How to Save Money on Car Rentals
I love a good road trip. There’s just something about taking off out of your day to day surroundings and heading off somewhere new, even if it isn’t all that exciting. I get excited for the trip there just as much as reaching the destination. When we take road trips we like to do it very unplanned. We stop when something catches our eye and we take our time to get there. We also almost always rent a car to do these road trips. I will explain why in a later post.
In any case, because I rent cars several times a year, I have learned some tricks to saving money on rental cars. Here are my best tips.
How to Save Money on Car Rentals
Skip renting at the airport if you can help it– Renting at the airport is one sure fire way to spend far more. The airport rentals have so many fees that it adds up to a very costly rental even if it initially seems like a less per-day charge. Instead, take an Uber to a place off-site.These are often privately franchised and they can offer slightly lower fees.
Rent during the slow months– While this isn’t always ideal, if you can wait until after labor day to rent and take a late summer/early fall trip, you can save a lot. Don’t rent in months with major holidays like Christmas, either.
Take a chance on a ‘wild card’– I often rent from Thrifty and that is usually because they offer something called a Wild Card. For them, it’s a way to get cars off the lot that haven’t been rented so they don’t lose money and for me, it means I get to drive all kinds of cars in various sizes for a low price. The fee is anywhere from 13 dollars a day to 45 dollars a day, depending on the season. When it’s at the higher cost, I skip it, but I have rented SUVs for the $18 a day before due to this.It’s not ideal if you need a specific car size, but if you don’t care and can be flexible, it can really work out in your favor. often they give me a choice between cars, too.
Look for discount codes online– Always troll the internet for discount codes before you make a reservation. I have yet to not find one. Just make sure that you aren’t paying more than another place’s retail price. In addition to looking for codes, do some comparison shopping.
Skip pre-paying– some places allow you to get a small discount (5-10% usually) if you pay at the time you reserve your car. This seems like a good idea, but rental rates can change so much that I find it’s not worth it. I try to reserve my cars at least 1 month in advance (any more and you will run into high rates due to busy times) and then I watch the prices for lowering. Keep your eye out in the morning for price drops. One time, I saw a price drop to $8 a day on the car I wanted for a 2-hour window before 10 am.
Check with your credit card before buying the extra insurance– The insurance seems like it’s needed. The rental agencies like to scare you into getting it because they don’t expect you to know any better. Most credit cards offer rental car insurance (make sure you check with yours) and often they offer the dreaded and most feared ‘loss of use’ coverage as well. In addition to that, many car insurance companies offer it on rental cars as well with the same insurance your own car has.
Become a regular– If you frequent a franchise, you will often develop relationships with the employees. This means they will start to offer you deals and you can have an easier time haggling with them at the counter. I regularly get the 10% off they offer frequent customers as well as free upgrades.
Don’t prepay for gas– It’s almost always more expensive than the actual cost. Just don’t forget to fill up on your own!