There's a reason I love road trips. Not only are they economical since I have a big family, but I love having my vehicle so I can get around easily and quickly, with my handy GPS detailing where I need to go. However, there are times when it isn't feasible to go on a road trip. We all know that the cost of a vacation, for business or pleasure, can add up quickly. Why waste money on a fancy rental car, with all of its hidden fees, when you really only need a set of wheels to get you from Point A to Point B? Here’s how to get the best deal on a rental car.
Ask the company about discounts. There may be some you haven’t considered. Most companies offer discounts to AAA and AARP members, but they might also have a loyalty program, a credit card or they might work with various hotels for package deals. Likewise, you should check to see if there is a better deal when buying your airfare, booking your hotel room, and securing your rental car all at the same time. Finally, you can always directly ask for a discount. The worst they can say is no!
Shop around online. As with airfare and hotel rooms, the best prices can be found online, during non-peak hours. If no one else is buying at 2:00 a.m., the rental car company is likely to drop the prices. Websites are cheaper for companies to operate because of low overhead, so even during more popular shopping hours, you’re likely to get some sort of discount. Be sure to check several travel sites, like Travelocity or Orbitz, to compare prices.
Overstay your welcome. While you may only need the vehicle for a few days, it’s possible that the weekly rate might work out to be a better price. If you’re booking online, check a variety of dates surrounding the time when you’ll need the vehicle.
Don’t wait too long. The best deals are typically secured in advance. If you book your rental car reservation ahead of time, you’ll lock in your rate and get the best choice of vehicle.
Avoid renting at the airport. You’ll end up paying more to rent at the airport because of access fees and surcharges to the leasing companies just to operate out of the airport. But if you do rent off-site, be sure to factor transportation to the agency in with your total cost. It might work out better just to rent at the higher airport rate. Also, make sure the rental agency will actually be open when you arrive and when you need to drop off the vehicle. If you do end up renting at the airport and don’t have a reservation yet, don’t be afraid to compare rates between different agencies there.
Think small. Lesser-known agencies may provide a quality rental vehicle at a competitive rate, simply because they’re not a household name. So go for a local rental agency in town, but also think small in terms of the actual vehicle you rent.
Book ahead for special requests. If you need anything extra, like a car seat, book in advance, and get any information about extra charges in writing.
It matters where you return the vehicle. If you need to drop your vehicle off at a different location, include the extra charges in your total cost. A higher daily rate that offers lower drop-off fees could be the better way to go.
Factor in gas and insurance. Unless you know you’ll be crunched for time, fill up the tank yourself before you return the vehicle. Otherwise, you’ll pay a hefty fee for the company to do it. Talk to your insurance agent before you buy insurance with the rental agency. Know what your own auto coverage is in regards to rental vehicles.