Renting a car can be a little confusing at times. Between all the various companies, differing rates, and extra fees, sometimes it can just get overwhelming. Recently, I scoured the internet and came up with the following list to be sure you are getting the best deal when you rent a car.
Skip the insurance. Most insurance companies cover you as a driver while you are renting a car. Check your policy before you rent. Also, if you use a major credit card for your rental, most credit card companies have you covered. Check out Nerd Wallet for more comprehensive info.
Don’t rent at the airport. Rental cars are usually newer at airports, but the rates are almost always higher because demand is high.
Reserve a smaller car and pick it up during the busiest hours. If timed correctly, you can actually increase your chances to getting a complementary upgrade. For example, when the rental agency is busy, they’re more likely to be out of the smaller cars that people are renting, and will likely provide you with a bigger car. However, this does come with a slight risk of actually being stuck with the smaller car. Only try this if you can function with the smaller car.
Check out Kayak.com, CarRentals.com, and other sites that do the price comparing for you.
Use a price quote from another company to get the rental company to at least price match your rental.
If you are a member, check out rates at Sam’s Club, Costco, AARP, and AAA. Some rental agencies offer discounts to militaryas well.
Use online coupons or promotional codes. Try RetailMeNot.com and Groupon.com when you book online to find a discount.
Return the gas tank full. Do not pay exorbitant gas prices just to have the rental agency fill the tank for you.
Prepay. Sometimes you can save as much as 20% if you pay ahead. Only do this if your dates and agenda are locked in.
If you are a frequent customer, join the agency’s rewards program. Many agencies will let you bypass the counter, pick out your own car, or offer special perks for the loyal customer.
Check with frequent flier programs and credit cards that partner up with car rental agencies to provide benefits. Sometimes fees are waived, discounts are offered, or you earn extra miles if the airline and/or credit card company are travel partners with the rental agency. For example, Southwest Airlines offers discounts and additional miles when you book your rental car through them.
Say no to the GPS upgrade. Use Google or Apple Maps instead on your smartphone.
Try various time frames when pricing your rental. This is only an option if your dates are flexible. Sometimes it’s cheaper to rent a car for longer even if you drop it off early. Be sure to find out all the fine print because some companies charge early return fees.
Take whatever car the agent wants off the lot. They will usually provide a decent discount if you rent what they don’t need to have in stock.
Negotiate!It never hurts to try to get a better rate.
Only have one driver. Some companies charge per day for each additional driver.
If the car has an electronic toll pass, check to see if you’ll have to pay additional fees when using the pass.
When I rent a car, I always walk around it and inspect it for any damage. I’ll snap a few pics on my smartphone of any dents larger than a dime, just in case the company wants to pin the damage on me. One thing I really wish rental companies would do is include the car manual in the glove compartment. With all these new cars, using the navigation, entertainment, or bluetooth functions can sometimes be frustrating. If you’re going to have the car for a week or two, you’re gonna want to know how it works.
If you have any other tips for getting a great deal on a car rental, let me know!