Vacation time equates to travel for most people, unless you’re into stay-cations. Most destinations require that you rent a form of transport to best see the sites. Before you book that convertible for your visit to Los Angeles or that SUV for the family trip to the Rockies, take a look at a few tips DriverSide has compiled to help you save money on rental cars.
Re-Think the Vehicle’s Size
There’s nothing worse than being crammed into a compact car with your five-person family for an eight-hour drive – that’s the stuff nightmares are made of. But if you have the freedom to do so, try going down a rental size. You won’t necessarily have to sacrifice creature comforts like air conditioning if you opt for a compact over a mid-size sedan, especially when you factor in all of the amenities newer cars now have.
Especially in this economy, rental car prices have been getting more and more competitive. Many companies will have incredible deals for a limited time so be sure to surf the sites of a couple different brands. We priced the same size car and same weekend dates with Budget and Hertz and found a $70 difference in total price. Don’t assume that the company you always go with will have the lowest prices in every city. Rates can also vary drastically between regions.
Seek out Extra Charges
Even when you do see that amazing, must-buy-now price, make sure that there aren’t hidden fees that can rear their ugly heads when purchase time arrives. Certain companies charge for things like airport drop-offs, underage drivers (usually under 25) and excess mileage. Sometimes these won’t be apparent until you’re at the rental desk, so a call beforehand can save you the last minute price bump.
Search for Discounts
Before clicking that ‘Purchase’ button, double check that memberships to organizations like AAA, AARP or even Costco can’t save you 10% here and there. Frequent flier memberships can also reduce the final price.
Check the Car for Damage
The last thing you want is to be charged for damage that you didn’t incur. Take two minutes in the parking lot before you leave to go over the interior and exterior of the vehicle. Note any damage or excessive wear and tear. Then let the agent know what you’ve found. Those few minutes could save you the hassle of being blamed for something you didn’t do.
Gas Up before You Turn It In
You always have the option to return the car will a half-gallon of gas in it – this is especially handy when running late. However, you will be charged for the amount of fuel it takes to top off the tank. The catch is that you will undoubtedly be able to find cheaper gas on your way to the rental place than their standard fuel rate. Pump your own gas to avoid paying a premium.