Sometimes when you travel, it’s just not practical to take public transportation. Maybe you are covering a lot of ground on your trip or the bus schedule is iffy or you are on a business trip that calls for you to be at specific places at particular times. The problem with renting a car is that it can quickly add up over just a few days. Getting a good deal is not too difficult, but it does take some know-how and persistence. Here are some of the easiest ways to get the best deal possible.
Keep checking rates
Once you reserve a car, you are not usually locked into the rate at the time you booked. Rates can go up or down between the time you book it and the time you actually pick up your car. If they go down, you can always cancel and rebook with no penalty. Keep checking up to the day before you leave. You never know how much cheaper you can get by just keeping your eye on the rental rates.
Book for a week
Weekly rates are sometimes much better than if you booked each day separately and often even more affordable than a four- or five-day rental. Check the fine print to make sure there’s no penalty for returning your car early. If there isn’t, take the weekly rate and then bring your rental back a few days early. It can only help them make more money by having an extra car on-hand.
Reserve the smallest possible car
Yes, you’re on vacation and you want to be comfortable, but think about how much time you’ll actually be spending in the car. Rental companies can’t downgrade your car once it’s booked – only upgrades are acceptable. This means if you reserve a compact or an economy car (which are the most popular) and they don’t have any when you get there, they have to give you the next available size up at the same rate. If all they have at the time is a luxury car, they are obligated to rent it to you. The other upside to renting a smaller car is that it will cost you less in fuel, because you’ll get better gas mileage.
Use your own insurance
Insurance can end up costing you the same price as your rental. If you have insurance at home, it’s likely you are covered in any car you drive, whether you own it or not. Check with your personal insurance company before you leave home and then tell the rental car company you don’t need their optional insurance. The same goes for the credit card you use to pay for your rental. A lot of major credit cards have insurance coverage for rental automobiles that kicks in when the card is used.
Skip the GPS
Sure, it’s probable that you won’t know where you’re going when you travel to a new destination, unless directions to your hotel are super simple, but that doesn’t mean you need to rent the navigation system from the car company. If you have a personal GPS, bring it instead. It will take up a little space in your luggage, but it will save you quite a bit of money if you will be at your destination for more than a few days. Also, the fee is outrageous if your car is broken into and the system is stolen. You would stand to lose much less if your own GPS was taken.
Avoid the inclusive gas option
By far the biggest rip-off when you rent a car is the optional fill-up upon return. While there are some exceptions, it is very common for them to charge you over a dollar more per gallon than what is charged at the pump. On top of that, no matter how much gas you return with, you will be made to pay as if the tank was empty, and at the highly inflated rate. Tell the rep at the desk that you will return the car with a full tank and then ask where the nearest station is, so you can take note to stop there upon your return.
Rent away from the airport
Airports impose a rental fee to car companies, which they then pass onto the customer. If it is possible to rent off-site, compare pricing to see if there is a notable difference. If there is, choose the least expensive option.
Add a second driver
Most rental companies allow you to add a second driver to your rental for no fee once you get to the counter to sign in. If you are married – or live in the same house and say you are spouses – then you can both be on the rental agreement for the same rate as just one.
Get the most out of your rental
You always want to get the most for your money and renting a car is no different. Sign up for reward programs and earn points toward free rentals, upgrades and more when you use each company. You can usually use your frequent flyer membership number to earn miles for each rental you complete as well. Sometimes you have to pay a bit more for your rental this way, but usually it’s less than a dollar per rental day, so you are still coming out ahead.
Renting a car doesn’t have to be a daunting experience. It’s fun to drive something new, it’s exciting to save money and you’ll be glad to not have to rely on public transportation if you will be traveling around a lot during your stay. A car rental also enables you to take day trips from the city and go on your own schedule. With these tips, you can eliminate the stress of high rental costs, because you’ll know the rate you’re paying is the best one that you could find.