radio? Unfortunately, if you want it in your rental car, you’ll have to through the nose for it.
Why is satellite radio so expensive? Because one company—SiriusXM—has a monopoly, which lets it set whatever price it likes. Rental car companies are also looking for ways to maximize profits, so they mark up the price even further. If you want satellite radio in your rental car, you can expect to pay $5 to $8 per day on top of the rental rate and all the usual taxes, fees and surcharges.
Still, we enjoy having access to excellent in-car entertainment. Here are some great alternatives to paying extra for satellite radio in your rental car.
Bring Your Own SiriusXM Subscription in Your Rental Car
Already a customer of SiriusXM? You might already have a way to avoid the fees charged by the rental car companies.
If you have a removable SiriusXM radio in your own vehicle, there’s an option with no incremental cost. If you have a portable radio such as the Onyx Plus, you can simply pack it up for road trips. That model works via FM modulation (where the XM signal plays over a blank radio station) or through an auxiliary cable. If you already pay for satellite radio at home, it’s worth the effort to bring your satellite radio along in a rental car.
Moving your own radio is just one possibility. If you subscribe to the higher-tier XM All Access, you can use Bluetooth or bring an auxiliary cable and stream the service from your cell phone to the car’s radio system. The XM All Access plan costs a few dollars more per month but it lets you avoid lugging around a radio receiver and all of its accessories.
Alternatives to SiriusXM in a Rental Car
If you don’t have a SiriusXM subscription, there are many apps that can provide fantastic in-car entertainment through your cell phone, so long as you have unlimited data plan and continuous cell phone coverage. These include:
Tips on Using Entertainment in a Rental Car
When using your personal technology in a rental car, privacy is one consideration to consider. The car might recognize your phone as a media player if you connect using Bluetooth or a USB port, but in general you don’t want the rental car to obtain information about you. We recommend using an auxiliary cable or FM modulation instead of Bluetooth.
Think about power and connector needs in advance. If you’re bringing a cell phone with a 12-volt adapter and a satellite radio with a 12-volt adapter that requires an AUX IN connection, then you need a car with two 12-volt adapters and an AUX IN connection.
Bring all the cables you need. Many rental car companies now have boxes of overpriced cables for sale on the counter.
Sign up for rental car companies’ frequent renter programs. At airports with Avis’ Select & Go, Hertz Gold Choice, or National Emerald Club Aisles, a member can choose the vehicle. Rather than being assigned a car, you can check multiple cars to find one with the entertainment solution you want.
SiriusXM Prices at Major Rental Car Companies
- Alamo: $5.99 per day, $24.99 per week, or $49.98 maximum for 30 days.
- Avis: $7.99 per day or $29.99 per week.
- Budget: $7.99 per day or $29.99 per week.
- Dollar: $4.99 per day.
- Enterprise: $5.99 per day, $24.99 per week, or $49.98 maximum for 30 days.
- Hertz: $4.99 per day.
- National: $5.99 per day, $24.99 per week, or $49.98 maximum for 30 days.
- Thrifty: $4.99 per day.