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How to Get a Deal on Your Car Rental


by: Jessica Santina
01 Dec 2010

Whether you plan to spend a couple weeks with family across the country, or you're doing a driving tour around Europe, renting a car provides convenience, freedom, and access to sites you might not see otherwise.

There are some good car rental deals, but only if you do your research. Read on for tips on how to make sure your deal is a good one.

The Plane Truth Behind Airport Rentals

According to a 2007 Travelocity study, America's major airports charged an average of 28 percent of your total rental bill in taxes and airport charges. Here are some tips for saving a few bucks:

  • Take the shuttle. If you plan to drive straight to your hotel for the night, why not wait to pick up your car, and save a day's rental? Have the hotel shuttle pick you up and bring you back in the morning. Ditto for the day before you fly home.
  • Go downtown. Shuttle service to a downtown car rental location may be available from the hotel, enabling you to skip the airport rental (and its subsequent fees) altogether.
  • Be choosy about gas. Don't do your last gas tank fill-up near the airport; prices tend to be higher there.

Who Really Offers Low Rates

It might surprise you to learn that renting a car through a major booking site, like Travelocity or Expedia, could cost you more than working directly with rental companies. This is particularly true for long term rentals of a week or more.

Here are some other tips for booking online:

  • Buy packages. If you plan to fly and stay in a hotel, you'll save a bundle by packaging the deal on a major booking site.
  • Search for coupons. Online car rental sites often ask for discount or promotional coupon codes. You can find car rental deals by doing an online search for "secret discount codes" or online car rental coupons. Just make sure you read the fine print to make sure it's really a money-saver.

Other Reminders

Make sure you check on discounts. AAA, credit card companies, and other organizations sometimes offer discount programs on car rental. Ask at the counter.

Also make sure you get what you ask for. That "free" upgrade when your requested economy car isn't available might not really be free. If your car gets lower gas mileage, you could be paying for it every time you fill up. If rental car companies don't have your requested vehicle, they should be able to find you one with a competitor, so ask.

Finally, stick to the agreement. Returning your vehicle early or late, exceeding mileage requirements, violating geographical restrictions, and letting non-contracted drivers take the wheel could all cost you.

Sources:
Genevieve S. Brown • Beware of "Free" Rental Car Upgrades • May 20, 2009 • http://www.independenttraveler.comhttp://www.independenttraveler.com/resources/article.cfm?AID=688&category=2 • IndependentTraveler.comCar Rental Tips • Oct 20, 2009 • http://www.independenttraveler.comhttp://www.independenttraveler.com/resources/article.cfm?AID=25&category=2 • IndependentTraveler.comSarah Schlichter • Car Rental Hidden Costs • May 20, 2009 • http://www.independenttraveler.comhttp://www.independenttraveler.com/resources/article.cfm?AID=29&category=2 • IndependentTraveler.comEd Hewitt • Cruising for Car Rental Deals • May 20, 2009 • http://www.independenttraveler.comhttp://www.independenttraveler.com/resources/article.cfm?AID=705&category=2 • IndependentTraveler.com