It is a no-brainer that driving around by car offers a lot more flexibility and freedom than riding public transportation or going on prepackaged tours. Nevertheless, many people still shy away from renting a vehicle due to perceived high costs. Renting a car does not have to be expensive, however. Below are some tips on how you can book the cheapest car rental possible.
Just like with airline flights, the cost of renting a car increases as you get closer to your travel date, so a great way to save money is to book as early as possible. Plus, you are more likely to get your preferred car.
Shop Around Online
Thanks to the Internet, comparing prices has become easy. Instead of checking out just the big names, do a broad search first to see as many options as possible, from big brands (such as Hertz and Enterprise) to discount brands (such as Advantage and Payless) to local outfits in your destination.
To make comparison shopping easier, you can use sites such as Booking Buddy, Kayak, Priceline, and Cheapcarrental.com. Once you’ve narrowed down your choices to only a few, also check the web for promos and discount codes. Sites such as SlickDeals, RetailMeNot, and Autoslash will come handy here. Also drop by the websites of the rental companies on your list, as these companies sometimes post discount codes on their own site.
Many rental firms allow free cancellation of reservations so if you find a good deal, you can reserve the vehicle and just cancel if you find a better deal later on. Just make sure you are clear on the conditions for the free cancellation.
Skip Unnecessary Add-ons
Decline add-ons that you don’t need or can get a cheaper alternative to. Instead of paying extra for GPS, for example, you can just use apps such as Google Maps and Waze. If you are traveling with children, just bring the child car seats you already own instead of renting from the car hire company.
Don’t Pre-Pay for Fuel
Some companies will offer you a discounted tank of fuel during booking time. This is so that you don’t have to return the vehicle with a full tank. This is not a good deal, though. The discounted fuel rate will only be pennies cheaper than in gas stations and nobody really returns the car with an empty tank, so if you pay ahead for gas, you will just be double paying for fuel.
Stick to economy or compact cars. Sometimes, rental firms will entice you to get an upgrade and even offer it for free, but doing so might mean you will get a less fuel-efficient car.
Avoid buying rental company insurance
If your rental car suffers any damage while in your custody, you will be charged an excess, even if the damage is not your fault. Something as small as a tiny scratch can result in a substantial fee. Because of this, many rental firms will try to upsell you their excess insurance, which limits or eliminates the amount you have to pay in case of damage.
While being covered by such an insurance is recommended, avoid buying rental company insurance because you might already have a coverage and are just unaware of it. Check first if your credit card, travel insurance or existing car insurance already provides excess coverage.
If not, consider buying a policy from a third-party seller. The car hire excess insurance offered by rental companies tend to be a lot more expensive than comparable (or even better) standalone ones offered by independent vendors. Doing this can save you hundreds of dollars in insurance and even provide better coverage.
Inspect the rental vehicle thoroughly
To avoid paying for damages you did not cause, inspect the rental vehicle meticulously during pick-up. If you see nicks, scratches, and dents that are not on the company’s list of known issues for the car, inform the firm’s personnel right away and have it added to the list and the list signed by the staff.
Check both the exterior and the interior of the car, including the tires and the fuel level. Note down the mileage and take pictures or videos of the vehicle’s existing damages. This documentation will back you up if the company later charges you for any damage that was already there before you got the vehicle.
The Bottom Line
You can enjoy the convenience that a rental car provides without paying through the nose. With just a little bit of preparation and effort, you can keep your rental costs to a minimum.
Categories: Travel Tips