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Saturday, July 14, 2018

Get the Best Car Rental Rates

I rent a lot of cars. When I can't just walk around my destination or want to go further out than public transportation will take me, I will generally rent a car. My trip to Anaheim is coming up and I am flying into LAX and visiting Universal Studios as well, so taking an Uber or airport shuttle didn't seem feasible...until I started looking at rental car rates.

I didn't give up though, because I knew I could find a decent rate if I just looked hard enough. Here are my best tips and then I'll leave my last tip and how I got over half off for the end:

Keep looking up until the day before you leave

Usually when you make a car reservation, you don't have to pay ahead and you don't have any cancellation penalties, so don't quit looking for a better deal, because rental rates fluctuate wildly and generally make no sense, so you may find something crazy cheap closer to your travel date. 

Rent the smallest car you can

The bigger the car, the more it will cost you. Unless you have a free upgrade code, book the smallest car you can comfortably fit in. I always go for economy, because I like to be able to park everywhere, but also, rental companies can't downgrade you when you arrive for pickup. So, if you change your mind, it's too bad. If you show up and your category of car isn't available, they have to upgrade you for free. I've often gotten bigger cars, just because I showed up before people had returned their rentals. 

Rent from off-airport locations

Airports impose fees on merchants who are on property and those companies usually pass those fees on to the customer. Why else do you think a bottle of water costs $8? This can be hefty when it comes to rental cars, because they cost a whole lot more than beverages. Depending on where you go, this can be a few cents per day or tens of dollars per day. If you rent your car off-site, you can save yourself these excess fees. Make sure you compare rates and make sure you aren't losing money in the long run between transportation to/from off-site rental companies.

Shop around

Not all rental companies are created equal. One company may be outrageous, while another one in the same location is affordable. There doesn't seem to be a rhyme or reason regarding rental rates, so look at all your options first.

Pay in full ahead of time

If you do this, you will probably have a bit of a harder time cancelling if you need to, but you can still do it. I've seen rates as much as $100 cheaper if you pay ahead of time, which is crazy. It can really help you stay on budget doing it this way. 

Skip the second driver

There was a time when most car rental companies didn't charge you for a second driver. If you can avoid it, only rent under one person's name and save $11 or more per day on your rate. 

Use your own insurance

Car companies charge outrageous prices for their insurance. They'll tell you that you should take it and it'll protect you from all sorts of nonsense that almost never happens, but it also ends up being $15 or more per day. That's over $100 on a weekly rental. Check your insurance, or even your credit card that you used to reserve you car, and you are usually always covered between the two. 

Sign up for rewards

Join the rewards program for car rental companies and you may just get an exclusive deal that you'd have otherwise found. It won't always pertain to you, but when it does, you'll be excited and may save big. If nothing else, you may end up with special treatment that saves you time, like I do with Budget (skip the check-in line and go directly to pick-up).

Rent for a whole week

This may seem counter-intuitive for saving money, but most rental companies give price breaks for week-long rentals instead of individual days. Check to see if there are penalties for bringing your car back early. If not, this is the way to go! 

Of course, some companies will charge you the weekly rate for partial weeks as well, so then you don't save anything. I ran into that with my rental for LA. They wanted $340 for a 4 1/2 day rental.

Use the sharing community

There are some really great sharing services for cars, which is like using Airbnb, but for vehicles. Rates are much cheaper because you aren't getting a new car and the owners are looking for extra money instead of running a full-on business. I worked with Turo in the past and have been trying to use them, but haven't had the chance. I checked them this time, found a great car at a great price that included enough free miles to carry my whole back and forth for my trip and included free delivery to the airport.  

I requested the booking and was charged as soon as it was confirmed. How much did this cost me? $164. That's almost $180 in savings! I have my own insurance, but Turo's cars are also insuranced through Liberty Mutual, so I'm covered in case anything unforeseen happens.

Now you know where to look for great deals, go forth and drive around your destination! 

What's the best deal you've ever gotten on a rental car?

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