Having ultimate freedom and flexibility on a road trip or big vacation is a total travel game changer. But dealing with rental car companies can seriously toy with your sanity, not to mention your bank account.
There are, however, ways to get around these unwanted expenses and find some serious bargains. Check out our best tricks on how to get cheaper car rentals and save your money for trying the tasty local cuisine or seeing the best sights.
Check out aggregate sites
With so many rental companies out there, you could spend hours figuring out how to find the best car rental deals. Start by looking at aggregate sites. They’ll essentially do the work for you by scanning tons of rental companies and pumping out lists of available cars and prices.
There are all sorts of aggregate sites that search big and small car companies. A quick search on one of them will give you a good idea of what the going rate is at the time.
Compare with rental sites
If you find a deal or two on the aggregate site, don’t book it yet! Instead, go directly to the car rental company’s page and compare the price. You may find a better rate.
Try budget companies
When you’re trying to figure out how to get a cheap rental car, keep in mind that the big car rental brands aren’t the only players out there. There are all sorts of lesser-known budget rental companies worth checking out, and you may even get better prices. Always stay informed and read up on their policies to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth and you don’t get scammed.
Don’t rent at the airport
Renting a car straight from the airport is the most convenient travel option when you’re hopping off the plane. But it’s definitely not the cheapest. You can easily end up paying extra for the convenience, which often still requires you to shuttle to a parking lot far from the airport.
These airport surcharges are sneaky. You may not even see them noted until you compare prices with off-site rental spots or agencies in town. Avoid the unnecessary costs and check out prices from a non-airport pick-up location. If the price is right, just take public transportation into town or hitch a ride share.
Switch up pick-up and drop-off times
Rental car companies usually charge based on a full 24-hour cycle. If you pick up your car at 10 a.m. and return it at 11 a.m. the next day, you may get charged extra. Play with the pick-up and drop-off times to see how the prices change. And if that means you have to turn the car in an hour earlier than expected, it may just be worth it.
Utilize memberships and discounts
You’d be surprised at all the rental car discounts out there. Have a Costco membership, for example? What about an AARP account?
When you’re figuring out how to get the best rental car deals, read up on other memberships or travel programs, like AAA, frequent flyer programs, alumni or student discounts, military, and government discounts. You can even check to see if your company offers some sort of employee discount on car rentals.
Don’t add a second driver
Adding a second driver to the mix may seem like a great way to ease the driving burden on a big road trip. But it often comes with a cost. Most (but not all) rental companies charge for a second driver—we’re talking upwards of an extra $12 a day or more. Rent a car for a week and that deal you scored just got way pricier.
Like we said, not all companies charge for a second driver. Some companies waive the fee if the second driver is a spouse, domestic partner, or family member. But you’ll often need to have the same addresses on your driver’s license.
Waive the insurance
You found a great deal! You figured out how to get a cheap rental car! And then comes the pesky insurance question, and your joy dissipates.
Yes, rental companies use every trick in the book to get you to buy insurance, but there’s a good chance you don’t need it. If you have your own car insurance, you’re likely covered. Just call your insurance company to make sure. If not, lots of credit cards cover rental insurance. You simply have to book the car with the same credit card.
Ignore the upsells
Like they do with insurance, rental companies will try to sell you whatever they can to make extra cash. If you hear things about upgrading to a car with GPS or satellite radio, say no. Your phone already does those things anyway. Just say, “Thanks, but no thanks,” and move along.
Book an economy car
Economy cars are a great option because they’re usually the cheapest. That’s why they’re the most popular cars, and companies often overbook and run out of them. There’s a good chance you could show up to the rental office and find yourself in a sweet free upgrade situation.
As long as you aren’t expecting a big upgrade for your crew of seven, booking economy is a win-win when you’re looking into how to get discounts on car rental.
Borrow with Avail
Deal-finding and coupon-clipping with car rentals is time-consuming, stressful, and honestly exhausting. But it turns out there are more ways to rent a car than with a traditional rental company.
Car sharing with Avail can help you avoid so many of these stressors. You can book directly through Avail and pick up a car at locations throughout Chicago and Denver. Trips are protected by Allstate insurance, daily rates are low and a second driver is always free. Wondering how to find the best car rentals? Borrow with Avail.