Find out how you can save money on your car rental with membership benefits and strategic booking. Discover the top affordable rental car agencies.
If you are going on a trip, one of the decisions you must make is whether you want to drive or fly. On shorter trips, driving is a good choice because you have your vehicle with you on the trip. While this is convenient, it is not always a viable option. If you are going on vacation, the last thing you want is to lose your vacation time to travel. Even with multiple drivers, you may end up wasting an entire day of driving, plus you must cut your vacation short an extra day to travel back. It is also difficult to load up your car, and you end up spending more on food, gas and lodging.
Flying only takes a few hours, but you end up without a vehicle when you land. If you want to get around on your trip, you need to rent a car. While the price of car rentals has increased in recent years, there are many tips and tricks you can use to maximize your savings.
Early Booking and Booking Locations
There are several reasons to book your car early. Rental companies only have a limited number of vehicles available at any given time. If you are traveling to a popular destination, especially during the summer or other travel periods, you may be unable to book a car. This is inconvenient for both you and the rental agency, since they do not want to lose your business.
Rental agencies want you to book your car in advance. They incentivize customers to book in advance by offering discounts. During slower periods, companies typically offer better discounts, to further incentivize customers.
Another way to save money on rentals is choosing where to book. Many rental agencies partner with local airports, allowing you to pick up your vehicle right after you land. While this is convenient, it is an expensive charge. Airports charge the agency to let them access the airport, which is reflected in the cost of your rental. Depending on the agency, you may pay anywhere from $50 to $100 for this service. There is plenty of public transportation around the airport which costs significantly less, so it is more cost effective to drive right to the rental agency.
Credit Card Benefits
Before you travel, check to see whether your credit card provides any rental benefits. Many credit companies partner with rental agencies, offering significant discounts or sometimes waiving fees entirely. For example, you may be able to get free car insurance if you have the right rewards card. If you frequently travel, consider signing up for a travel card to get better benefits.
There may be additional discounts available beyond your credit card. If you have a Costco card or are a member of BJ’s Wholesale, you get additional car rental benefits. AAA members are also eligible for rental discounts with partnered rental agencies.
Some of the biggest benefits come from online car rentals. Many agencies allow you to create a free account on their website. If you agree to sign up for a newsletter or similar service, the agency periodically emails you discount codes. Even if you do not want to become a member, agencies frequently offer small discounts if you book in advance on the website.
There are also websites and apps to help you find the lowest prices on car rentals. One of the top websites is AutoSlash, which not only tells you the cheapest rental location, but it actively tracks prices on your rental. If a discount or other saving becomes available, AutoSlash notifies you so you can request a lower price from the agency.
Enterprise is not only one of the largest car rental agencies, but it consistently receives strong reviews for customer satisfaction. Enterprise has both an app and website, which allows you to quickly book your car and get discounted rates. The company was one of the first to adapt to Covid, creating a new cleaning policy to thoroughly clean each car after a rental. Enterprise also provides curbside pickup options. The average cost for a one-week rental is around $700, before discounts.
Hertz is a popular car rental agency because they are partnered with so many airports. As of writing, there are almost 1,600 Hertz agencies located in major airports. Hertz also has a generous membership program, allowing you to earn substantial discounts and rewards. The company also charges less fees than most other rental agencies, frequently leading to lower rental prices. The base prices are slightly higher than other rental agencies, but you can get significant savings by booking in advance. The average one-week rental cost before memberships or discounts is $850.
Payless is one of the smaller car rental agencies, but most of the locations are near major airports and hotel chains. What the company lacks in size, it makes up for in discounts. Payless has some of the most competitive rates of any car agency, with an average weekly cost of $600. The company does not have as wide of a selection of vehicles, and they also charge higher fees for drivers under the age of 25.
Alamo has some of the highest base rates for car rentals, but there are plenty of opportunities to reduce the cost. Government officials, veterans and teachers all receive discounts. You are also eligible for an automatic 5 percent discount if you become an Alamo member. Alamo has one of the largest fleet of vehicles, including larger vehicles like vans and SUVs.