You can’t get the most out of your travel plans if you’re blowing through your budget. One of the biggest ways you can waste your money is by overspending on car rentals. So, here’s a list of 10 ways you can lower costs on your next rental - so you can spend your vacation money on something more fun!
1. Do your research.
The number one mistake travelers make is to not comparison shop between rental agencies. In order to get a good idea of what you’ll be spending, you should research what rates various companies are offering for the location you’re heading to. Then, you’ll know a good bargain when you see one! Even if it seems like a tedious task, you’ll be happy when you know you’ve truly scored a great deal.
2. See whether rental companies offer special weekend or weekday deals.
All rental companies are different with the special promotions they offer, but before booking anything, ask about any deals they might be able to give you. Some provide special weekend rates when less people are making reservations, while others try to entice customers with weekday deals. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to ask, and you could end up with an upgrade or a discounted rate!
3. Use coupon codes.
Plenty of aggregate sites like Expedia and Travelocity offer lower prices than if you booked directly with the rental agency. But one of the best ways to lower your costs is to use promotional codes when you make your reservation. Check out CheapAir.com coupon codes for low prices on car rentals! The CheapAir.com site also makes it easy to search for the vehicle you’ll need by focusing on the dates of your travel and your destination, so you don’t have to stress about finding the right car or the lowest price.
4. Check out discounts from other sources.
If you can’t find a coupon code to use or you want to try stacking your discounts, check out promotions from places like Costco or AAA. You can even call a local travel agent (like the ones from AAA) to ask if they know of any good discounts for car rentals at the destination you’ll be traveling to.
5. Compare prices for non-national chains.
Of course it’s fine if you want to go with a well-known national brand like Avis or Hertz, but you might be missing some great deals that local or regional chains offer. If you want to see what’s available in the location you’re traveling to, just do a Google search of the car rental companies in that area. You just might find one that offers much lower rates than the bigger agencies.
6. Avoid airport rentals.
Airport rentals are probably the most convenient, but they’re also the most expensive option. The rates in general are higher (since the agencies are relying on you just wanting to pick up your car right then and there), and you’ll most likely be charged an ‘airport fee’ (which could be as high as 10%-30% of your entire rental car rate). Some airports offer complimentary shuttles or buses to off-site agencies where you can avoid paying those extra fees. In some cases, even taking a short taxi ride to an off-site company could end up saving you big time.
7. Book as early as you can.
In general, it’s usually better to book all of your travel plans as early as possible. As the time of your departure gets closer, the rates are likely to go up. So, figure out when you’re traveling, and book your car rental as soon as you can.
8. Reserve the smallest car possible.
Most Americans like driving bigger cars, so agencies tend to have more of these on hand. If you reserve a compact, and they’re out, you’ll most likely get a free upgrade. You’ll also save money on gas by driving a compact (which are generally more fuel-efficient than bigger vehicles).
9. Make sure you’re not getting charged hidden fees.
Car rental places are kinda sneaky about charging you for things you might not be aware of. One of the biggest money-suckers is not returning the car with a full tank of gas. If it’s not full, you’ll be charged as much as 2-3 times the price of a full tank, no matter how much gas was actually in the car when you returned it. You could even be charged extra for things like GPS, car seats, or electronic toll systems, so check your rental agreement carefully. Also, try to avoid signing any additional insurance policies. You could add up to $40 per day to your rate, and chances are your own car insurance would cover rentals anyway (just check with them first!).
10. Join a rental car loyalty program.
You can also rack up savings when you join rental car loyalty programs. The programs are usually free, and you can get great benefits, like free upgrades and special promotional prices on your rentals. Some programs even offer a points system - if you earn a certain level of points, you could qualify for a free rental!
So, do your research, read over your agreement carefully, and use these tips to save money on your next rental!