At some point or another, most of us will need to make use of a car rental service. Renting a car when you’re on holiday can offer you maximum freedom and give you a real taste for adventure. It allows you to explore beyond conventional tourist routes and enables you to enjoy your holiday without the usual crowds that are often found rallying around popular transport depots. You might also need to rent a vehicle while your car is in for a service, or while you shop around to find the perfect automobile for your lifestyle.
Whatever the reason is for needing a rental car, I think we can all agree that a number one priority to the process is finding a vehicle that is affordable. With so many car rental agencies about, finding a rental car can be a bit overwhelming, not to mention expensive.
However, if you keep these ten tricks and tips in mind, you’ll be able to save some money, and you can use those extra dollars on important things; Like some extra cocktails as you lounge by the pool, or a little more gas for your tank so that you can travel further and explore some magical sites.
1. Research Research Research
Research is paramount to finding a good car hire company. Not only is it a good idea to compare various deals or find special rates and promotions, but it’s also important to investigate client feedback and reviews. If you find a promising agency, but past customers are complaining about sneaky extra costs or exorbitant rental rates, then it’s best to listen to these first-hand experiences before you fall into these traps yourself. If you’re booking a holiday through a particular company, or airline, you might also be able to access further discounts and deals.
It’s also a good idea to chat to friends and family who have used rental companies and to learn about their first-hand experiences. Ultimately you want to find a company who have good deals, safe vehicles, and fair and honest rental practices.
Some people in the travel industry advocate for customers to book a bit closer to their trip in case of a price drop. A good trick is to register your details on AutoSlash.com. This site tracks your various deals and will notify you when discounts apply.
2. Plan Your Times
Timing is everything when it comes to saving money on car rentals. Most agencies will charge clients a daily rate for a period of twenty-four hours. So, if you fetch your car at 10 am, you’ll have to drop it by 10 am on the return day if you don’t want to pay for an extra day of rental. In many cases, an extra hour can cost you as much as an extra day. Therefore it’s important to plan your times accordingly, even if it means delaying your pick up for an hour or two and grabbing a bite to eat, or arriving at the airport a little earlier than planned.
For added security be sure to get drop-off times printed out or written down by the agent so that you have concrete proof of the agreed upon time. This documentation will prevent any discrepancies, or extra charges being added at the last minute.
3. Bring Your Own Extras
Car rental agencies end up making a lot of additional money by charging their clients an abundance for extras like car seats and GPS systems. If you are able to bring these items along yourself, you’ll be able to save yourself a lot of money. Of course, this might be tricky if you are flying to your destination, but if you can easily bring along extras, then it’s a great idea to do so. Bringing your own items can also guarantee greater safety, especially with regard to items like car seats.
Rental agencies will often charge you for these items daily and if you’re renting the car for a week or longer these charges can add up quickly. You could also opt to use the map function on your phone, however, make sure that you aren’t getting caught out by expensive foreign data charges. To be safe, download an offline map function, and always keep a map book handy.
4. Don’t Rent from an Airport Agency
Airports are tourist traps, and they’re expensive because we often don’t have any choice but to purchase items there. However, if you are able to catch an airport shuttle, bus or train to a nearby town, you might just be able to find a more affordable rental deal.
Of course, you will have to weigh up costs and see how much shuttles and trains cost. If they work out cheaper and can get you a more affordable deal on a rental car, it might be worth utilizing that extra bit of time. However, if your time is pressed and you need to get to meetings or want to start your holiday urgently, the airport service will be quickest and allow for an easy drop off process.
5. Don’t be a Fuel Fool
It’s important to check out fuel policies at your chosen rental agency and to think about how much fuel you will be using. While some agencies might offer pre-paid fuel, it’s important to think about how much you will be using. Pre-paying for a tank of gas if you’re only driving short distances for a few days, might be a complete waste of money.
Other companies will give you a full tank of gas on pick-up and expect a full-tank on return. This system works well because you simply replace whatever you have used. However, you need to factor a gas refill into your schedule and make sure that you know where nearby gas stations are. Ask the agents where the closest gas station is and keep an eye out on your way back from the office.
By knowing where to fill up your tank and the fuel system of your chosen agency, you will avoid stress on the day of departure. You might also be able to save yourself some extra bucks by only paying for the fuel that you use.
6. Know Exactly What Your Insurance Covers
Car rental agencies are well known for trying to sell you extra insurance. They might give you a big speech about needing extra injury insurance in the case of a terrible accident if you want to be paid out. However, your personal travel insurance will usually cover this, and thus, it is redundant to pay for extra insurance if you are already covered for injury claims.
It’s important that you know what your insurance covers before renting a car. If possible, print our your insurance terms and keep them on hand when negotiating rental deals. By having a clear idea of exactly what your insurance covers, you will be able to take a stand against pushy agents and in turn, save your money for more exciting things than paying double on insurance!
Of course, safety is of absolute importance, and you definitely need insurance before embarking on any car journey, but you also don’t need to be paying more than is needed. Once again researching what you’re covered for is important and can save you from paying for unnecessary extras. If you use your credit card for payment, you might also get extra insurance. Be sure to check what your credit card policies are with regards to insurance.
7. Inspect the Vehicle
This tip might seem like an obvious one, but it’s really important to inspect your rental car before you leave the rental agents premises. Just like they will inspect the car when you return it, you should inspect it before you take it for a spin. Make a note of any marks, dents, or damages and if possible, photograph these. If you spot anything suspicious on the car, make the rental agent aware of this and get them to write down a record of what you have found and sign it. Ask for a copy of this documentation and keep it in a safe place. Once you return, you can show them this form, and it can deter any unfair blame or attempts to hold you responsible for damages not caused by you. Damages to cars can be expensive, so it’s essential that you protect yourself from unjust blame. When you are inspecting a vehicle remember to check :
- Look out for scratches and dents
- Check the tires
- Check for chips and scratches on the windows
- Look out for loose parts
- Inspect the interior for stains, or scuffs
- Photograph or video everything
By this token, also ensure that you are present when they do their inspection after you drop the car off. It’s important that they give you the all clear while you are still there and can be present in case of dispute.
8. Opt to Reserve a Subcompact Car
This trick is one of my personal favorites and can often result in you paying less on car rental but still receiving a normal size car. Subcompact cars are a little smaller than usual cars, and often you can request to rent one from the agency. Usually, when you arrive at the car rental agent, they’ll ask you if you want to upgrade to a bigger model. Always say that you don’t want to upgrade and that you’ll stick to the subcompact car you’ve reserved. More often than not, a subcompact option won’t be available, and you’ll get a normal sized vehicle, but for a discounted price.
It’s worth this trying this trick out, and if you end up actually getting a subcompact car, you can always upgrade once you know this for sure. However, a smaller vehicle will also be lighter on fuel, and thus you will be saving in more ways than one.
9. Keep to a Minimum Number of Drivers
By adding more drivers to the rental car agreement, you can dramatically increase the price of the car rental. This price can also go up if drivers are under the age of 25. It’s imperative to think about how much driving you will be doing and if it’s necessary to add extra drivers. This choice will be largely determined by distances you plan to cover, and your trip’s itinerary. Discuss this with fellow passengers and decide what is most important for your trip. If one person doesn’t want to carry the driving load alone, it might be worth the extra costs
10. Keep a Record of Everything!
It’s important to keep a record of all correspondence between yourself and the rental agents and all documentation that you receive regarding the vehicle. This documentation might include your rental agreement, insurance details, emergency numbers, and a record of damages prior to you renting the car. By keeping documentation on hand you can avoid possible disputes, and will easily be able to navigate any issues that might arise. At the end of the day, knowledge is power and the more information you have at your fingertips the more you will be able to tackle problems.
- How to Save Money Renting a Car in the United States – wikiHow
- How to Save on a Car Rental – tripsavvy