Wondering how to avoid one-way rental fees in the USA? If you don’t plan on returning your rental car to its original location, you may be in for a substantial fee. However, with careful planning, there are some clever ways to avoid this surcharge — or lower your bill in general.
1. Book during the off-season
One simple solution to avoid one-way rental fees is to book during the off-season. This will differ by location and is typically tied to the weather and major travel holidays.
Car rental companies need to move their cars from one part of the country to the next as demand grows and shrinks, so they often charge lower prices if you’re driving to the right location at the right time. If you’re skeptical, try putting in your travel destination at different times of the year. During peak seasons, you’ll pay top dollar. But if you go in the off-season, you won’t be charged nearly as much. The obvious drawback to this strategy is that the date range of your travel plans needs to be flexible.
2. Pre-pay the entire balance
Some car rental companies offer up to a 35% discount for drivers who pay the entire balance upfront when they make their booking. If you opt instead to pay when you drop off, you’ll pay more. The drawback to this approach is that these reservations are usually non-refundable, so your travel dates have to be completely confirmed before you book. However, it can help lower the impact of a one-way rental fee.
3. Book well in advance
If you’re booking during a peak traveling season, the further out you can plan, the better. This strategy clearly isn’t ideal for a spontaneous road trip, but if you can aim to book up to six months in advance, you’ll save a significant amount of money.
4. Search for coupons and special savings
It’s not uncommon for car rental companies to either offer coupons or discounts, some of which revolve around one-way rentals, to their customers. Great sites for finding coupons include Coupons.com and RetailMeNot.com, but you can also try going directly to the company’s website. Groups you belong to, such as AAA or a college alumni association, may also offer discounts. Sometimes, if you sign up for the rental company’s email or text alerts, you’ll get a discount to use on your next rental.
5. Use a booking site
Sites like Kayak and Priceline are a great way to get a comprehensive view of rental car prices. Using this method, you can quickly eliminate some companies for their one-way rental fees. The downside to using a third-party booking site, however, is that they often only include the biggest companies in search results.
6. Become a driveaway driver
One-way car rental alternatives are sometimes a little creative, which is the case with this one. A driveaway driver is a person who moves cars from one location to another. These cars can be anything including:
- Government vehicles
- Rental cars
- Business vehicles
The downside to being a driveaway driver is that you have to be very flexible when you’re traveling. Companies typically need their cars moved within a strict period, so you’ll only have so much time to rest and go sightseeing. You’ll also need to pay a deposit of a few hundred dollars, but this amount is refunded back to you once the car is delivered safely. On the plus side, the first tank of gas is free and you get paid to travel across North America.
7. Experiment with different drop-off locations
If you can be a little flexible with where you end your trip, try putting in different locations as your final drop-off point. Some locations are more popular than others, so if you’re able to drop off at one of these spots, you may be saving the car rental company a little time and energy, which can translate into savings.
8. Return the car at an airport
Another alternative to one-way car rental fees is to return the car at an airport. Many car rental companies do not charge one-way rental fees if your final destination is a popular airport. While cars originating at an airport can be more expensive to rent, if your final stop is an airport, you may actually save some money.
Traditional rental car companies have hidden fees that can be tricky to avoid. These eight tips may help you save money. But if you don’t actually need to book a one-way car rental, then consider using car sharing to save money instead. Avail car sharing offers transparent pricing and doesn’t charge extra for basics like adding a second driver or drivers under 25 years old. There are convenient pick-up and drop-off locations in neighborhoods around Chicago and Denver, making it more convenient to get a car when you need one. Each location is self-serve, too, meaning you don’t need to wait in line to get the car you booked — just grab the keys from the key box and head out. As an added bonus, Avail offers Allstate insurance coverage for every trip and includes 24/7 roadside assistance so you can enjoy the journey with less stress.