Renting a car can is a convenient way to get the ride you need for a given time. However, this can be a tricky venture. If you are into getting a comfortable and convenient rented car, you will need to make a good choice, an informed booking and if possible, you can consider joining the rental company’s loyalty program for some privileges.
Choosing a Vehicle
Think carefully about what kind of vehicle you’ll need. If you’re traveling with children or with a lot of gear, you may want a large sedan or SUV. If you’re simply looking to save money on rental rates and gas, you’ll want to reserve the smallest available model.
Booking Your Car
You’ll find major international car rental agencies all over the world — think Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Sixt and Thrifty. But depending on where you’re traveling, locally owned companies could offer lower rates; before booking, read reviews to be sure their companies are up to the standards of the majors.
If you haven’t already, consider joining your car rental company’s loyalty program when you book. These vary by company, but most of them are free and entitle you to certain privileges when picking up your vehicle; your information will be on file ahead of time, allowing you to jump into the car and go rather than standing in a long line or filling out paperwork. You could also be eligible for special discounts or free upgrades.
As much as renting a car can be expensive, you can still rent a car at a pocket friendly cost. If you work on timing the most opportune time to visit the rental company, consider renting downtown where rates are relatively cheaper or ignoring the big names in the industry who offer good cars at high costs, you can still get yourself car at a convenient cost.
Timing is everything
Weekend rates are often the cheapest, but you can also get good deals by renting at a weekly rate. But watch out for big charges if your plans change mid-trip and you end up returning your car sooner or later than you planned.
Skip the Airport
You might get a big break, perhaps as much as 50 percent off, by renting downtown, or in a suburb if you’re headed for one, rather than grabbing a car at the airport.
If you can avail yourself of a cheap shuttle, train ride, or cab trip to your hotel, all the better, especially if it allows you to skip the airport-rental queues and chaos.
Ignore the Big Boys
Don’t be afraid to check out smaller car-rental names like Ace, Fox, and Payless. Local and regional agencies can charge 20 to 50 percent less than the big chains. However, those companies often used “hand-me down” rental vehicles from their parent companies. So their fleet might be slightly older than other rental car companies. Make sure you do your due diligence, however. It’s a good idea to check local—and recent—online reviews on the smaller players. Service quality can vary a great deal.
Renting a car may sound as simple as just walking into an auto rental company, getting over the paperwork, jumping into the car and driving away. However, many people make mistakes either out of ignorance or due to lack of knowhow. These mistakes are costly and really take a toll on your finances. If there is anything you need to watch out for in auto rental, such mistakes should be at top of the list.
Buying extra insurance you don’t need. If you have your own auto insurance policy, it may cover collision damage and personal liability for temporary use of a rental car (but likely not a moving truck). And if you use a credit card to book and pay for the rental car, it may provide secondary collision coverage.
Not shopping around. Car rental rates can vary depending on the company or the amount of lead time, so it pays to shop around instead of taking a “one-and-done” approach. Websites such as CarRentalSavers.com and AutoSlash.com allow you to comparison shop between rental companies and look for coupons. AutoSlash will even track your rental rates and rebook for you if the rate drops.
Returning a car late. Most car rental companies charge daily rates based on 24-hour periods. “While some may give a 29-minute grace period, you may be charged late fees – or for a full extra day – if you return the car past that time window,” Schlichter says. Allow plenty of time on the day you’re returning your car to avoid this extra fee.