10 Ways to Save on Your Next Car Rental Without Even Trying Hard
If you're planning a road trip or flying somewhere, booking a car rental may top your list of things to do. But while you may need a set of wheels when you're away, the daily cost of a car rental can add up quickly and eat into your vacation budget. (See also: How to Budget and Track Expenses for Your Vacation)
There is no such thing as a free car rental. But with these simple tricks, you can snag a car rental for less.
1. Rent From a Smaller Company
Big-name car rental companies, such as Hertz and Enterprise, may have earned your trust over the years. But like most things we buy, certain names come with a bigger price tag.
It doesn't matter the company that issues your rental, as long as the car is safe and suitable for your family. Skip the big name car rental companies and go with a smaller company. To illustrate, a recent online search for a midsize car rental showed an average daily rate between $55 and $61 from major car rental companies, such as Avis, Enterprise, and Hertz. However, car renters who booked through Fox Rent a Car were able to snag the same sized vehicles for just $12 a day. Rates were before taxes, insurance, and other fees.
2. Search for Promotional Codes
If you're a frequent flier, own an Entertainment Book, or belong to an organization such as AAA, you may have access to promotional or discount codes that can reduce daily rates on your car rental. (See also: Awesome AAA Discounts)
You can search codes online for a particular rental company, or call up your credit card company or AAA and ask about eligible codes. And the best part is that some rental car companies let you combine a discount code with a promo code for additional savings.
3. Avoid the Airport Rental Counter
It's certainly convenient to book your car rental through the airport if you're flying into your destination. However, there is a price for convenience. To save money on your car rental, book your rental through an off-airport location, and then take a shuttle or taxi there.
4. Return the Car Where You Got It
Returning a rental car to a different location may seem like a minor move. But to the rental company, it's a huge deal, as they'll have to drive the car back to its original location — which translates into extra fees for you.
The exact cost for a one-way rental will vary by car rental company. Just to give you an idea of what to expect, while on vacation two years ago, I asked to drop off my car rental at the airport location, although I originally picked up the vehicle from an off-airport location. The distance between the two facilities was only about 20 minutes. However, the car rental company wanted to charge me an additional $100. Needless to say, I returned the car to the original location
5. Reserve a Smaller Car and Negotiate an Upgrade at Check-In
A midsize car or an SUV may be spacious, but do you really need it? If you don't need the extra space, you're simply paying more for nothing.
When booking, go with a smaller car to save on the rental, and then try your hand at an upgrade once you check-in at the counter. This trick has worked twice for us. Simply ask. The clerk will either say yes or no. If it's a slow weekend or week and there's plenty of cars in stock, you may find yourself with a larger car for less. (See also: How to Negotiate All Your Travel)
6. Skip Car Rental Insurance
Sure, it provides peace of mind in the event that you damage the vehicle. But if you already have auto insurance, there's no reason to purchase supplementary insurance offered by the car rental company. Your personal auto insurance policy should provide coverage whether you're driving your personal vehicle or a rental car. Your credit card probably does, too. Check your policies for coverage amounts and limits. (See also: Myths About Car Insurance)
7. Book in Advance
Booking your car rental online or over the telephone prior to your trip locks in your rate. Unknown to some people, car rentals are usually cheaper when the company has a lot of cars in stock. For this reason, you should not wait until the last minute to book your reservation. By waiting until the last minute, there's a chance that the rental company will have a limited stock, and since there's a greater demand for vehicles, this will drive up your rate.
8. Prepay for Your Car Rental
When booking a car rental, the company will ask for a credit card number to hold your reservation, but they won't charge your card at this time. However, if you agree to prepay for your car rental, you can save as much as 20%. Unfortunately, if you were to cancel your reservation, the car rental company may charge a cancellation fee between $10 and $50.
9. Plan Your Trip Around the Weekends
The way car rental companies determine rates can be a bit tricky, but in some instances, including a Saturday or Sunday in your reservation can help drive down your final price. (See also: 14 Affordable Weekend Getaways)
"The strategy takes advantage of lower prices aimed at leisure travelers who are more likely to travel on weekends," said Marty Paz, a telecommunications manager from Las Vegas.
If you're planning a four or five-day trip, rather than book the trip for a Monday to Thursday, perhaps you can plan a Thursday to Sunday or a Friday to Monday trip.
10. Read the Fine Print
Make sure you understand the car rental agreement and what's expected of you before you drive off the rental lot. The car rental company will undoubtedly require that you refill the gas tank, and if you fail to put gas in the tank, they'll charge you a ridiculously inflated per gallon price. Additionally, there may be an extra charge to use the car's GPS or the satellite radio.
Do you have another trick to help pay less for a car rental? Let me know in the comments below.