Planning a vacation or trip can be a fun anticipatory experience. Planning the transportation for the trip can take the wind out of your sails, though. Maybe you are trying to decide between getting a cheap rental car and picking something a bit more fun.
Usually, when looking back on vacation, you remember the experiences, the places, but not so much the transportation you chose. So saving money on the vehicle to avoid getting in the way of your retirement savings is an excellent way to optimize your vacation budget.
Where To Find a Cheap Rental Car
Check Aggregator Sites
Sites like Kayak and Expedia can help you search multiple car rental options at once. They often present you with a grid of different possibilities and rental companies. Aggregation sites are an excellent place to get started. This will give you an idea of where the value might be in a specific market at a particular time.
Check the Direct Sites
After checking the aggregator sites, it is good to check the rate directly on the rental companies website. Sometimes, car companies offer you a better deal if you book directly with them instead of an aggregator.
We mostly use Alamo when renting a car and with our loyalty status, we enjoy exclusive discounts that the general public does not receive. Consider renting with the same rental company for additional savings.
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Don’t Forget About the Fees
When comparing multiple sources, remember to compare rentals with all the fees. Some websites quote the base price without taxes and fees. Other websites mention the total out-the-door price.
You have to click on the next step to see the total fees on some websites.
When booking a cheap car, it is essential to consider how much car you can afford. Economy cars are the lowest rate available in a car rental. Unfortunately, they are also the most likely to be completely booked. When you complete the booking, you might get an upgrade to a larger vehicle. Free upgrades can be a nice perk. Imagine booking a car that was $40 a day and getting bumped the nicer one that was $60 a day.
Of course, you should not count on being bumped up to the more excellent option. So if you book an economy vehicle, you have to be okay with the fact that most likely, you will be driving a stripped-down car with very few amenities and not very much space. At least the gas mileage should be pretty good, though!
Consider Alternative Car Classes
Often SUVs are the most expensive option for the same relative specs. For instance, many SUVs might be the same size as a mid-sized sedan or a full-sized vehicle. On the other hand, sometimes, a comparably sized minivan is much more affordable than a full-sized SUV.
Getting a comparable vehicle can help you save money, but getting one that is too small for the number of passengers and luggage you will be carrying is a recipe for an uncomfortable trip.
Check Out Turo
Turo is a gig economy app that lets people rent out their vehicles as a side hustle. Turo is kind of like Airbnb for cars. It allows people to rent out their cars directly to people. Often you can get better rates on vehicles through Turo than the major providers.
One advantage of Turo is picking the specific car you will be renting. Where rental companies have classes of cars and say, “it is like this model of vehicle.” Then when you get it, it’s the same size but certainly not as luxurious of the vehicle as mentioned, without any of the additional amenities you might have expected.
In this regard, Turo can be perfect for finding a Tesla, BMW, or another higher level of trim than you would typically see from Hertz.
Avoid the Airports
Airports can be convenient if you are flying into the city. However, they are also more expensive than other locations around town. Higher prices are because the airport itself charges a fee to the rental company. The rental company then passes this fee onto the customer.
The airport location can charge anything from a few extra dollars per day to low double digits. These differences can add up on an extended reservation.
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Remember to figure in the price of a taxi or rideshare to your rental site when renting from another location.
Some of the best rates I have found are through Costco Travel. Costco has negotiated with the major car rental companies to have discounts on rentals. Costco membership is one of the most accessible group rates to be a part of because Costco membership has so many other benefits.
Costco also has some perks negotiated into the rental fee. One of them is that most vendors have free additional drivers.
Costco is not the only group pricing that is available. There are discounts negotiated for employers, AAA, and various professional organizations. One example of a professional organization that has deals is AIA for architects. They have value through Hertz.
Consider Going Without the Rental
Maybe the most significant way to save on a rental car is to forgo one altogether. Going without a vehicle can be a huge cost saver for your vacation. Instead, consider choosing a walkable destination or resort if you are on vacation. Some hotels offer complimentary transportation to the airport and popular destinations in the area.
Ridesharing is another option instead of renting a vehicle. Ridesharing is cost-saving, especially if you are staying somewhere that has a parking fee in addition to the rental cost. It is a little different to think about traveling using ridesharing vs. having a vehicle at your disposal the whole time.
Here is how to compare costs:
- Add up renting a car, gas, and parking fees.
- Compare the prices of transportation (Uber or similar) to get to your destination.
You will likely want to consolidate your travel when doing this.
Consider Renting for Only Part of the Trip
Maybe you do not want to forgo a car for your entire trip, but perhaps you want to rent a car for specific day trips during your vacation. You could save money by renting a vehicle for a particular day of your trip and delivering the vehicle to you.
Partial trip rental can be a great option if you stay at a resort or in an urban area that charges for parking and has most of the amenities right on the property. However, if you remain in the resort property for most of your vacation and only want to have one or two days of an excursion off the property, why rent a car for the whole week?
Get Pricing for Different Days
If you consider renting a car for only part of the trip, you should look into which way will be the cheapest. Unfortunately, there is no hard and fast rule on whether it will be cheaper to rent during weekdays weekends or get a discount for an entire week rental.
These prices vary based on demand and the companies pricing strategy.
Since business travelers primarily rent cars during the weekdays, areas with more business travelers than leisure travelers are likely to have higher rates on weekdays.
Should You Decline Insurance?
You want to be sure of your research before declining the insurance offered by auto rental companies. Many credit cards provide comparable coverage for their users when you book a car with a credit card.
Many credit card companies offer collision damage waiver insurance on the rentals booked with their credit card. However, many are not likely to cover medical liability coverage. You can check with your specific credit card about the rental insurance terms.
Depending on the company, your auto insurance might cover you while renting a car. Before purchasing insurance through the car rental company, check into the coverage offered.
Rental companies will offer you supplemental liability coverage. Usually this ranges from $300,000 to $1,000,000 per incident. That helps you if your auto policy does not cover the rental car liability or if you have insufficient liability coverage.
Fill Up Your Gas
When you rent a car, they often give you a few options. You can buy a tank full of gas and can return it with any amount of gas in it. That is usually at something similar to the market rate per gallon. Then any gas left in the tank when you return the car is effectively wasted.
The other option is they fill up the tank at the end and charge you an inflated price per gallon of gas. If you do this, you can fill up the tank right before you return the car, and you will typically save money. Perhaps a dollar or more per gallon.
Returning your vehicle with a full tank of gas is typically the most cost-effective solution.
Skip the Upgrades
Car rental companies often upcharge you for upgrades like GPS, satellite radio, toll passes, and car seats. You can use the GPS on your phone and play music through your phone on Bluetooth to save money. The toll passes are rarely worth it, though they can sometimes save time. The rental companies usually charge a daily fee to use them. Consider bringing one with you rather than renting a car seat from the car company. Almost all airlines will complimentarily check a child’s car seat.
Planning a trip can be a lot of fun. However, keeping in the budget can take away from the enjoyment of that trip. There are plenty of options to keep your costs down when renting a car.
The key boils down to checking multiple options; remember to compare the out-of-the-door totals that include all fees and keep the amenities down to only the ones you truly need.