Whether you want to take a weekend road trip in style or max out your comfort level on a long drive, getting a car rental upgrade can be a lot of fun — especially when you don’t have to pay extra. There are several ways to improve your odds of getting a nicer car than what you paid for, but you do need to prepare a little bit in advance. Before you show up for your reservation, follow these seven tips on how to get a rental car upgrade for free.
Tip 1: Sign up for a rewards program
Most rental car companies have a free rewards program that allows consumers to earn perks. You’ll get points with each reservation you make, eventually earning free rentals. You can also potentially take advantage of some ongoing benefits as well, including free upgrades. The downside is that you don’t automatically get access to free upgrades — you typically need to either qualify for an upper tier of the program or accumulate enough points to essentially purchase an upgrade. This strategy works well if you frequently rent cars, but may not give you much luck if you only need a one-time rental.
Tip 2: Start with a basic car rental reservation
Another strategy for getting a rental upgrade is to book a basic class of vehicle when you make your reservation: It’s easier to get approved for a better car when you start off with the cheapest option. You’ll go from an economy or compact car to a mid-size car. This offers a better chance than trying to get an upgrade from a mid-size or SUV to a luxury vehicle. There’s no guarantee, but you can at least set yourself up for better odds.
Tip 3: Pick up your rental car during peak times
You may think it’s best to walk up to the rental counter when there’s not a lot of activity. After all, you can chat up the agent and keep your fingers crossed for that free upgrade. But in reality, you may be better off showing up during busy periods, like a Friday afternoon. With lots of people picking up cars, the company may actually run out of the vehicle class you reserved. In that case, you’ll have to be bumped up to a free upgrade.
Tip 4: Search for car rental upgrade coupons
A quick internet search for “car rental upgrade coupons” can actually yield solid results. Coupons are specific to each rental car company, so shop around to make sure the final price is still the best deal out there. Check that your reservation is within the valid date range for the promotion. Finally, look for other restrictions. Are weekends excluded? Does the coupon apply to longer-term rentals? These details may vary by promotion, so read the terms and conditions carefully before making your reservation.
Tip 5: Check for membership discounts and rental car upgrade offers
Regardless of whether or not you sign up for a car rental rewards program, check some of your other memberships for discounts or free upgrades as well. For instance, AAA or AARP memberships often come with travel discounts. Also check out any warehouse club memberships you have, like Costco, Sam’s Club or BJ’s. You can often get exclusive travel deals, which may include some rental car freebies. This tip helps you shop around for the best deal out there, rather than being stuck with one loyalty program that may not have any promotions when you’re planning to travel.
Tip 6: Ask for a rental car upgrade at the counter
There’s no replacement for simply asking for what you want. With good timing and the right attitude, you could get the rental agent to agree to a free upgrade without a coupon or special membership. Even if you don’t get an entirely free upgrade, you could very well get a heavily discounted upgrade. After all, if the agent has the opportunity to increase the sale, they may just meet you in the middle.
Tip 7: Upgrade your rental car experience with Avail
Figuring out how to get a rental car upgrade isn’t the only way to save money and improve your car rental experience. Instead of taking your chances with a traditional car rental company, try car sharing with Avail. You’ll get guaranteed reservations every single time and fair pricing, with no additional fee to add a second driver. And every trip offers insurance coverage from Allstate and 24/7 roadside assistance. Make your reservation with Avail today.