How to Save Money on Car Rentals

With such a huge variance in rental car rates, it makes sense to spend a bit of time making comparisons. Not only are there often wide price differences between individual car rental firms, there are often many variations in rates from a single provider. The rate changes depending on location, length of rental, day of the week, hour of the day, city you live in, the day you make your reservation. But you don't have to get taken for a ride just because you need wheels.

Renting a car can be complicated and costly if you're not careful. Check out these ways to hit the road without leaving a big hole in you wallet.

Big No to Prepaid

Some car rental companies offer a small discount if you prepay, big loser deal .... you’ll lose the opportunity to save money if car rental prices drop before your trip starts, which they usually do.

Avoid Renting at Airports

Car rental agencies with airport counters charge a daily airport tax ..... as much as 25% of your entire rental for airport pickup. Save money by renting with the same car rental company and picking up your car away from the airport, and since the airport tax is charged only on rentals picked up there, not those dropped off, you have the option to return the car at the airport location.

Avoid Big Rental Companies

While Hertz, Avis, Dollar, National and Enterprise are popular brands, there are several dozen smaller companies, such as Fox Rent a Car, E-Z Rent-A-Car and Payless Car Rental, that often offer rentals at cheaper prices because they’re not as well-known.

Use the Web

Shopping on the Internet can be the quickest and best way to compare many Rental Car rates at Airports. The days of phoning every car rental company to see who's got the best rates are a thing of the past. Browse through many of the car rental booking engines on the Web and enter your destination and dates in the privacy of your office or home. It will search every car rental company in the area, saving you dozens of phone calls, and return a list of options arranged by price. It will even return the names of some local companies that you might not know about. If you like any of the rates you see, you can reserve the car with the click of a key on your laptop. Try renting a car over the web

Reserve Early

Make your reservation as soon as you have decided on plans. Most Airport Rental Car Companies increase their rates as reservations come in and their fleets become booked. Also, certain classes of cars will sell out faster and you may have to end up reserving and paying for a larger vehicle than you want.

Always rent the Smallest Car

Book the smallest car that you will need and hope for a free upgrade. But, remember you may get stuck with that small car. The smallest cars have the cheapest rates, and if the location doesn't have a subcompact when you arrive, they'll give you a free upgrade to the next smallest vehicle they have on the lot. The people who deliver cars to satellite locations (called shuttlers) don't like squeezing into subcompacts any more than you do, so they don't stock the lot with small cars unless they have to. In locations with very few cars, you will often, as a result, be given a full size car for the price of a subcompact. And if they do have a subcompact, and you want a bigger car, you can always ask for an upgrade on the spot, but there's no reason not to try for the lower rate. This strategy surely won't work at a giant airport like Miami's, where there are hundreds of cars (and therefore dozens of subcompacts) on hand. But it will work in downtown locations and smaller airports with room for only a few cars.

Avoid Holidays and Weekends

Demand and Supply is the major contributing factor to the Rental Rate fluctuations, so try to avoid holidays and long weekends. Being flexible about your travel plans can save you money. Airport Rental Rental Companies that focus on the business or replacement market customers often have great weekend specials. The best rates are found during the off season and at other times when the Rental Companies have extra cars sitting around.

Car Rental Discount coupons

Use coupons, but read them carefully for exceptions. Most upgrade coupons are "based on availability", so if you have an upgrade coupon that you wish to use and also have a monetary discount coupon, bring them both. If they can’t honor the upgrade, they may still give you the monetary discount. Also, remember to book any coupons or discounts in your reservation.

Weekend vs. Weekday Rates

Sometimes you can get a good deal on airport car rental by keeping the car longer. At airports and other locations catering to business travelers, weekend rates are so much cheaper that it might make sense to pick up a car on a Saturday or Sunday. (At some locations, there may even be more than one rate on the same day).

Speak up at the Car Rental Counter

You know, the squeaky wheel and all that. Speak up and you may find yourself with a larger, nicer car for the nicer price. (This can also happen if they've run out of the small cars.)

The rates of downtown rentals vs. airport location rentals

Airport fees can be quite large so you might see if it is worth it to use an off airport facility. However, if the off-airport company picks you up at the airport, you'll probably still have to pay some of the fee.

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