14 Car Rental Tips & Tricks to Find the Best Deals

When you’re planning a trip, a car rental may be one of your biggest expenses after you’ve paid for your flight and hotel. For that reason, it’s essential to find the best deal possible to avoid blowing through your vacation budget.

Our Addition Financial members often ask us about how to save money when planning a vacation. With that in mind, here are fourteen car rental tips and tricks to help you spend less and enjoy your next vacation or road trip.

#1: Skip the Airport Rental

There’s no denying that renting a car at the airport is convenient, but airport rentals also tend to be more expensive than rentals in other locations. In fact, you could end up paying $5 or more per day for the convenience of renting a car at an airport location.

Instead, we suggest shopping around to compare prices and seeing if adding the cost of an Uber to get to the rental will still allow you to save money. Even traveling a short distance from the airport may be enough to make this tip work for you and find the best car rental deals in your destination city.

#2: Make Multiple Reservations

If you find what seems to be a good deal but you still want to keep researching your options, it may be worthwhile to make a reservation. The one caveat here is that you should check the rental company’s cancellation policy and make sure there’s no cancellation fee.

With no fee or penalty, you can feel free to make multiple reservations and keep shopping. After you find the best possible deal, you can cancel any other reservations secure in the fact that you’re not overpaying for your rental car.

#3: Rent a Compact Car

Compact cars are the least expensive to rent and as a result, they are the most popular cars. They’re so popular that rental companies often overbook them. What that means for you is that they may offer you a free upgrade. (As a side note, do not let them pressure you into paying more when the mistake is theirs.)

When you book a compact car, don’t assume you’ll get an upgrade. In other words, rent a car that’s large enough to accommodate everyone (and their luggage) in case you do end up with the car you reserved.

#4: Use Credit Card Miles or Points to Pay for Your Rental Car

Do you have a rewards credit card that offers points or miles when you spend? If you do, then you may be able to use your rewards to pay for your rental car. Just read the fine print on your credit card agreement to learn whether you can use your points to rent a car.

Even if you don’t have accumulated rewards to pay for your rental, you may want to consider using your reward card to pay, particularly if you have a card that offers more points for travel-related expenses than it does for other categories. You can use those points for a future vacation.

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#5: Stick to the Basics

One of the most frustrating things about renting a car is the spiel you receive as the agent tries to sell you on a host of add-on features that will increase your cost without adding any real value. You can keep the expense of renting a car in control simply by passing on the extras.

Two of the most common add-ons are navigation systems and toll transponders. You don’t need to pay $15 or more per day for GPS when you can simply use Waze or Google Maps to find your way around. While paying tolls may be unavoidable, you don’t need to pay in advance – particularly since the rental company will charge you a flat fee per day that you’ll pay whether you use a toll road or not.

#6: Check Your Insurance Coverage

Car insurance is another add-on, but we believe it deserves its own category because the alarmist language around rental insurance can make people feel that they need to pay for it when in most cases, they don’t.

When you’re planning your trip, check the fine print in your primary car insurance policy to see if you’re covered when driving a rental car. If you are, there’s no need to pay anything extra for car rental insurance. You may also have some coverage if you use your credit card for the rental. The one exception here is overseas travel, where you may be required to pay for rental car insurance.

#7: Take Advantage of Discounts

Some of the memberships you use in everyday life may allow you to save when you rent a car. Here are a few examples:

  • AAA
  • AARP
  • Costco
  • Military discounts
  • Union discounts

It’s worth it to explore your options ahead of time, so you can take advantage of any discounts you can get. Make sure to read the fine print because the discounts may not be available with every company. For example, the AAA discount applies only if you rent with Hertz.

#8: Stick to One Driver

Depending on which rental car company you choose, you may pay a hefty fee if you want more than one driver to be behind the wheel of your rental. The easy solution here is to stick to one driver for your trip.

Keep in mind that some companies may allow spouses to both drive. A common requirement is that they live at the same address. If you’re not sure, ask. And, if there is a charge, then plan accordingly to save some money on your rental.

#9: Use Tracking Apps to Find Deals

One of the best ways to save money on the most expensive parts of travel is to take advantage of tracking apps to follow prices and even to book your rental car. This car rental tip is particularly useful for drivers under 25, who may end up paying more due to their lack of experience behind the wheel.

Apps such as Hopper can help you track down the best prices before you make a reservation. They can also help you get a baseline cost that you can use to compare prices. Autoslash is another app that allows you to track the price of your reservation, so you can cancel and rebook if the price drops.

#10: Rent from a Budget Company

When you think about car rental companies, you may think of the biggest companies, including Hertz, Enterprise and Avis. They may be the most popular but that doesn’t mean they have the best prices. In fact, the opposite may be true.

By expanding your search to include budget companies, you may be able to save a lot on your rental car. Companies such as Payless and Thrifty are owned by the big three companies, but there are other options, including Guardian Rent-a-Car, that also offer discount prices.

#11: Rent from a Car Dealership

Another option you may not have considered is to rent a car from a car dealership. In some cases, you may be able to get a nice car for significantly less than you would pay a car rental company.

You can explore this option by making a few calls to car dealerships in your destination city. If the dealer rents cars, get an estimate and use it to compare costs with rental car companies.

#12: Look for Car Rental Bundles

One of the best ways to save on travel is to look for travel bundles. When you book online, you’ll have the option to look at prices for airfare + hotel + car rental, or any combination of two of the three. In many cases, you can save by booking two or more elements of your trip together.

If you look at bundles, make sure to price out each element separately to make sure you’re getting a bargain. While most bundles do cost less, the only way to be sure is to do your homework.

#13: Get a Person-to-Person Rental

You may not have heard of Turo, but it’s the Airbnb of car rentals. You can download the app and use it to connect with someone in your destination city who will rent you their car at a reasonable price.

Turo is a great option if you want to know about the condition of the rental vehicle ahead of time. Each time a car is rented, the previous user rates it. That means you can go into the rental with a clear picture of what you’re getting – and save money at the same time.

#14: Skip the Rental Entirely

This final option might seem radical but if you’re vacationing on a budget, it might be worth asking if you can skip the rental counter entirely. If your destination is a major city, you might be able to get around using public transportation – or a combination of public transport and Ubers.

The same is true if you’re staying at a resort. For example, many people who come to Florida to go to the Disney parks take an Uber or cab to the resort and back to the airport, spending far less than they would if they rented a car.

Renting a car can be expensive, but the fourteen tips we’ve provided here can help you find the best car rental deals wherever you’re traveling.

Do you want to earn points when you rent a car or travel? Addition Financial’s Premier Rewards Card is the answer! Click here to apply today.

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