When you land somewhere other than your hometown, you will probably be looking for a car to rent. And you may also be inclined to rent a car for a vacation that you take by road, to avoid putting miles and wear on your vehicle.
When it comes time to rent a car, you want to pay as little as possible. But how to get the best deal is a challenge. When you are in a different country, you can get pretty confused trying to do all of the research needed to find the best deal. This is why you should do some research in advance and look for the big deals before going on holiday.
Here are some tips that will help you navigate through the maze of car rentals.
1. Check the Umbrella Sites First
All travel sites provide far more than just airline deals and reservations. They offer hotel rooms at discounted rates, tour arrangements, and, of course, car rentals. You can use any of these websites to do just car rentals. So, once you access a webpage, you should start by checking the rates. You should write them down for easier comparison.
You can either write the rates in a notebook or use excel. Apart from the rental rates, you should also pay attention to the renting conditions. Most of these umbrella sites deal with the major rental companies. Thus, it will be helpful to identify the initial rental company and check whether you also need to pay a deposit.
2. Check Discounts for Credit Card Holders
Depending on your preferred method of payment, you can benefit from discounts and save money. There are special prices available for those who have individual credit cards or who belong to specific organizations. For example, Chase, American Express, AARP, or Triple-A offer attractive discounts. Therefore, if you want to save some dollars to spend on a fun activity, you should check to see if there are any options that you may be eligible for.
3. Learn How to Save on Rental
Adding a second driver can increase the daily rate’s cost. So, if you can stand to do all of the driving, do it. On the other hand, you should also know that this fee is negotiable with many rental companies so, if you want to change drivers, you should ask about this. Usually, if the second driver is a spouse or partner, agencies may be willing to waive the fee.
Another option to save money is to look to rent a car from smaller companies. They can often offer cheaper rates compared to well-known car rental providers. For instance, you can check out CarRentals. This site presents offers from both well-known and smaller companies, like Alamo and Thrifty.
4. Don’t Be too Enthusiastic with the Upgrades
When you arrive at the counter, the sales representative will present you with a series of updates and encourage you to take them for more comfort. If you have reserved an economy car, for example, they will try to convince you to take a mid-size one instead. Even though you are tempted, you shouldn’t go for this option – stay strong. You should remember that you are looking for savings, not to impress anyone.
Other upgrades you might be offered are GPS, satellite radio, and even toll road passes. If you have a phone, then you automatically have a GPS; you can also listen to your favorite music via your phone/Bluetooth. You shouldn’t spend money on toll passes until you have researched where your travels will take you and what tolls may be involved.
5. Decline the Car Rental Insurance
If you have proper insurance, chances are you will not need to purchase the rental agency’s car rental insurance. It is best to check with your insurance company first because you might be covered for a rental car, too.
You should also check with your credit card company, as well. Some of them offer free rental car insurance. If you already have these you will save time looking for the best offer for a car rental.
6. Opt for the Cheapest Option
Again, you aren’t trying to impress anybody. You are looking for reliable transportation at the lowest price in order to save money.. And here’s the thing: rental companies run out of economy cars faster than any others. You may get to the counter and find that they are giving you a free upgrade anyway because they have none left.
7. Don’t Use Points Unless It Makes Sense
You can use points from frequent flying or from credit cards to have cheaper rates. But, sometimes, it is more efficient to use those reward points for expensive hotels or airline costs. So, be sure to think about that upfront.
8. Look at Daily VS. Weekly Rates
Usually, weekly rates are less than daily rates. However, it’s not always the case. As long as there is not a penalty for returning a car early, you can take the weekly rate, and return the car after a three-day road trip, getting a refund for the unused days of that week. That way you get a weekly allowance for daily use and as a result save money.
9. Avoid Airport Pickup if Possible
There is always an additional fee if you pick up and drop off at an airport. You may face up to a $30 charge for this convenience. Why? Because they can do it, and the demand is there. If a short Uber ride takes you to an off-site car rental, then you should take it.
10. Never Return without a Full Tank
When you receive the car from the rental company, it is in perfect condition, and it has a full tank. They expect you to return the vehicle in the same condition. Consequently, if you forget about this, you shouldn’t be surprised to find that the charge for the rental agency filling up your tank is outrageous.
If you are in a metropolitan area, there will always be good public transportation, Ubers, and Lyfts (Las Vegas is a great example) and, in more rural areas, that are tourist attractions, bikes, and feet (Mackinac Island has no cars whatsoever). Also, in many of the largest metro areas in the world, it makes no sense to rent a car unless you plan to travel to the countryside. Even then, there are trains.
If you must rent a car, however, take these ten tips to heart.