It’s a good idea to rent a car when going on vacation. The only problem is that some rental agencies charge insane prices. How can you get the reliability of a rental car without the huge fees? Let’s take a closer look at how to save money a rental car.
You don't have to accept the first price you find on a rental car. Instead, see if you can use memberships you already have to save money on a rental car. I usually find the best price on rental cars (at my favorite rental agency) by shopping through the Costco website. But, you can also see if you can save through AAA or a car rental aggregator (like CarRentals.com). Check the rental agency's website to see if they have any coupons or specials (like a weekend deal).
When booking a rental car, request a subcompact. Agencies almost never have these available. When you arrive to pick up your car, the rental agent may try to convince you to upgrade before telling which car you’ll be getting. Stick to your guns. You’ll often end up with a bigger car at the same price as the subcompact.
Rent Away from the Airport
It can be tempting to rent a car from an agency at the airport. Everyone knows how convenient it is, including the rental agency. Instead, get an Uber and travel to a rental car agency away from the airport. This can save you so much money. You will have the inconvenience of needing to return the car and then get an Uber back to the airport, but you won’t feel inconvenienced when you see how much you’ll save.
Stand your ground. You don’t need the upsells the agency tries to sell you. Many of these upgrades come with steep prices. You don’t need to upgrade to a luxury model or rent a GPS unit to get around town (since you can just use an app on your smart phone). Stick with what you actually NEED.
Bring Your Own Amenities
If you’re going to need car seats or a GPS, bring your own. You can be charged as much as $10 per day for a GPS. You can use your phone as a GPS. Just remember to bring your mount to use your smartphone in the car and let Google, the Waze app, or Siri lead the way.
Look for Hidden Fees
Last, but not least, make sure you read the contract including all the fine print. If possible, log into the website and learn everything you need to know. Some agencies are bad for charging outrageous fees that are simply called administrative fees. These fees can be $15 or more.
Check for Rental Car Coverage Elsewhere
The rental agency may try to scare you into accepting their insurance on the rental car. However, before you head to pick up your car, call your auto insurance company to see what they cover when you're driving a rental car. You can also call your credit card company (if you have one) to see if they offer any rental car coverage also. Some credit cards will cover your deductible and your auto insurance company would cover the rest.
Your credit card company may also offer a premium car rental insurance that will cover everything for a small fee every time you rent a car. We pay $19.99 for premium car rental insurance each time we rent a car which covers the car during the entire rental period with no deductible. Plus, we don't have to involve our insurance company if anything were to happen.
Renting a car doesn’t have to be expensive. There are ways to save money and still get a reliable car. Just remember to avoid upsells, know what the fine print says, and rent cars away from the airport. If you want to save money on a rental car, it really boils down to sticking to your guns and knowing how to see through the company’s tactics to make more money.