Rental Cars

Tips for Saving Money on a Car Rental

Many travelers operate under the misconception that car rental rates are all about the same, and that shopping is a waste of time. But rates do vary--sometimes by quite a bit--between companies and destinations.

When you need a car rental for vacation or business, it's a good idea to consider several factors while reserving to help make your trip more enjoyable. Rates are often a key consideration in the reservation of your car but, there are other factors that are important. Besides your rate, you should also consider the service you will receive at the airport counter, how quickly you can obtain your rental car, the vehicle/model and its condition, the convenience of returning your car rental, the hours of operation and the availability of emergency road service.

It is also important to be aware of the policies and restrictions of the different agencies. Some agencies even allow cash rentals, debit cards and rentals to those 18 to 25 years of age. Consideration of all of these factors can help make a large difference in your overall rental car experience.

Online Booking Tips

Car Rental Companies are still a unregulated, each company has slightly different rules, some won't rent one way rentals, others won't rent to drivers under 25. But all operate on the same basic principle >> get as much money as possible for each rental.

Beware of hidden fees and extras

Online Booking

Online booking sites are a good way to comparison shop. You'll often find better rates than those offered at the individual rental companies. Further many companies often offer Web only discounts, take advantage of them whenever possible. If you're booking online or on the phone, make sure to ask about any restrictions or extra fees and read the fine print.

Flexible Travel

Demand and Supply is the major contributing factor to the car rental rate fluctuations, so try to avoid holidays and long weekends. Make your reservation as soon as you have decided on plans. Most Rental Car Companies increase their rates as reservations come in and their fleets become booked. Also, certain classes of cars will sell out and you may have to end up reserving and paying for a larger vehicle than you want.

Being flexible about your travel plans can save you money. Rental Companies that focus on the business or replacement market customers often have great weekend specials. The best rates are found during the off season and at other times when the Rental Companies have extra cars sitting around.

Decline the insurance

Most travelers know this one, but there is a lot of pressure to change minds at the rental counter. Companies make big profits from insurance fees. Some clerks are trained to create as much anxiety as possible for people who decline it.

They'll tell you their insurance closes expensive loopholes, which may or may not be true in your case. They'll tell you stories about how a customer's auto insurance or credit card failed to cover damages during a recent accident.

There may be truth in the stories, but the odds are slim that you'll need any of this coverage. It is very likely, however, that your auto insurance policy at home covers rentals as well. Call your agent to verify it.

Also check with your credit card company to see if using the card to pay for a rental provides collision coverage. In many cases, you'll find it a positive response.

Airport rentals are best avoided

It's often very convenient to rent a car at the airport, but keep in mind that you'll pay for the privilege. If your first drive will be from an airport to a hotel for the night, it is a good idea to take a airport shuttle to the hotel to save the price of day's rental. In major cities, you could probably pick up the car downtown. Even if you must drive the same day your flight lands, you don't have to necessarily get the car at the airport. By picking it up downtown, you can often avoid airport surcharges.

Car Rental Coupons

Use Car Rental Coupons, but read them carefully for exceptions. Most upgrade coupons are "based on availability", so if you have an upgrade coupon that you wish to use and also have a monetary discount coupon, bring them both. If they can't honor the upgrade, they may still give you the monetary discount. Also, remember to book any coupons or discounts in your reservation.

Fuel Gas Option Plans

A "Fuel Purchase Option" or "Fuel Service Option" means you purchase an additional tank of gas at the average market price when you pick up the car. This plan is only useful If you forget or do not have the time fill up before returning to the drop off point, since it will allow you to avoid paying the high fuel prices you will be charged to fill the tank up. If you return the car near empty gas tank then you have really played this option to perfection but will rarely occur.

Be sure to return the car with the tank full, though, because the refueling fees are exorbitant.

Reserve an Economy Car

Major rental agencies generally sell out of "economy" cars first and you might be able to get a free upgrade at no additional charge depending on what is available! Remember you reserved a rate in which the car company is obligated to. What if you really don't want the economy car? You can always upgrade on the spot. This can be risky though if you actually need a bigger car than the one you reserved.

Weekly Rates or Daily Rates

It is always best to stick with the dates and time period you have reserved. If you're not sure when you will be returning a car because you may have to stay longer, it may be much better to reserve in advance for a longer time and return it early than pay the premium daily rates for returning a car a few days late. Generally, you're not penalized for returning it early, however this is not true across the board. Some companies may recalculate your rate based on current daily rates, which may be much higher than when you reserved.

Car Rental Discounts

Ask about discounts for major national organizations like AAA, AARP, frequent flier programs and credit card programs you may belong to. If you're employed by a company that frequently rents cars, they may have a negotiated corporate rate. Make sure to check. Some of the online discounters already has discounted rates so it may not be applicable.

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