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8 Tips for Renting a Car
Whether you are a seasoned traveler or going on your first solo vacation, learning how to get the best car rental rates can be an important part of getting from point A to point B. Because car rental prices can be unpredictable and unclear, it may be a struggle to avoid paying too much. However, you can use valuable online resources to your advantage to uncover the best rates.
It is important to review your domestic or international car rental contract carefully and follow all return instructions to avoid additional fees. You can also avoid paying too much by declining the insurance offers, as explained below. Review the following eight tips to help make your next car rental experience as affordable and pleasant as possible.
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1. Learn Basic Car Rental Options
A quick car rental search can uncover an overwhelming range of choices. Car sizes range from sub-compact to large trucks and vans. You can try out a luxury car rental or stick to a basic vehicle. You can opt for a one way car rental if you are only using the vehicle to reach a certain destination, or return it to the same place you picked it up.
In most cases, the rental process is fairly straightforward:
- Search online for the best car rental deals.
- Choose the type of vehicle you wish to rent.
- Enter the requested information to make a reservation.
- Arrive at the designated location to pick up your vehicle.
- Pay any remaining balance due and sign the contract.
- Inspect the vehicle carefully before driving off.
- Return the car on time and with the agreed-upon amount of gas in the tank.
2. Seek Cheap Car Rental Deals Online
Virtually all car rental places offer online booking. Be sure to compare the big car rental companies against smaller regional or local rental businesses to find the best deals.
Note that car rental sites often advertise a bare-bones price that fails to include taxes, driver fees and other surcharges. You may find car rental quotes doubled once all these hidden charges are added. Be sure to read the fine print or ask an agent to explain all additional charges so that you know exactly how much you must pay for your car.
Do not be afraid to negotiate the price once you arrive at the counter. Even if you have booked the best rate out of all the car rental quotes you received, sometimes you can still get an even better price in person. An old saying applies to car rental deals, too: if you do not ask, you do not receive.
3. Compare Weekend and Weekday Rental Car Rates
Unless you need a last-minute car rental, it is worth the time to compare weekend and weekday rental rates. Some companies offer their best prices on the weekends while others have a lower per-day rate if you agree to keep the car all week.
Sometimes a weekly rate is even cheaper than renting a car for a couple of weekdays, so be sure to explore all options before committing to a deal. If you plan to stay in a destination for more than 10 days, also check out monthly car rental rates. Even if you have to return the car early, you may still save money overall.
4. Avoid Airport Car Rental Locations
While picking up your car at the airport can be the most convenient option, you often pay extra for this service. Most car rental companies add on an “airport fee” that can add a significant amount to your rental bill. Many hotels offer a free shuttle service, so look for rental car locations near your hotel if the airport fees are high.
5. Reconsider Extra Car Rental Services and Insurance
An affordable car rental option can quickly become unaffordable if you add on insurance and other extras. In most cases, your personal auto insurance policy covers any rentals that you drive, so buying the rental company’s insurance is redundant. If you do not own a car and therefore do not have car insurance, your rental still may be insured through your credit card’s benefits.
You can also save money on certain accessories. For example, bring your own child car seats instead of paying a daily fee for the car rental company’s safety seats if you need these items for your family. Decline other extras that quickly add up, such as GPS navigation, satellite radio or prepaid gas.
6. Think Twice About Larger or Luxury Car Rental Upgrades
If you have always wanted to drive a high-end vehicle, a luxury car rental can be a fun way to have this experience. However, most frequent travelers have learned to say “No” when a rental agent offers an upgrade to a larger or more luxurious vehicle. Even if the upgrade is free, larger vehicles use more gas and it will cost more to fill the tank when it is time to return the car.
However, you may find yourself in a situation where you must accept the upgrade because the compact or sub-compact you reserved is not available. This happens often in America, where car rental companies keep more mid- and full-size cars on the lot. To save money on gas, opt for the smallest vehicle available unless you anticipate needing extra space.
7. Inspect Vehicles Before Leaving Car Rental Sites
You must carefully inspect your rental car before driving away and report any defects immediately. Car rental companies may not have enough staff to carefully inspect and note any dents or scratches, so the responsibility falls on you to report any preexisting vehicle damage.
This precaution only takes a few minutes but is worth the time. You do not want to be left holding the bill for damage that happened with a previous renter.
8. Join a Discount Car Rental Club
Many large car rental companies offer club memberships. In exchange for an annual fee, frequent car renters receive various perks and bonuses. For example, you may earn free airline miles with each rental or get free rental days. These discount car rental clubs are great for frequent business travelers or anyone who rents a vehicle on a regular basis.