With the upcoming Hari Raya festivities and school holidays coming up, you might already be planning a road trip in Malaysia with the family. But since renting a car in Singapore to drive across the border can be expensive, we decided to investigate the car rental options in JB itself.
Turns out that there are a handful of decent and affordable car rental options conveniently located close to Johor Bahru’s CIQ / City Square area.
In this article, I check out the most legit car rental companies with two pretend holiday itineraries in mind:
- 4D3N Hari Raya getaway – Wed 5 Jun to Sat 8 Jun
- Random day trip – Sat 22 Jun to Sun 23 Jun
Read on to find out which car rental is the cheapest.
5 best car rental companies in JB near City Square
Here’s an extremely simplified snapshot of the car rental options I found in Johor Bahru:
|Car rental company||Cheapest daily rate – sedan||Cheapest daily rate – MPV|
|Wahdah||RM130.83 ($43.04) for Perodua Axia||RM250 ($82.25) for Proton Exora CPS|
|Hertz / Sime Darby||RM132.50 ($43.59) for Proton Saga||–|
|Europcar||RM139 ($45.73) for Proton Saga||RM319 ($104.95) for Nissan X-Trail|
|Hawk Rent a Car||RM162 ($53.30) for Perodua Bezza||–|
|Sixt||RM175.85 ($57.85) for Perodua Axia||RM379.06 ($124.71) for Proton Exora|
Wahdah Car Rental
Wahdah isn’t what you’d consider a regular car rental company. From this VulcanPost article on their business model, Wahdah doesn’t seem to maintain its own fleet the traditional way. Instead, their rentals belong to regular people who don’t mind renting out their underutilised cars.
That explains why Wahdah has the most vehicle options of the 6 car rental companies I looked at. It’s a smart way to run a car rental business, although I get that it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.
Fortunately, the user experience is very similar to that of renting a car with any traditional company. You book the vehicle on their website, submit the necessary documents (e.g. ID, driving license) online, and go down to the Wahdah office or designated pick-up point to meet the staff and collect the car. No need to interact with the actual owner of the car.
I’ve read a few good reviews of Wahdah by Singaporeans and personally would use them, but it was disappointing that they did not allow me to book any car for collection on Wed 5 June due to the Hari Raya holiday.
Also they force you to book a minimum of 5 nights during the festive season, which meant that I had to change my “trip” dates to Thu 6 Jun to Tue 11 Jun, which also jacked the cost up unnecessarily.
|Type of car||Day trip (2D1N)||Hari Raya (6D5N)|
|Sedan||RM130.83 ($43.04) for Perodua Axia||RM660 ($217.14) for Perodua Axia|
|Sedan||RM235 ($77.31) for Honda Jazz||RM1,120 ($368.47) for Nissan Almera|
|MPV||RM250 ($82.25) for Proton Exora CPS||RM1,174.50 ($386.40) for Proton Exora Bold CFE|
|MPV||RM300 ($98.70) for Toyota Innova E||RM1,350 ($444.14) for Toyota Innova E|
Although I’d rule Wahdah out for my imagined Hari Raya trip, I do think the low rates and wide availability make it a great car rental option for regular JB day trips.
I love that there’s a “Live Car” option which shows you cars that are available on super short notice – you can collect the car as early as 30 minutes after booking, which is really good for spontaneous visits.
They have one of the best pickup locations for Singaporeans – the Caltex right outside JB checkpoint. You do need to pay about a RM45 surcharge to pick up the car at Caltex. You can save the RM45 if you pick up the car at the Wahdah office (~20min by Grab) but it’s a reasonable rate for the convenience in my opinion.
Bear in mind that Wahdah will collect a deposit of typically RM300 when you rent (instead of blocking an amount on your credit card like traditional car rental companies). This will be refunded after 3 weeks assuming there’s no issue with the return.
Hertz Malaysia / Sime Darby
I’m just as surprised as you are that the seemingly atas international company, Hertz, has some of the cheapest rates for car rentals in JB.
They also had cars available on my desired travel dates of 5 Jun to 8 Jun. Among the few that were available over this period, Hertz Malaysia’s starting rate was the cheapest: RM467.49 for a Proton Saga, compared to RM528.15 at Avis. Sixt quoted RM474.81, which is close, but it’s for the lousier Perodua Axia.
Unfortunately, they don’t seem to have any MPVs available, which is kind of a dealbreaker if the whole clan is tagging along.
Here are the rates I found for a budget Malaysian sedan and a, uh, regular one:
|Type of car||Day trip (2D1N)||Hari Raya (4D3N)|
|Sedan||RM132.50 ($43.59) for Proton Saga||RM467.49 ($153.80) for Proton Saga|
|Sedan||RM164.30 ($54.05) for Hyundai Elantra||RM562.89 ($185.19) for Hyundai Elantra|
If I had to nitpick, it’s that the Hertz website isn’t all that upfront about pricing. For example, there’s a festive surcharge for the Hari Raya period, but it’s not clearly broken down. And it’s only when you get to the checkout page that you realise you have to add on Malaysian SST (Sales & Service Tax).
The location of the Hertz office in JB looks very central – next to Puteri Pacific JB, just across the street from City Square – but note that you do have to cut through a small alley to get there. The office itself is located in a perfectly respectable building, Menara Ansar.
Final note: You can earn KrisFlyer miles when you rent from Hertz Malaysia.
Another established international car rental company that’s also surprisingly affordable is Europcar Malaysia, and it’s also a local forum favourite due to the professionalism of their service offered.
Even though Europcar sounds expensive, it’s not all that much more expensive than Hertz or even Wahdah.
Sadly, rentals over the Hari Raya period are completely unavailable, and I only managed to find prices for my projected day trip later in the month. The MPV selections were kind of limited as well.
|Type of car||Day trip (2D1N)|
|Sedan||RM139 ($45.73) for Proton Saga|
|Sedan||RM155 ($50.99) for Nissan Almera|
|MPV||RM319 ($104.95) for Nissan X-Trail|
The location of the Europcar JB office is terrific. It’s in Baguss City Hotel, which is right across the street from Komtar JBCC (the swanky mall next to City Square).
As with Hertz, you can earn KrisFlyer miles when you rent with Europcar.
One (purely anecdotal) thing to note is that the staff may subject the returned car with greater scrutiny than, say, start-ups like Wahdah or SMEs like Hawk Rent a Car. So be diligent in checking the rental car for scratches and dings before you drive away.
Hawk Rent a Car
Hawk Rent a Car was a recommendation that was floating around HardwareZone forum, and I gathered that its key selling point is that it’s not as strict with the condition of the returned car as the other players.
It’s also kind of a “no brand” car rental company compared to Hertz and Europcar, although it does have a Singapore office so it can’t be totally dodge.
But does that mean they have cheaper car rental rates? Here’s what I found. (Again, no availability during Hari Raya.)
|Type of car||Day trip (2D1N)|
|Sedan||RM162 ($53.30) for Perodua Bezza|
|Sedan||RM172 ($56.59) for Nissan Almera|
Hmm, rates look reasonable, but the problem is that Hawk strangely doesn’t offer the typical Perodua Axia and Proton Saga models as its entry-level car. Instead, it’s a Perodua Bezza, which is usually more expensive.
I’d be a little bit worried about selecting this category (Perodua Bezza “or similar”) expecting a Bezza, but they give me an Axia instead. If going with Hawk, it can’t hurt to give them a call to find out what car exactly is available.
They also don’t seem to have any 7-seater MPVs available. The uppermost tiers are “Group E – SUV” and “Group F – Full size” but the cars shown are the Honda BR-V and Honda Civic, which are 5-seaters.
The Hawk Rent a Car office is located in the same building as Hertz / Sime Darby – Menara Ansar, across the street from (via a small alley) City Square mall.
Sixt Car Rental
Sixt Car Rental is somewhat off the beaten path because it’s not quite spitting distance from JB immigration / City Square, but it’s actually quite convenient if you don’t mind the 10-minute walk to the Jalan Dhoby area. The Sixt office is located near this cluster of hipster cafes and famous eateries, along Jalan Ibrahim.
Perhaps the trek through the sun would explain why Sixt appears to have the greatest availability of vehicles for the Hari Raya period.
|Type of car||Day trip (2D1N)||Hari Raya (4D3N)|
|Sedan||RM175.85 ($57.85) for Perodua Axia||RM474.81 ($156.21) for Perodua Axia|
|Sedan||RM324.15 ($106.64) for Honda City||RM972.44 ($319.93) for Honda City|
|MPV||RM379.06 ($124.71) for Proton Exora||RM1,137.17 ($374.12) for Proton Exora|
|MPV||RM557.14 ($183.30) for Toyota Innova||RM1,671.41 ($549.88) for Toyota Innova|
But I’m not absolutely sure they’re available because the website seems to be mainly for putting in requests rather than actually booking cars. Only selected cars can be booked online immediately, but most of them require you to wait 2 days to be contacted for a follow-up.
For rental cars that you can book online immediately, you can enjoy a cheaper rate if you pay online rather than at the point of rental, similar to hotel booking sites like Agoda. For example, you can book the Perodua Axia for 4D3N over Hari Raya for RM474.81 ($156.21) if you pay online instead of RM527.56 ($173.56) normally.
If you don’t select the cheaper rate and pay online, all other Sixt car rental bookings can be cancelled for free at any point.
Since Sixt is one of the KrisFlyer partners, you can also get miles when you book with Sixt, as with Hertz and Europcar.
What about renting a car in Singapore to drive to Malaysia?
You might be thinking that it’s quite a lot of hassle to rent a car only after going over to JB – why not just rent a car in Singapore and drive over instead?
One issue is cost. Car rental companies in Singapore typically want you to pay a surcharge or opt for a “Malaysia package” ($$$) to drive their cars to Malaysia.
I took a quick look at car rental aggregator Drive.SG (checked “Drive into Malaysia” as one of the filter options) to see what was on offer.
For a 4D3N trip over Hari Raya, starting rates are $372 for a Toyota Vios or $419.50 for Toyota Altis. In contrast, renting a Hyundai Elantra from Hertz Malaysia would set you back only RM562.89 ($185.19), at least halving your costs. I couldn’t find any 7-seaters available for Hari Raya.
Regular overnight rental for day trips aren’t cheap either. The most reasonable rate I found on Drive.SG is $131.88 for a Toyota Vios or Nissan Almera. That’s also at least twice the price of renting a Nissan Almera from Europcar – RM155 ($50.99) – or Hawk – RM172 ($56.59). Yikes.
Personally I’d rather drive a Malaysian car in Malaysia – a Singapore license plate, especially on a nice-looking car, is just going to be catnip to car thieves and vandals.
Unless I really need a car to drive back to Singapore with my Tampoi Lighting Centre loot, for example, I think it’s a lot more efficient to rent from JB and cross the Causeway by train.
What about just using Grab to get around?
Car rental in JB may be cheap, but it’s still a bit of a hassle compared to, say, taking a GrabCar where you don’t have to care about parking, petrol, damage or whatever.
If your primary objective is to go to just one or two places within JB city, e.g. Legoland, then it certainly makes a lot more sense to get a Grab.
Travelling to another city by Grab is where it gets tricky. You may be able to book a GrabCar, but whether the person will pick you up is another matter. It’s best to speak to the driver to negotiate a separate rate, because the app’s prices are just too low to be worth the drivers’ time and fuel.
Coming back from the other city to JB might also be an issue. When I was travelling through Malaysia, I realised that Grab isn’t exactly everywhere – you won’t be able to get a Grab in places like Kluang. In other words, you might get stranded.
Have you ever rented a car in JB? Tell us about your experience.