8 Sneaky Ways to Score a Better Deal on a Rental Car
Get outta town
You’re Miami-bound for a week of vacation, and you definitely don’t want to spend a small fortune on a rental car just to get around the city. Here, eight ways to majorly reduce the cost of your rental (so you have more to spend on umbrella float drinks).
USE YOUR CREDIT CARD TO COVER THE INSURANCE
You might not need to pay the rental car company for insurance if you have a credit card that already offers it (typically to cover theft, damage, towing and loss-of-use charges) or a regular car insurance plan that extends to rentals. Call ahead to be sure, but you could save yourself upwards of $45 a day.
MENTION ANOTHER CAR COMPANY'S QUOTE FOR LEVERAGE
A little negotiation can go a long way when it comes to securing a better car-rental deal. You’d be surprised: Agents actually have quite a bit of wiggle room for offering a lower rate. Just do your homework first so that you’re up to speed on the average costs in the area and can drop them casually into conversation.
EXTEND THE LENGTH OF YOUR RENTAL
It sounds counterintuitive, but you may be able to nab a lower rate simply by increasing the number of days you’re renting the car. It’s all about using deals and promotions to your advantage. For example, say you only need the car for the weekend, but the rental place is offering 50 percent off if you book it for a full week. Depending on the cost of peak weekend rates, you could wind up spending way less by booking more days. (Just make sure the agency doesn’t charge a fee for early return.)
SCOUT THE RENTAL PLACE WITH THE MOST CARS IN THE LOT
Agents are under pressure to rent out as many cars as they can. If you’re booking a last-minute rental and notice a ton of vehicle inventory in the Hertz parking spots versus the Avis ones, it’s in your best interest to approach that counter first and negotiate.
FIND OUT ABOUT THE GRACE PERIOD BEFORE YOU DRIVE AWAY
Ugh, you hit traffic/took the wrong exit/misheard the Google Maps lady and now you’re going to be slammed with late fees since there’s no way you’ll get the car back on time. Find out before you leave the lot if there’s any sort of grace period with drop-offs. Some agencies will give you a 30-minute (or two-hour) window--but only if you ask up front.
NEVER PAY IN ADVANCE
It’s tempting to secure a slightly cheaper early-bird rate, but then you lose your flexibility should a better deal come up--or worse, you’re slapped with cancellation fees if your plans suddenly change.
FIND OUT ABOUT REWARDS POINTS
That AAA membership you’ve been paying for every year since you turned 25? They offer discounts on car rentals as long as you call their dedicated line. Same goes for a lot of frequent-flier programs. Ask and ye shall receive.
LAST RESORT: REQUEST AN UPGRADE
If all else fails, you might as well come right out and ask about a free upgrade before you sign on the dotted line. If they can change your Kia to a convertible, great. If not, no harm, no foul.