Anyone who has ever rented a car knows that more times than not, the quoted price is significantly lower than the one you pay at the rental counter. With the spring and summer vacation seasons right around the corner, we thought it would be a good idea to share some tips on how to save on a rental car for your next road trip. Here is a list of nine ways to pay less than top dollar on a rental car courtesy of Mitchell Hartman of Marketplace.org.
- Don’t go for a size – or model – upgrade: If you don’t need a mid-sized car or SUV and an economy or compact model is available, book it. You’ll also save on gas in a smaller car.
- Ask for a free upgrade: If you absolutely need a bigger car or want one with more options, it doesn’t hurt to ask. The counter clerk may do it.
- Bring accessories, don’t rent them: A sophisticated GPS device might cost you $7 to $9 per day to rent but only $100 or so to buy. If you have your own GPS device, bring it. If not, you can always buy a $10 dash mount and use your smartphone for help getting around.
- Bring your own car seat: Bring your own – just make sure it’s not more expensive as an airline carry-on than the additional rental cost.
- Fill the tank yourself before returning the car: Paying for a full tank of gas in advance is only worth it if you return the car with the tank completely empty. Filling the tank yourself is the cheapest gasoline option.
- Decline the additional insurance: If you carry your own private auto insurance, you probably don’t need the extra coverage. Be sure to check with your insurance (or credit card) company regarding coverage for rental vehicles.
- Shop online early (and often) for rental deals: Not a fan of the rates for given dates at a specific airport? Make a reservation and then shop again days or weeks later. Due to demand pricing, rental rates are likely to decrease to attract more business if reservations are slack for a specific period of time.
- Use online services like Priceline and Orbitz: Bid on rental cars using these or similar services to get the best deal. Be warned, however. Most of the time these reservations need to be paid in advance and are likely not refundable.
- Make sure you use affinity discounts: AAA and Costco memberships may get you a better deal on rental cards. Look into it.
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