If you’re traveling a fair distance for your holiday or business trip, a rental car might just be a must. But with rental charges, fuel charges and more to consider, you may end up paying more than you expected for your wheels. How can you avoid paying extra charges, and are there other ways you can reduce your costs?
We’ll help you to save hundreds of dollars with these tips, so be sure to set your memory to “total recall”, you’ll be so glad you did. First and foremost. Keep it safe and keep it legal – any fines you may pick up in your rental car will come straight off your credit card!
Be sure to book your car in advance
There’s no way you can shop around if you turn up at the counter needing a car right away. Rental car companies know that, so your costs will be higher if you impulse-shop. To avoid last minute problems and surprise rate hikes over and above what you agreed to, take your booking combination with you, either printed out or as an email you can easily access.
Make sure there are no cancellation penalties
If you find a better deal, you need to know that there are no cancellation charges on your booking. Most rental car services (unlike airlines) don’t charge you anything if you cancel, but it’s worth checking, just in case you’re able to get a better price in the interim. If there are no charges, you know you can cancel and book again without incurring additional costs.
Change your pick up and drop off times just a little bit
Have you ever checked out of hospital only to find that an extra half hour has tacked another day onto your costs? The same situation often applies to rental cars. Try tweaking your times by thirty minutes or so to find out if this reduces your overall cost significantly. And if your schedule isn’t all that tight, an extra day might mean that you pay less on a per-day basis.
Choose a compact car – if you can
Although booking a smart limo or even a big SUV might be tempting, ask yourself if you really need something that big or expensive. Yes, it’s a hire car, so you can have a bit of fun with it and do things you wouldn’t have done in your own car (note: this is why you shouldn’t buy a second hand car that has previously belonged to a car-rental company), a small car will cost you a great deal less. It’s not only the rental price, it’s also the fuel cost.
Don’t pick up at the airport
Would you believe it? If you get the same car from the same rental company at an off-airport location, you may end up paying a whole lot less! This saving can often justify the cost of a taxi to take you from the airport to the rental company’s premises. It’s even better if you can take a shuttle bus or use public transport.
From airport to hotel: Do you really need a rental car right away?
You arrive frazzled and in need of a rest and a clean-up. You take your rental car from the airport to the hotel. It’s the only trip you need it to do right now. Are you paying an extra day for this? You should ask the same question about your return trip to the airport. Taking public transport or even a taxi to your hotel might work out cheaper – and if off-airport car rental rates are lower (as they often are) – your savings might be compounded.
One-way drop-off fees: What are they all about?
You decide that it would be way more convenient to drop your hired car off at an address that’s different to the one you picked it up at. The hire car company assures you that this idea is just fine with them. You can drop your car off at x address even though you picked it up at another branch. Sounds good? Ask if there’s a charge. If you’re not too far from the spot where you picked your hired car up, saving on that cost could be well worth your while!
Decide if an unlimited mileage package may suit you better
If you’re only going to drive short distances in your hired car, a limited mileage package may cost you less. But if you want the freedom to go wherever you want without incurring extra charges, or if you’re planning a long road trip, an unlimited mileage package could save you a lot. Compare your options and decide what’s right for you.
What about the fuel in the tank?
Find out what your rental company’s fuel policy is. You’ll usually get your car with a full tank of fuel, but when you drop it off, they top it up. How much does this cost you? It may be worth your while to fill up before you drop off your car.
How old are you, and how long have you had your license?
Some rental companies will charge you more if you’re under 25 or over 65. If you haven’t had you license for long, they’ll also charge you more. It’s understandable: they’re calculating their risks. But if you’re travelling with someone who fits the lower cost option, it makes sense to appoint them as ‘designated driver’ and cash in on the saved costs.
There’s usually an extra cost if you decide that you will share the responsibility of driving with someone else. But if your road is long, the few extra dollars are a small price to pay for the additional safety you’ll get by avoiding driver fatigue. Weigh benefits against costs.
GPS? Who needs it?
Rental car companies will charge you extra for GPS services. But, hello! You can do the same things an automotive GPS can do on your own smartphone. Do you really need to pay $10- $15 a day for this service? No you don’t!
Insurance? Are you already covered?
Why pay more for extra insurance if you are already covered? Check with your credit card provider. A lot of them cover travel insurance including any rental car incidents. Find out where you stand before you accept a rental car company’s insurance offer!
Use your credit card
Have you forgotten those rewards points you get when you use your credit card? Don’t! They could add up to a substantial discount on your car rental. After all, if you’re staying for a few days or weeks, it’s not going to be a small transaction.
Check for damage
Before you get into your hired car and hit the road, check carefully for damage. If you find any, fill in the necessary paperwork and ask for a copy. You should also photograph the damage immediately so that you have extra proof that the car wasn’t perfect when you got it. If you don’t, you could wind up paying for damage you didn’t even cause.
Shop around on one platform
To find the best deals from mainstream rental companies, an aggregator site like RentalCars.com can help you to get the best deals. That way, you don’t have to contact each company separately. You can also use it to book your car rental. There are several such sites, and the Telegraph reports that you’ll invariably find the best possible rates when you use one. Travelocity, Expedia and Orbitz are also recommended.
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