We rent cars quite a bit. For a while, every time we drove to New York, we would rent a car. It made more sense to put miles onto a car that wasn’t ours. Plus, it was actually really cheap for us to rent a car too. You can definitely save money on car rentals if you know what you’re doing.
So, of course, this post is here to help.
10 Tips To Save Money On Car Rentals
1. Get Unlimited Miles.
If you’re renting a car, it’s probably because you’re driving somewhere far and you’d rather put the miles on someone else’s car. Be careful you’re not putting the miles on your wallet.
Some car rentals will include a daily allotment of miles and if you exceed them, you have to pay per mile. That can really add up. If you’re renting this for vacation, you don’t want to have to worry about choosing activities based on how many miles you have left for the day.
So definitely look for a car rental that includes unlimited miles. It makes the most sense if you plan more than just within town.
2. Watch Out For Hidden Fees Based On Your Travel.
I went to pick up a car once at a company we used often. They asked, as they always do, where I was going. “To New York for my husband’s grandma’s 100th birthday party,” I said.
“Oh, New York. That’s an extra $50 a day,” the worker said.
Shock was my initial reaction. I couldn’t believe it. I had said we had rented from there countless times and never had an additional fee … and was told we must have gotten lucky. Lucky was that I was at the airport with other companies as options. I found another company, one that didn’t require me to pay a daily fee to travel to New York, and rented from there instead.
3. Take Your Chances.
There’s one car rental company that offers you a discount if you choose a “wild card” rental. Basically, you will end up with any car they have available, but you pay the lowest rental fee.
So, you can end up with an SUV for the price of a compact car, saving you a ton of money on your rental.
When we were renting once, the man working behind the counter told us to rent this way from now on. He said in his experience, the car given is always worth more than what you pay.
4. Don’t Pre-Pay For The Gas.
Car rental companies expect you to return the car with a full tank of gas. You can do this yourself before you return it, or you can pay a per gallon rate when you return it and the car company will fill it for you. You make this decision when you’re renting the car, not when you’re returning it.
Here’s the catch, though.
You are paying for an entire tank of gas at that rate, regardless of how much gas is in the tank when you return it. So you could return it half full, but you still have to pay for a full tank of gas. Not worth it.
If you don’t return it full, they’ll charge you another rate to fill it up, and that rate is usually so much more than the actual cost of gas. So just fill it up before you return it and save yourself the money.
5. Skip The Insurance. Maybe.
Before you rent a car, call your insurance company and see if your insurance covers any damages to a rental. Some do, some don’t. Our current insurance does, so we are able to skip the extra fee of added insurance when we’re renting a car. Before you skip it, though, call your insurance to make sure.
Also, as Stephanie pointed out on our Facebook page, your credit card may offer free car rental insurance if you use that credit card to book. She also suggests checking the rewards with your credit card. You may be able to get a percentage off or an upgrade.
6. Avoid The Extras.
You can add a GPS to your rental or you can just use your phone as a GPS or bring your own GPS with you.
Same with something like E-ZPass, SunPass, etc.
Some rental companies will allow you to avoid long toll lines by using their E-ZPass (or similar system, depending on where you are). You’ll pay per day for the use of it, plus the cost of tolls. Instead, deny theirs and use your own or just pay tolls with cash.
7. Check Discount Sites.
Before you book your rental car, be sure to check out discount sites like Groupon. You can look up car rental companies by name. You can find any active discount codes for that company, then follow a link to the car rental company’s page.
Even better, when you click through, the discount code may be populated for you already so you don’t even have to remember to enter it at checkout.
If you don’t have an account for a discount site, you can just google the name of the rental car company plus the words “promo code” and see if any discounts are available.
8. Check Your Memberships.
If you have AAA, you might get a discount at certain car rental companies. Warehouse memberships like Costco offer discounts to members as well. And frequent flier programs may have discounts for you, depending on what level you are.
So before you book, check out any programs that you’re a member of to see if you can get a cheaper rental that way.
9. Group Your Rental.
If you’re traveling out of town and need a hotel too, you might be able to find a better rate if you book a car and hotel bundle at the same time.
A site like Orbitz will give you that option. You can also add a flight to your bundle, in case you’re in need of that too. Booking as a package can definitely give you big savings.
10. Prepay For The Rental.
If you know your plans aren’t going to change and you are 100% going to need a car rental, pay for it when you book it.
A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, they say. But that goes for car rentals too. Money upfront is better than money down the line because you may never see that money down the line. So car rental companies will offer you a cheaper rental price if you pay for it at the time of booking rather than paying for it when you pick the car up.
11. Head Out Of Town.
Your cheapest rental location may be in a different town. Our airport location is always a better price than our local free standing locations (which is actually kind of crazy because airport locations usually charge more).
Stephanie mentioned on our Facebook page that she has found that a location a few towns away from her offered a better price than the same company with a location in her town. So definitely look around if you’re able to, just to compare.
12. Don’t Add Additional Drivers.
If you’re driving with someone else, you might want to consider only choosing one of you to drive the car. It costs the companies more to insure multiple drivers, and the companies pass that expense on to the renters. So if you can agree on one driver, you may be able to save that multiple driver fee.
What other methods do you use to save money on car rentals? Be sure to leave us a comment below.