Rental Cars

Whether it’s home for the holidays, kicking back on spring break, or road tripping for summer vacation, for many vacationers, travel means renting a car! Here are some tips to save money on your rental car, leaving more money for the rest of your week or your weekend!

It's a rental!

On the road in Western Australia

First of all, comparison shop. Different websites will give you different rental car rates — sometimes drastically different rates. I always start at Orbitz.com. Orbitz has an easy-to-read list of car types and rental agencies, providing you with a starting point — the price you’re trying to beat!
If you’re a Costco member, next visit CostcoTravel.com. Costco partners with several agencies and also provides a matrix of car types & prices. Costco’s prices are almost always significantly less than any others, so if you rent cars often and aren’t a member, a membership might be worth considering. Costco’s website provides pass-thru links to agency websites, making booking a breeze.  We’ve saved over a hundred dollars per rental several times via Costco.

Keep left!

Erin driving on the left side of the road in Australia

Another rental car discounter is RentalCarMomma.com. While there’s no membership fee, this site is a bit overwhelming to navigate. But, with a little persistence, it provides some great discounts to certain destinations. We recently booked a Hawaii rental car through RentalCarMomma and saved about $100 on a five-day rental over Orbitz and Costco rates.

20121209-210735.jpgOnce you’ve pinpointed the best deal on the car you want, visit the rental agency’s website. For example, if CostcoTravel.com is showing a great rate through Avis, visit Avis’s website for comparison. Occasionally, albeit infrequently, booking directly through a agency provides a better rate than third party websites.

Finally, even if you only rent cars once a year or so, become a member of each agency’s frequent renter program. These programs are almost always free and often provide tangible benefits besides the points that you might only accrue at a snail’s pace. Alamo’s Insiders program, for instance, waives the additional driver fee that is otherwise charged to couples. And these programs usually allow you to store your renter information online, allowing you to save time at the rental car counter. For example, National’s Emerald Club members can head directly to a kiosk for a printout, choose their car, and drive off without standing in line.20121209-210414.jpgUnlike airfares, there doesn’t seem to be a “sweet spot” time-wise when it comes to booking a car rental. I book a car rental as soon as my airline tickets are purchased or as soon as my trip is planned. There’s no penalty for canceling a car rental reservation or, for that matter, failing to pick up a rental car (beware of third party websites that say otherwise!). So don’t hesitate to get one booked, and then check rates again once or twice before your trip. I’ve cancelled many car rental reservations months after booking after finding a better deal closer to my travel date.

So, in short:

  • Start your search at Orbitz.com to get a feel for rates.
  • Compare those published rates with a discounter like CostcoTravel.com.
  • Once you’ve found the lowest rate, check that agency’s site for a lower rate.
  • Join that agency’s frequent renter program for additional discounts.
  • Book your rental car without obligation, and check again for lower rates before you travel.

What car rental tips have you discovered?  Let us know … and have a great adventure behind the wheel, whether it’s for a week or a weekend!

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2 thoughts on “Rental Cars

  1. Hi Jeff & Erin,

    These are great tips! Auto Europe has just introduced a number of discounts including AAA, AARP & Military on our international car rental services. Let me know if I can provide you with more information on these for inclusion.

    Keep up the great work!
    ~M

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