10 Tips to Save on Car Rental

It is a common misconception that renting cars is expensive, so many travelers put up with crowded public vehicles with fixed routes and schedules even though they know renting a vehicle will make traveling better. Renting a car does not have to be costly, though. In this article, we look at 10 ways you can save money when getting a rental car.

1. Book as early as possible

By booking early, you are far more likely to get your preferred vehicle, as well as get a good rate. Many companies also offer free cancellation up to a few days before pick-up, so you can continue browsing other deals even after reserving a car.

2. Rent from a local provider

The big-name car rental providers are not the only players in the industry. Renting your vehicle from a lesser-known company can be cheaper, especially if you traveling to a country that has a lower cost of living. You can save a lot by choosing a local car rental agency and paying in local currency.

3. Find discounts

Some of the best places to look for promos and discounts are:

  • SlickDeals
  • RetailMeNot
  • Autoslash
  • The rental company’s own Web site

Memberships in groups such as USAA, AAA, AARP, BJ’s or Costco can also get you discounts, and some car hire agencies give lower rates to seniors and military personnel. Other possible sources of great deals are rental company newsletters and loyalty programs.

4. Rent from an off-airport depot

Because rental companies have to pay additional taxes and other fees, it costs more to pick up and drop off rental vehicles at airport depots. To save money, opt to rent from a non-airport location.

5. Stick to the basic package

Skip accessories you don’t really need or bring your own. Instead of renting a GPS, for example, just use Google Maps or other free mobile apps, or even a paper map if you’re feeling traditional. Traveling with your little ones? Just bring your own child or baby car seats.

6. Get the right insurance

If the rental vehicle is damaged or stolen while with you, you will be charged an amount called the “excess” and this amount can be astronomical if you’re unlucky.

To reduce the excess or eliminate it altogether, you need a car rental excess waiver. However, while buying this waiver is recommended, don’t be pressured into buying costly add-on insurance from the rental desk. Not only will it be expensive, the coverage often has a lot of exclusions.

It is better to buy a 3rd party car hire excess waiver insurance before your trip. Doing so can save you hundreds of dollars and give you a more comprehensive coverage.

7. Inspect the rental car thoroughly

Before driving off with the rental vehicle, check it thoroughly to avoid paying for pre-existing damages. Check the body, the glass, the interior, the tires (including the spare tire), and the fuel level.

If you find any dents, cracks, stains, scratches or other issues that are not on the list of problems, have them added and the list signed by the staff. For additional protection, take photos or videos of the car’s interior and exterior from all angles so you will have proof later on, if needed.

8. Don’t overpay for fuel

Some companies offer prepaid fuel, so you can return the car with little or no fuel left. However, you don’t get any refund for unused gas and nobody really returns a vehicle with an empty tank, so choosing this option just means you are paying double for the fuel.

It is better to just fill up the tank on your way back to the rental agency. Avoid gas stations in or near airports, though, as those usually charge more.

9. Avoid one-way surcharge

Some car hire companies charge extra if you collect the vehicle from one depot and return it at another, so surrender the vehicle where you picked it up. If that is not possible, clarify the issue beforehand to avoid surprises.

10. Be on time

If you’re late when picking up your vehicle, your preferred car may not be available anymore and you may end up with a vehicle that has a higher rental rate or that is less fuel-efficient.

It is also important to return the car on time, as some rental firms charge a late return fee – sometimes equal to a full day’s rate — if you go past the deadline stated in your agreement.

Similarly, be careful of returning the vehicle too early. Some companies give partial refunds in cases like this, but some charge a fee or even bump you up to a daily rate if the shortened rental makes you ineligible for the weekly rate.

Bottom Line

Whether your trip is for business or pleasure, renting your own vehicle instead of taking public transportation can make traveling more flexible and convenient. By following the 10 tips listed above, you can have a pocket-friendly and stress-free experience when renting cars.

Olivia Watson

Olivia is a world traveler who has been to 27 countries in just over 15 years. She loves to share her knowledge of traveling to help others travel safer, cheaper and have more fun.
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