Whether you’re renting a car at home for a day trip, or abroad for a longer journey, the numbers can add up really quick. Especially when you consider the daily cost of the car rental, paying for gas, and any extras you may need like the use of a GPS, baby seat, or exceeding your mileage.
While some destinations have great options for public transportation like buses or trains, others leave you with few options but to rent a car. And what are you to do when you’ve already spent so much on a trip and you don’t want to overwhelm your budget even more?
This guide will share the best tips for saving money when renting a car. There are a surprising amount of discounts out there if you know where to look, as well as tricks for saving when you book.
Money-Saving Tips for Renting a Car
Review Your Rates
There are a lot of different options for finding the best rental cars, but it’s easy to miss the most obvious discount if you don’t know where to look.
While you can go through a third party to secure a rental car, sometimes the best discounts are on the actual car company website.
It’s definitely advisable to compare the rates on third party sites, but take a couple of extra minutes to check with your preferred company directly.
When you book directly through the car rental agency, you’re more likely to find discounts and last-minute savings. For the best money-saving results, check multiple sights before you secure a reservation.
Check for Discounts
Did you know you’re probably already eligible for car rental discounts? If you’re a AAA member or a member of the military you might qualify for a discount through the rental agency.
Even if you don’t have a special membership or affiliation, you probably still qualify for some form of discount. Travel credit cards frequently offer discounts or fee waivers for car rentals at specific providers. You could get up to 25% off just for having a specific credit card, for example.
Your bank also might have a discount option depending on their relationships with other companies. And you should check if there are any coupon codes available online before you make a booking (this is as simple as Googling “Hertz coupon codes).
If you can’t find a discount through any bank providers or institutions, go directly to the car rental website. Often times if it’s your first time renting with them or if you sign up for their mailing list you’ll get a sweet discount. You could get up to 30% off in your inbox. It’s always worth a check.
Avoid the Airport
Renting at the airport is easy. You don’t have to travel anywhere else to get your rental, and you can easily drop it off on your way back home.
But the problem with airport rentals is that they’re notoriously the most expensive. They can be sometimes over twice the price of rentals elsewhere.
It is likely cheaper to take a taxi or uber a few miles to a non-airport facility and then renting from there. For just $10-$20 each way you could save $30 or more a day on your car rental. And most airports have cheap or even free shuttle buses into the center of the city.
Don’t Be Pressured into Insurance
Rental companies are known to pressure you into purchasing additional insurance at a premium. While you should certainly drive with insurance, you probably already receive enough coverage through your current insurance plan.
If driving overseas, review your current insurance policy to see if you have overseas coverage. You might even already qualify for insurance coverage through your travel credit card (we do with our Chase Sapphire Preferred).
Even if you do end up needing extra insurance for your car rental, there are third party options that are generally cheaper than the one provided by your rental company.
Say No to Extras
While it might seem nice to have a GPS or satellite radio, these perks come at a premium. Most smartphones already have GPS technology or you could bring your own from home.
As for special radio, bring your own auxiliary cord to use your own playlist instead. These small extras add up quickly and can increase the cost of your rental car by a large margin. You could probably purchase a new GPS for cheaper than the cost of the daily rental if it’s a long trip.
Also, it’s important to remember that if you don’t use these features at home, odds are you won’t use them here.
Know the Road Rules
Accidents happen, but you can still equip yourself with the right road knowledge to be safe when renting a car. Always review the road rules at your destination and familiarize yourself with the area before getting behind the wheel.
Research things like which side of the road you’ll be expected to drive on, whether or not you can smoke in the car, if it’s legal to talk on the mobile phone while driving etc. You don’t want to have to pay an international fine or face jail time.
It’s also good to note that when researching your roads, make a note of where the checkpoints are if you’re crossing the border into a different country, and be sure to have your passport handy.
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