Renting a car is a lot like booking a flight. Knowing a few car rental hacks can save you a lot of time and money.
If you’re trying to travel on a budget, renting a car can be a great option. Don’t be intimidated by the process–it’s not any harder than any other form of travel.
We have 10 awesome hacks for you below to making renting a car for you next adventure a total breeze.
1. Check your existing memberships for discounts.
You probably have at least one membership (like AAA or Costco) that you’re already paying for that could get you a great deal on a rental car.
For instance, AAA has a savings generator that can save you a lot of money, plus you have the security of roadside assistance should you need it.
Take a quick look at your wallet and see if you have any memberships that offer travel deals, like discounts on car rentals.
2. Avoid peak travel times.
Everyone knows to avoid flying on holidays or to book summer travel in advance to get the best deals, but what about car rentals?
This market follows an interesting pattern that can vary depending on the destination.
If you’re traveling to a “tourist trap”, you’re better off avoiding weekend rentals which may come with higher rates and even fees.
Is your destination a business hub? You could see higher rates on weekdays.
Consider your itinerary carefully and try comparing a few date combinations before booking for the best price.
3. Skip the airport rental.
If you try to get a rental car while you’re at the airport, you’re probably going to pay at least double for your rental–if not more.
Airports have a captive audience in desperate need of a service at a specific time.
This means companies can charge higher fees because there’s a higher demand for the service.
Just skip the airport, grab a cab or an Uber and head to the nearest neighborhood car rental depot.
You’ll get better service and better rates.
4. Consider a car share service.
If you just need to travel within a city or for a few hours at a time, it may be a good idea to consider car sharing versus conventional car rental.
Car sharing services allow you to rent a car for a short period of time, then return it.
Obviously, you should check to see if your destination has these services available.
If they do, consider how you can combine public transportation, walking, and a car share to make the most of your money–while still completing your itinerary.
A car rental could be a better deal, but if you’re committed to finding the best bargains–compare both options when available.
5. Milk your credit card perks.
Check the small print on your credit card to see if they cover insurance on a rental car.
You’d be surprised how many cards will cover that expense for you, while so many people blindly spend extra on something that’s covered already.
Also take a second to see if your card has points you can use towards a rental car!
Scour your credit card statements to see if there are points that you might be missing!
6. Don’t be afraid to ask for an upgrade.
If you follow the advice from earlier and skip the airport counter, be sure to ask your representative for an upgrade.
Depending on what time and day you book, you might have a lot of luck with this question.
Car rental companies want to get people on the road, not haggle with the for a few extra bucks.
If you ask for an upgrade, the worst they can say is no.
You miss all the shots you never take!
7. Fill the tank yourself.
Don’t procrastinate returning your car to the rental depot.
You might get in a rush and forget to fill your tank, which could be a major fee.
Refueling fees are usually a pretty steep price tag on being lazy or forgetful.
Not all rental car companies are the same, though, so be sure to check your options out and consider your plans when choosing a refueling option.
8. Check for damage before driving off the lot.
Circle the car with your camera at the ready and take photos of anything that’s even slightly abnormal.
Hopefully, there won’t be any damage, but staying vigilant about these issues can save you major headaches down the road.
This hack ties into the earlier hack about checking for insurance on your credit card.
If your card doesn’t offer insurance on rental cars, be extra vigilant about this step to avoid any unpleasant surprises when returning the vehicle.
9.Beware the temptations of add-ons.
Sometimes paying a little more money for a better, faster or newer option can totally pay off.
When renting a car, this rule doesn’t apply.
You’re better off keeping to the basics.
Just like the selection of magazines and candy at the cash register, car rental companies will tend to offer irresistible add-ons at the end of your transaction.
Don’t fall for these–they could cost you a lot of money.
So much money that it nullifies the convenience of having a GPS or child seat on hand.
Consider your needs ahead of time, then compare the cost of the car rental company’s option with other low-tech or purchased options.
You might find you can get by with a map or buy a GPS from Amazon.
Taking a small inconvenience or extra step of preparation could save you serious money and headaches in the future.
10. Go for a round-trip.
One way trips are more expensive when you’re using a rental car.
Your fee will probably account for the cost of relocating the car back to its original location.
Compare your one-way trip with a round-trip option and weigh your savings against your travel plans.
Next time you’re considering a road trip, make sure to crunch the numbers on renting a car. You just might find that renting is a convenient and cost-effective way between destinations.
Got any car rental hacks to share?
Do you know any great car rental hacks that we didn’t mention in the above tip list? Get in touch and let us know your best hacks!