Before you book your rental … make sure you’re earning cash back on your purchase. Select your rental car company from the list below and activate their cash back offer:
You booked the flight and the hotel, but there’s one more looming expense: the rental car. If you’re going somewhere without public transit or flying in somewhere and then taking a road trip, renting a car is likely your most convenient option. But it can be a big expense to add to a trip, especially if you’re traveling at a peak time (spring break, summer or during the holidays).
But there is good news. It is still possible to get a cheap car rental. How? By using these tips and tricks to find the best cheap rental cars. Here are the cheapest ways to rent a car.
1. Prepay Your Rental
By far, getting a prepay discount is often the best way to save on the cost of your rental car. For example, Avis has a prepay deal for 35% off regular rates. In the rental car world, this is often called the “pay now” rate. Rental car companies are willing to offer discounts on prepaid rentals, because they get your money locked in. So you need to be confident you will be renting the car. Terms vary, but the downside of pay now rates is you’ll pay dearly for cancellation (you might forfeit the entire amount you pay, or have to pay a hefty cancellation fee).
2. Book a “Weekly” Rate
Weekly rates are usually a discounted daily rate when you rent a car for five or more days. Consider it a bulk discount. Do the math — it might be cheaper to rent a car for, say, six days than four days — and plan your trip accordingly. For example, Budget has a weekly discount rate of 25% off base rates.
3. Don’t Schedule Your Rental Car Pickup at an Airport
Airports are high-demand locations, and rental car companies often have to pay extra fees to operate at airports (fees they’ll pass on to you). It might be cheaper to book a suburban pickup location and then ask a local friend to get you to and from. Enterprise calls the cheaper non-airport rates a “neighborhood discount,” and is offering 15% off for spring break dates (March 3 to March 17).
4. Get Cash Back On Your Car Rental
If you’re spending hundreds of dollars on a rental car (even with the above discounts), cash back lets you shave a bit more off the final cost by putting money back in your pocket. RetailMeNot offers cash back on several rental companies. Just hit the offers below, book your rental car and get a cash back rebate. And, yes — our cash back stacks with promo codes and other discounts. Here’s how it works.
Get cash back at these rental car companies:
5. Don’t Go With the First Car Rental Deal You See
If there’s one principle that’s true for getting a great deal on just about everything, it’s that you should shop around online. The internet has made it easier than ever before to compare prices on rental cars. Some of the best places to look include Kayak and Priceline.
However, don’t stop there. If you find a great price on one of the travel deals sites, you may want to go directly to the car rental company’s website. Sometimes rental companies offer even deeper discounts and additional promos on their websites.
Even after you’ve booked your car, you can still keep shopping. If you didn’t book a nonrefundable rental vehicle, you can often cancel your reservation to take advantage of a better price. Just be sure to do a little research before booking to make sure that a reservation really is nonrefundable.
6. Take Advantage of Your Memberships to Get the Best Cheap Rental Cars
Did you know that you may have something in your wallet right now that could help you get a cheap car rental? If you have certain membership cards, you can save big the next time you rent a car.
AAA is a traveler’s best friend. Not only can being a member of AAA help you if you run into car trouble, but it can also help you save on your car rental. For example, you can get up to 20% off the base rate of a rental car from Hertz. Or you can snag an 10% AAA travel discount when you rent a car from Thrifty.
Did you know that you can also get a cheap car rental if you have a Costco membership? Not only can you get special Costco rates on rental cars, but your membership also gives you other great benefits via access to the Costco Travel Center. We’re talking about the ability to add one additional driver for free and no cancellation fees on some rentals.
You can also get some of the best cheap rental cars with help from AARP membership (which you can get even if you’re not yet 50 years old by the way). That’s because you can save up to a hefty 30% off the base rates at Avis. You can also get great savings from other car rental companies, like 5% off rentals from Payless Car Rental.
7. Don’t Be Afraid to Get an Economy Car Rental
When you’re thinking about what type of vehicle to book for travel, you should consider an economy car. As the name suggests, these vehicles are typically the most affordable. This means they are the most likely to be booked.
Wait! Why is it a good thing to opt for a vehicle that’s less likely to be available? One word: Upgrade. If a vehicle isn’t on the lot, the car rental company may upgrade you to a car that is available (and likely nicer).
However, if you’re using this strategy, be sure to book a rental car that can comfortably fit everyone who will be traveling with you. You don’t want to risk booking a tiny car in hopes of getting an upgrade only to find that the itty bitty economy car is actually available. It’s important to check the fine print for exactly which cars in the fleet a company considers to be “economy.”
8. Pick One Driver and Stick With Them for the Trip
One secret to getting the best cheap rental cars is only adding one driver when renting a car (unless you’re doing it with help from your AAA, AARP or Costco membership).
Many people are surprised to learn that most rental car companies typically charge an extra daily fee to add more than one driver. This includes popular car rental companies that you might not think would charge this extra fee.
- For Enterprise, you’ll pay $15 each day to add an additional authorized driver who isn’t your spouse or domestic partner.
- With Budget, the fee for an additional driver is $13 per day in most states. If you’re in California, you luck out because you don’t have to pay a fee to add a driver.
Some rental companies, such as National, will waive additional driver fees for spouses, domestic partners and family members when you enroll in their membership program, the Emerald Club Loyalty Program.
9. Forget the Extras and Use Your Own Insurance
Many car rental companies will try for the classic upsell in the form of roadside assistance, satellite radio and other add-ons. They might make it all sound enticing, but find the strength to say no. You can have a perfectly safe and fun trip without these extra bells and whistles.
When it comes time for the rental company employee to ask about car insurance, you can likely let them know that you’ll be using your own car insurance. Your primary auto insurance policy will likely cover you even when you’re renting a car. Just be sure to check the terms (most major insurance companies cover rental cars when you are the driver).
Don’t have a car? You may have another option. Your parents or your spouse may be able to add you to their policy. Best of all, if you have a good driving record, it will likely cost them little to nothing to have you join them on their auto policy. Just make sure the rental car benefits extend to the non-primary policy holder.
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