Whether you rent a car in the United States or another country, these 8 great basic car rental tips are your lifeline to getting the best deal:
8 Great Basic Car Rental Tips
- Weekly Rate. Renting a car for 7 days usually costs less than 4 days. A weekly rate automatically kicks in for a rental of 5 days or more. Extending your trip to 5 or 6 days can actually reduce car rental price.
- Weekend Rates. To qualify for super low weekend rates, pick up your 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.
- Discount Codes. 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 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 or even on a piece of paper near where you do your trip planning research.
- Mileage. 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.
- Insurance. Your personal auto insurance and credit card usually provide benefits so that you do not have 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.
- Fuel. 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.
- Round Trip versus One Way. The lowest rate 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 with memberships (like AAA), dependent on location (Florida), or to a more popular rental center (like from downtown to airport in major cities, or Monterey to San Francisco).
- Location. Location. Location. 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.
See also 8 Great Savvy Car Rental Tips
What is your favorite car rental tip?