Renting a car can sometimes feel like the most complicated part of travel. The endless add-ons, knowing what’s required and what isn’t, and deciding whether to pay for gas in advance (don’t, by the way) — it’s all a bit overwhelming. Rental car providers like it that way because unprepared renters wind up paying two to three times what they should. Here are five simple tips for securing a dirt-cheap rental car and sailing past the pick-up counter.
Skip the Airport Rental Car Counter Entirely
After a long flight, it’s a wonderful feeling to pick up your rental car without ever leaving the airport. Rental companies know this, however, and often charge a 10-30% premium for airport pickups. To pocket the premium instead, find the next closest rental office and take an Uber or Lyft to and from the airport. Travelers looking for a week-long rental can save big with this tactic.
Prepay for Your Reservation
Most major rental companies now offer discounts to travelers who prepay. Often, the price comparison (prepaying versus paying on drop-off) is spelled out on the provider’s website. If not, make an inquiry to see if you can save by paying the total in advance.
Know Whether You Really Need Add-on Insurance
Between third-party travel insurance, credit card perks, and your personal auto insurance, the chances are good that you’re already covered on your rental car. Call the appropriate provider or read the fine print on each of these policies to confirm in advance. Skipping the daily add-on insurance can help you save up to $25 per day (in some cases more than the daily car rental rate itself).
Book Your Rental Car for Longer
It sounds strange, but reserving your rental car for longer than you need it can prove to be much cheaper. This is especially true when, for example, you book your car for a week when you only need it for five days. The behind-the-scenes pricing model targets vacationers who are more likely to rent cars over the weekends.
Always Ask for More
Whether booking a hotel room, securing a rental car, or angling for a better seat on your next flight, the best advice for travelers is to always ask for more. If you’re traveling off-peak and the agent at the rental counter knows they have better cars which are likely to sit idle, they’re often happy to provide an upgrade if you ask nicely. We once upgraded from a basic, full-size car to a convertible Corvette for just $25 more per day just because we knew to ask. The worst they’re going to say is: “I’m sorry, we don’t have anything available.”