Like a pirate’s treasure marked with an X on a deserted island, rental car deals and discounts seem like a made-up subplot from Robert Louis Stevenson’s novel “Treasure Island.” But unlike that chest of rubies, pearls, and gold coins, deals for car rentals are very real. They exist and they’re there for the taking. All you have to do is reach.
We may not have Blackbeard’s buried treasure to offer you today, but we do have an awesome jewel of sorts to bestow upon you. As part of our All-American series, we’ve put together a lengthy list of rental car hacks to help you get a leg-up next time you’re renting a vehicle. Follow along. Take notes. You’re going to want to remember this one.
Suits and Students
Trust us, the discounts are out there. If you’re in a corporate job, check with the higher-ups, because a lot of corporate companies are entitled to massive discounts with certain rental car companies.
If you haven’t quite joined the rat race yet because you’re still studying for mid-terms, don’t worry. Plenty of companies offer awesome discounts and perks for students.
One Car, Two Car, Three Car, Four
We know all you need is one car to get around, but that doesn’t mean you can’t book as many as you please. Hold the reservations until the last minute and then go with the one whose rates dropped the most. No, this is not a joke. You can book as many as you please and ditch the most expensive ones at the last minute. And unlike many airline companies, most rental car companies won’t charge you an out-of-this-world cancellation fee. But for the ones that do charge a cancellation fee, there’s a way to get around it. Select the “pay at counter” option when you reserve a car and all cancellation fees will go out the window.
Forget the Rental Car Counters at the Airport
It’s so simple. You land at the airport, deplane, collect your bags from baggage claim, and make your way to the nearby rental car counter. You get your car and you’re on your way.
Even though you’re giddy about getting behind the wheel and embarking on this new adventure, your wallet is lighter. Why? Because those super convenient rental counters like to throw extra surcharges at you.
One way to avoid these is to get your car from a place that’s not at the airport—or better yet, reserve through an on-line agency like CarRentals. Trust us, booking online or taking a short taxi ride to an off-site locale will be much cheaper than a $100-plus extra fee.
One thing to keep in mind: Some of these off-site businesses are connected to the airport by name and apply the same charges. With a phone call or two you’ll be able to find the ones that aren’t “airport” affiliated.
As a final tip, save yourself loads of time by booking ahead of landing so you can get in the car and go as soon as you arrive.
You probably trust your own driving skills, because if you didn’t, you wouldn’t have gotten a license. And since your confidence is that of a Formula 1 driver, there’s no need to get the rental car insurance, right? Not quite. Just place a quick phone call to your own car insurance company and they’ll likely tell you that under your current plan you’re covered while behind the wheel of a rented, 4-door sedan.
Have more questions about car insurance? Check out our guide to “Everything You Need to Know About Car Rental Insurance.”
Unexpected Add-ons and Costs
You’ve made a standard reservation: a simple, small hatchback. Then you discover upon arrival that the rental car company has added on every bell and whistle. Don’t feel pressured into getting unnecessary accessories like a sunroof or a car with a V8. Unless, of course, you want all the fancy stuff, then by all means splurge.
When you get your car, be sure to do a thorough inspection of every nick, dent, scratch, and so forth. Make the rental agent aware of such existing travesties. In fact, take pictures of said damage so you don’t get stuck with the repair bill upon returning the vehicle. That’s like being accused and paying for a crime you didn’t commit.
The Gas Spiel
Rental companies routinely get people to fall for their gas deals. Hey, we admit they sound pretty good. After all, you need gas to drive the car, but going the easy way may cost you in the end.
Prepaid gas options may sound fast and convenient, but will blow a hole through your pocket faster than a blow torch. How? Because even though you may return with only half of a tank gone, you’ll still be charged for a full tank. Fill it up at a gas station. And do not return it with anything less than a full tank to avoid surcharges.
We hope these car rental tips and tricks help save a bit of money and stress next time you’re driving away in a rental car. Nothing makes us happier than helping customers like you stay flush with cash and headache-free.
Here’s a few additional tips to save you time and money because we couldn’t resist:
• Booking weekend rates instead of weekday rates tend to be cheaper.
• Renting for two weeks? Check to see if it’s cheaper to pay the weekly rate twice (returning the car in between).
• If you’re using the car for at least five days, check to see if a weekly rate is cheaper.
• Traveling with a child? Bring your own car seat.
• Bring your own GPS.
• Prepaying in advance can lead to discounts, as can booking early.
• Remember, whoever the driver is needs to have a credit card with their name on it.