Essential Travel Skill: Save Money By NOT Picking Up Rental Cars At Airports

In previous articles, I showed that for rental cars I typically use discounts from AAA and Costco, get great value renting from Emerald Aisle (National Car Rental) and Hertz (but sometimes use Avis or other brands), and how to use AutoSlash to further lower your rental car rate. And I showed you some creative and stealthy rental car tactics.

I have shown more complex examples of how to save money with one-way airfares and car rentals, how to swap rental cars, and even how to get a FREE rental car.

Most of the time, I rent vehicles from airport locations. After all, it is the most convenient process after flying to another destination. Get off the plane, pick up a car, and be on my way.

See also Car Rental Secrets to Save Money on Your Next Vacation.

However, there have been trips where I rented a car but did not pick it up at the airport.

8 Great Spots to Visit in the Florida Keys.
Seven Mile Bridge, Florida Keys

Sometimes renting a car from a non-airport location can save big money.

One time, I flew into Frankfurt, Germany, took a train to Trier, spent a few hours touring Trier and researching their archives, and picked up a car at their Hertz office just before their 6pm closing time.

Another trip, I flew into Long Beach, rode a city bus to downtown, and walked a short distance to rent a car from the downtown location.

Still another trip, I flew into Seattle, spent a few days downtown, picked up a car at a downtown location, used that car for two days to visit Portland and Mt. St. Helens, returned it to a Tacoma location, and then rented an RV. Whew!

There were more instances but these are just three examples. The primary reason for me to rent a car from an alternate location and not the airport was and is to save money.

A sort-of brilliant side effect to the first two scenarios was that I was able to return the cars to the airport location for the same rate as the rental location. That was much more convenient that I did not have to take a cab ride, shuttle, or bus.

OK, that is some background info…

Recently, I was doing some rental car rate searches.

I discovered that the weekly rates for renting a car from South Florida airports ran about $500.

$500? That is crazy! The rates were about the same at Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, and Palm Beach airports.

A quick search, though, at nearby off-airport locations near Ft. Lauderdale airport presented rates around $200.

Yes, $200 for the same car, from the same company, just a few miles away.

Do you want to save $300?

I sure do.

But how to get to the alternate location, you might justifiably wonder.

Depending on the circumstances, I have taken taxis, city buses, shuttle buses, trains, hitched rides, or walked.

It is possible that the rental car company will come pick you up, although it is unlawful for them to do so at some airports.

For the current Ft. Lauderdale example, I estimate a taxi would cost $35 (including tip) each way. I use Taxi Fare Finder to do so.

OK, so the actual savings is $230 if a taxi is used in both directions. Not too shabby!

It is possible that a passenger doing this will actually save time renting away from the airport than at the airport.

Allow me to explain. To rent a car at Ft. Lauderdale, everyone must take a shuttle bus to a central rental car facility; all car firms are there. When I have a Hertz Gold or Emerald Aisle reservation and can bypass the line, it still often takes 20-30 minutes to get to a car after I exit the terminal.

If, instead, I exit the terminal and immediately get in a taxi, I will likely be in my car at the off-airport location within the same 20-30 minutes. However, I am now 10-15 minutes closer to my intended destination. Brilliant! Of course it takes a minor bit of planning to select a location in the same direction as where you intend to go.

Remember that the rate is often the same if the car is returned to the airport. If so, then only one taxi would be needed.

parking spot next to beach sand of Mississippi Gulf Coast
scenic drive along Coastal Mississippi #USGulfCoast

Taking public transportation often costs less and usually (but not always) takes more time. Depends on the traffic. For instance, the light rail in Seattle is super convenient, clean, speedy, and inexpensive. It can get you from the airport to downtown in less time than driving, during rush hour.

With great planning and luck, you can rent a car at a hotel with a complimentary shuttle. Or take a shuttle as close as you can and walk to the rental location.

There are various modes of transportation that will support your decision to rent cars away from airports to save loads of cash.

How about you? Have you ever rented a car from a non-airport location to save money? Let me know.

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2 thoughts on “Essential Travel Skill: Save Money By NOT Picking Up Rental Cars At Airports”

  1. I haven’t thought to do this, but I am always looking for ways to save on a car rental. They can really be astronomical sometimes. I will try this tip out next time I rent a car.

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