8 Great Basic Car Rental Tips and Tricks

My favorite basic car rental tips and tricks will help you save money, time, and stress on all future car rentals.

Renting a vehicle while on vacation can be one of the biggest expenses so it is helpful to incorporate some basic car rental tips—and sometimes Savvy Car Rental Tips—in order to be a happy traveler.

Whether you rent a car in the United States or another country, let these 8 great basic car rental tips serve as your guide to getting better car rental deals.

car rental tips and tricks to save money, time, and stress

8 Basic Car Rental Tips and Tricks

  • Rent a Car For a Week. Renting a car for seven (7) days usually costs less than four (4) days. A weekly rate automatically kicks in for a rental of 5 days or more. Extending your trip to five (5) or six (6) days can actually reduce car rental price.
  • Rent a Car on the Weekend. To qualify for super low weekend rates, pick up your car rental vehicle after noon on Thursday and return it by noon on Monday. You might be able to save big money on your car rental by adjusting flights and/or pickup/return times to adhere to the weekend rules.
  • Use Discount Codes for Car Rentals. The key to the best rental car deals is a discount code. Utilize memberships like AAA, Costco, and AARP; my most used discount program for car rentals has been AAA with Hertz. The car rental promo offered by airlines after booking an airfare on their website are often good. Compare your various discount codes for the best deal. A great time saver is to enter all codes you are eligible for into a spreadsheet, smartphone note, or even on a piece of paper near where you do your trip planning research.
  • Check Mileage Restriction. Most car rentals allow unlimited mileage. Certain car rental companies, destinations, and/or situations may restrict the number of miles and charge an extra 25 cents for each additional mile. Pay attention to mileage allowances when researching car rental rates.
  • Do You Need Car Rental Insurance. Your personal auto insurance and credit card usually provide benefits so that you do not need to purchase rental car insurance. To be absolutely certain, confirm your rental car insurance coverage with your insurance broker and credit card company. Scan or take pictures of your policy to counter any hard sell tactics by the rental car company.
  • Prepay Car Rental Fuel or Not. Returning your rental vehicle with a full tank of gas is the best practice to save money, time, and stress. When leaving the rental location, scout nearby fuel stations for prices and convenience. I have refueled up to 15 miles from the return location, when there was no closer convenient option. For almost every rental, reject the prepaid fuel option. It only makes sense to pay for this feature if you return the vehicle with no fuel in the tank (good luck) or you did not allow enough time to refuel before returning the vehicle.
  • Rent a Car Round Trip versus One Way. The lowest car rental rates usually requires returning the rental vehicle to the same place where it was picked up. One way rentals, though, are more reasonably priced and readily available when using memberships (like AAA), in certain popular tourist locations (Florida), or to a more popular rental center (like when renting from downtown car rental locations and returning to airport locations in major cities, or Monterey to San Francisco).
  • Best Places to Pick Up a Rental Car. Off-airport car rental locations often have lower base rates and fewer fees (airport taxes, recovery fees). Seattle is one place where you can take mass transit from the airport to convenient (and cheaper) locations.

helpful basic car rental tips and tricks

See also 8 Great Savvy Car Rental Tips and Car Rental Secrets to Save Money on Your Next Vacation.

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19 thoughts on “8 Great Basic Car Rental Tips and Tricks”

  1. Great tips. At some point we plan a road trip in the US and these are good ideas to keep in mind. I especially liked your pointers of renting away from the airport and scanning a copy of the credit card insurance policy coverage. Thanks for sharing!

  2. We have found that the option of ‘leasing’ a rental car for a 30-day period in Greece was a lot less expensive than ‘renting’ the rental car. For long-term rentals it might be worth asking about a short-term leasing option.

  3. I really like having all these car rental tips in one spot. I’m going to bookmark it!

  4. Are these the same for Europe or just tips for the US? We will soon do Italy, Spain and France. Age limits?

  5. Handy tips! I didn’t know that renting a car for 7 days could cost less than 4 days. I’ll try this next time I book a rental. I’ve used Rental Car Momma to get codes a few times so it’s worth a try.

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