Rental cars are usually not a huge travel expense. They’re certainly not on par with airfare and hotels, but they can definitely put a dent in your travel budget. Especially if you book last minute or on a weekend. I try to keep most of my travel expenses low and over the years, I’ve especially been able to cut way back on what I spent on rental cars. Here are five ways to save on your next rental car booking:
For those wondering, I’m not affiliated with any company listed here. No one is paying me and I’m not using affiliate links, so my opinion is 100% unbiased and based solely on experience.
For years, Hotwire has been my go-to rental car booking site. I’ve booked rental cars all over the U.S. (for others, because I hate driving and prefer Uber and Lyft). Hotwire has consistently offered the lowest rates – way below any other OTA or even CostoTravel. For example, I looked for a rental car on 5/6 – 5/9 out of San Francisco International Airport. The lowest rate I found on Kayak, which checks virtually every rental car agency website, was $132 total for all 3 days. Costco Travel offered me the same type of car for $154. Then I checked Hotwire, expecting only a slight discount. The total for the entire booking period $47.26. There’s no zero missing. So if you’re looking for an amazing deal on your rental car, make sure you check out Hotwire for deals like this.
Use Points (or Airline Miles!)
The whole point (no lame pun intended) of collection points and miles is to save money. You can save substantially by using points and miles to cover rental car bookings. I constantly find really great deals on the Chase Ultimate Rewards Travel site. Not just cheaper cash rates, but really amazing deals on points. But it’s not just bank-affiliated rewards programs like Chase Ultimate Rewards and Amex Membership Rewards that offer deals. A few years ago I was traveling to Maui and rental car rates were $1200 per week. On a whim, I checked the AAdvantage rental car tool and was able to book the same car for just 12,000 AAdvantage miles. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten more value out of my AA miles than this particular instance.
Use a Credit Card (That Offers Rental Insurance)
I used to dread that moment during the rental process when the salesperson tried to sell me rental insurance. These guys do NOT take no (or any kind of reasoning) for an answer and their go-to strategy would be to try to mansplain to me why I’m an idiot for not paying for supplemental insurance. Needless to say, that sh– doesn’t fly with me. But nowadays, the drama is cut short on sight because all I have to say is, “No thanks. I get that same exact coverage from my credit card.” Boom. Done. No more need to get into a verbal war with the obnoxious sales guy. Lots of credit cards offer rental insurance and it’s definitely worth looking into while deciding on a payment method for your rental car.
Autoslash has long been used by savvy travelers because the site does something unique. If your rental car price drops after booking, Autoslash will notify you so you can save some extra cash. Brilliant. And it actually works. Of course, you’ll want to research the best rates out there. If Autoslash doesn’t offer the best deal, you can book elsewhere and still user Autoslash’s tracking tool to monitor price drops.
Don’t Pay More Than You Should on Tolls
If you expect to be crossing bridges or toll roads, you’ll want to look into whether it makes sense to pay them in cash or use the rental car company’s toll pass. Why? Because unlike the car you borrowed from your friend, rentals might incur additional charges. Companies like Hertz, Avis, Budget Alamo, and Enterprise (sounds like all of them, doesn’t it?) charge daily fees on top of the tolls when you utilize their toll passes. These can range from $3 – $12 per day, though a lot of these agencies do have maximums per rental period. Why pay more for using a toll pass than you have to? With most people using toll passes now anyway, the cash lines are getting shorter. Pay the toll in cash and save on your rental expenses for doing so.
Those are my top five tips for saving on rental cars. As someone who doesn’t personally rent cars, I do see the value in utilizing every tool available to save some cash when I book for others. After all, travel expenses on any trip can add up beyond what you’ve anticipated. Try to at least save in areas you have plenty of control over.
What are some of your tips for saving on rental car bookings?
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