On any average trip, the three main expenses will be flights, hotels and car rental services. We have discussed extensively in previous posts about how to save money on flights. In addition, we shared 4 tips to make sure you NEVER AGAIN overpay for hotels. Today, we want to give you some tips on how to save on car rental services and find the ones that offer you the best price. We will discuss both tips on conventional car rental services, but also some less known ones like car relocation and peer to peer car rental services. So let’s dive into it.
Conventional Car Rental Services – How to Save Money
- Try to Avoid Airport Pickup and Drop-off
Car rental services will try to make a buck anyway they can. It´s quite common to add an airport pickup/drop-off fee, which can be anywhere between $10 to $50 each! Of course, this is not a golden rule, since you need to take into consideration the cost of transportation from and to the airport. It´s useful to consult your hotel and car rental service is they offer free airport shuttle.
Make sure to search for coupons online depending on the car rental service you chose. You can do so by searching the “name of your car rental service + coupon”. My favorite way to search for coupons is the Honey Chrome Extension. You can also check out Brad´s Deals, who regularly posts coupons for Avis, Budget, Hertz and Dollar Rent a Car
3. Check out Costco
Gone are the days where Costco only sold food and home appliances. Lately, not only has Costco begun offering car rental services, but they tend to offer cars at a lower price (just like everything else they sell). Make sure your search for the best car rental service includes Costco, especially if you are a member.
4. Stick with stick-shift manual gear
When available to choose from, cars with manual gears tend to be cheaper than cars with automatic gears. In the US and Canada, it is almost impossible to find a car rental service that offers a manual transmission car. If you are not used to driving with a stick shift, make sure to practice a bit before hitting the local freeway. Though cheaper, but when travelling to destinations that drive on the opposite side of the road than what you are used to, I suggest to refrain from renting a manual gear car. It´s quite confusing at the beginning and you want your focus on the road!
5. Broaden your Search
Instead of just searching one by one on different company websites, make sure to use aggregators like carrentals.com or rentalcars.com. They will search an array of car rental services and show you the different offers for you to choose from.
6. Best Out of 3
Different car rental services offer different dynamic pricing. Thus, another way you can “cheat the system” is by booking 3-4 cars for the exact same dates from different companies. Then, track the price drops and stick with the one that is cheapest.
7. Slash Your Rental Costs
Now that you have a few different rentals, instead of manually tracking price drops, you can use the “Pruvo of car rentals” – Autoslash. Forward your car rental reservation to Autoslash or submit your rental details on their website, and they will notify you if they find a better price for your car rental. Just like Pruvo, their price drop tracking service is free.
8. Pay Upfront
Services like Priceline and Hotwire allow you to pay upfront for your car rental, which can end up saving you between 15% – 20% off the total price. In many cases, these offers will still offer free cancellation, so no need to worry in case you change your travel plans.
9. Read the Rental Contract
Have you noticed that when receiving a contract, the smaller the print, the less chances we actually read what it says? Beware! Petty clauses like returning the car without a full tank of gas, toll fees, returning the car a few days earlier than expected or bringing back the car dirty can result in an extra fee upon completing your car rental term. Make sure to review the rental car with the car rental service employee and mark down any pre-existing dents or damages, so that you won´t be charged upon returning the vehicle.
10. Stand Alone Insurance
Since car rental services are a middle man between the insurance provider and the customer, they also add their re-seller´s fee for selling you insurance. Depending on the country you are travelling to, check to see if you are eligible for a stand alone insurance for your car rental. An example of a company that sells stand alone car rental insurance in Insure My Rental Car for US Rentals (non US residents are also eligibleץ
11. Lone Driver
The only place I rented a vehicle that didn´t charge me for an extra driver was New Zealand. Expect to pay anywhere between US$1-US$5 extra per day if you add more drivers.
12. Less Known Doesn´t Mean Less Reliable
The travel industry is controlled by two behemoths, Priceline Group and Expedia Group. Both include many different brands you are familiar with. Their advertising expenditure is outrageous, and that´s why you know who they are. However, that doesn´t mean the less known car rental services are less reliable. Smaller, independent car rental services like Apex, Jucy, Advantage and Fox to name a few can offer you cheaper rates by just lowering their commission rate.
Non-Conventional Car Rental Services – How to Save Money
Over the past few years, a few alternatives have emerged to a regular car rental service. Here are some options that can save you a significant amount off your car rentals.
This is the cheapest option on this list…as long as you are flexible. Imaging being able to rent a car or RV for only $1 a day?! Car rental services encounter a serious problem transferring returned cars back to popular pick up locations. Thus, if you are willing to relocate the car for them, you can rent it for as little as US$1 a day! Certain restrictions apply, for example, this option is not available for all routes and you are limited in time to relocate the car. However, if you are flexible, this could be a serious money saver. The two most well-known companies who showcase these offers are Transfercar and Imoova. You can see a whole list of companies that list relocation offers in this article.
2. Rent From a Local
Turo is the Airbnb of car rental services. The only downside of Turo is that it is only available in the US, Canada, UK and Germany (for now). Not only can you book cheaper cars sometimes, but you can also rent luxurious cars, like this one.
3. Rent by the Hour
If you want to rent a car for a few hours only, you can use Zipcar. Rates start at around US$8 an hour. This could be great if you just need to run an errand or make a quick visit to a museum. Currently, Zipcar is available in 10 countries. Make sure you pre-register prior to using the app.
We hope these 15 tips help you cut down on your transportation costs while abroad.