How To Save Money On A Car Rental? | Plus Useful Tips

Renting a car can be a great way to get around, whether traveling on vacation or needing a set of wheels around town. It can also get quite expensive depending on where you rent your car and what features you need. There are a few tricks that help save money on a car rental.

Always start by shopping around for the best rates on a rental car. Hint: it’s usually not at the airport. You can also take advantage of savings through membership programs, discounts, and using your own insurance. Finally, make sure to return your rental car in the same condition you got it to avoid extra fees and charges.

How To Save Money On A Car Rental?

Before booking a car rental, you should do a bit of price comparison between major rental car companies. You can check out their individual websites or use a travel booking site to compare in one easy search. The top rental car companies are:

  • Enterprise
  • Hertz
  • Budget
  • Alamo
  • National
  • Avis

Remember that not all rental car companies will be available in your area. This is especially true in rural areas and small towns. You may find that you can get a better deal by expanding your search radius.

Just make sure that you have included the cost of getting to the rental car’s location in your overall analysis since taking a taxi or ride-sharing service can easily outweigh any benefit of getting a cheaper rental car from further away.

Don’t Pick Up A Rental From The Airport

“The biggest tip for saving money on a rental car is to avoid booking and picking up a rental car from the airport.”

Sometimes getting a rental car at the airport can’t be avoided. If this is the case, book your car online and then check-in at the counter or kiosk. Booking a car directly at the counter is almost always more expensive than reserving the exact same car on your smartphone just a few feet away.

It sounds simple but you would be surprised how many people opt for the convenience of walking up to book a car rather than taking the extra time to reserve it in advance. Rental car companies know this and will charge more for it.

Shop For The Best Rates

To find the cheapest rates on car rentals, book your rental as far in advance as you can. This might not always be possible (especially for a last-minute or emergency trip) but it does pay off to plan your trip early.

You can also use comparison tools to shop for the best rental car rates. Check out one of these services to see how different companies compare:

  • Kayak
  • Orbitz
  • Priceline
  • Expedia
  • Hotwire

Many of them also offer bundle discounts if you book a flight, hotel, and rental car at the same time.

The best way to make sure that you are saving money on your rental car is to shop around and compare rates. Just because a site or company advertises that they have the cheapest rates doesn’t make it true.

How to Save Money on One Way Car Rentals?

You may think that by driving the car for less time, you will be able to save money on the rental fees but this isn’t always the case. Reserving a one-way car rental can be more expensive than a round-trip one. This is because the rental car company factors in the need for them to drive or transport the car back to its original destination.

1.Go with a large rental company

Larger car rental companies are typically better for one-way rental rates. They have a larger fleet of cars and don’t always need to get the vehicle back to its original pick-up location. This may not always work but is worth looking into if you have to book a one-way rental.

Car Rental

2.Pay Upfront

You might be able to get a discount by prepaying for your one-way rental car. This usually means that you won’t get a refund if your plans change, so only opt for this strategy if you are sure you will need to keep the same dates and locations.

3.Use a Driveaway Vehicle

If you thought renting a car for a one-way trip is expensive, wait until you hear how much it is to ship a vehicle to a new location. Many people use driveaway services to avoid high shipping costs when they want to get their personal vehicle from one city to another. You can actually “rent” cars through this service and transport someone else’s car from one place to another.

There are a few conditions, including having a clean driving record and putting down a deposit when you pick up the car. You are also subject to mileage and time limits and will need to get the car to its destination by a designated time.

4.Use a discount code

Just like in any money-saving journey, spending some time finding a discount code can result in great savings. Many car rental companies offer special deals through their email newsletter or website. All you need to do is sign up and watch for promotions.

Popular discount site Groupon often offers discounts on car rentals up to 35%. Just make sure to check any blackout dates or restrictions before you buy. This can be a great way to get the best deal on a car rental.

You might also be able to get a discount by booking on a specific credit card. You can find out more about these kinds of savings through your credit card company.

Some great examples include

  • Chase Sapphire Preferred: Up to 25% off a car rental, bonus points when you sign up
  • Capital One Venture Rewards: Use reward miles to pay for car rental
  • American Express: Extra points when booking through American Express Travel
  • Bank of America Travel Rewards: Bonus points when you sign up
  • VISA: Use cashback to book car rentals
  • Mastercard: Use cashback to book car rentals

Avoid High Car Rental Rates

Summer and holidays are the peak times for car rentals. Many companies increase prices as the demand goes up. You can save money on your car rental by booking for a less busy time, as long as your vacation plans are flexible.

If you need to travel during the peak season, make sure to book early to get the best rates. Car rental rates will get higher as the supply of rental cars diminishes.

Use A Membership

You might already have a membership that can get you a great deal on a rental car.

It’s not usually financially beneficial to sign up for one of these memberships just to get a discount on a rental car unless you drive rentals often. But if you are already a member and like the perks, you may as well take advantage of the discount rental car rates as well.

Some rental car agencies also honor discounts for certain professional organizations, such as military members or first responders. Keep in mind that these discounts may not apply to the rental fees.

Sometimes they are offered through better insurance rates, a free upgrade, or additional rental days. Always ask to see if the rental company offers discounts that apply to you.

Membership programs and professional organizations that can offer good rental car deals include:

  • Costco, Sam’s Club, BJs
  • AAA
  • AARP
  • Military, First Responder, Educator discounts
  • Student ID

Sometimes you do need to book your rental car in advance to take advantage of these discounts. Check to see if your membership has a car rental service or department.

Tip: You can also use these memberships to take advantage of discounts on things like hotels and airfare. You might even be able to bundle your entire vacation to get the most savings.

Use A Coupon Or Points

Most car rental agencies do not offer paper coupons, but you can find deals through sites like Groupon or Ebates. Read the fine print before you purchase, however, since some can come with blackout dates or conditions that make the savings not worth the limitations.

Credit card rewards points can also help you save money on renting a car. Not only can you use your accumulated points to offset the costs, but many companies also offer better rates when you use your credit card than the ones advertised.

You can also get double or triple rewards points on the costs of renting a car, which you can use toward future purchases. While not a savings on the rental car itself, you can pay it forward by getting cashback or a discount to use in the future.

credit card

Saving Money On Car Rental Insurance

One of the biggest expenses related to renting a car is the additional insurance. Most rental car companies require that drivers provide proof of insurance or use their insurance coverage. They also offer additional coverage even if you come with your own insurance plan.

Talk to your insurance company before you pick up your rental car to see what they cover if you get into an accident in a rental car. Most will cover all related expenses (less your deductible).

Make sure that you understand what making a claim will do to your car insurance. Some people prefer to use the rental car company’s insurance so that making a claim will not cause their car insurance rates to skyrocket. Ultimately, the choice of using the more expensive rental car insurance plan is up to you.

Just make sure that you do have the amount of coverage that makes you feel comfortable and secure if you should get into an accident. Driving without insurance is a surefire way to make your rental car costs soar if you do get into an accident.

Returning Your Car Rental

You can save money by returning your rental car in good condition. You don’t need to give it a full tune-up, but it should be clean and have a full tank of gas.

Tip: Note any scratches, dents, and other imperfections of the vehicle before you start driving it. Most rental car companies have a form to do this. This will keep you from being liable for damage that was already on the car before you started driving.

Keep It Clean

If you use your rental car at the beach or in the mountains, it can be easy to track extra sand or dirt into the car. When you return it, the rental car company will need to take time to clean up the car before they are able to rent it to the next person. They pass these costs along to you in the form of fees.

Vacuuming out your rental car is easy and can be done at many gas stations. Take the rental car through the car wash if it is particularly dirty on the outside.

You should also check that you’ve taken all of your belongings out of the rental car. Needing to replace things like phone chargers or sunglasses won’t add to the cost of the rental car itself but does create added expenses that no one wants to deal with after a fun vacation.

Fill Up The Tank

When you rent a car, the company will note the level of the gas tank. Most of the time, you will need to sign a document confirming this. While they can fill up the tank for you, this is not the best way to save money on a rental car.

Rental car companies will almost always charge more per gallon if they need to refill the gas tank for you. Stopping at the gas station on your way to return the rental car is an easy way to keep your costs down.

Final Thoughts

A bit of preparation to find the best rates and figure out the cheapest insurance coverage can save you money when renting a car. Making sure to avoid extra fees by returning the car in good condition with a full gas tank can also keep your overall costs down. Renting a car can be a convenient way to get around on vacation. By following a few tricks and tips, it can also be the most economical.

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