How To Get The Best Car Rental Rates

How to get the best car rental rates

How To Get The Best Car Rental Rates

One of the most popular needs when traveling is finding a car rental company to hire a car from. Why? Because having access to a vehicle to get around is so very convenient. It allows you to go to and from on your own schedule without having to wait around for someone else to get you where you are going.

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In fact, there are many places in the world where renting an auto is your only real means of transportation.

However, there are a few things you need to know to make the car renting process go more smoothly with fewer surprises. Knowing what choices to make when it comes to insurance options, do you need or not, or even how to get the best deal on your rental and more.

We are going to give you some valuable information and tips to help you not only save money but how to navigate and avoid common auto rental pitfalls.

First Things First How To Choose The Right Car

best car rental ratesTo start, you, of course, need to decide what type of car will serve you best. How much luggage and gear will you have? How many if any other people will be traveling with you and, how much equipment are they bringing?

For instance, if you are traveling with children, you may find that an SUV or Minivan will serve you best as it will provide more space and comfort for your group. Alternatively, depending on the size of your group, a large sedan may suffice as long as it has sufficient trunk space.

The smaller vehicles, in most cases, will cost the least and be the most fuel-efficient. However, you can weigh the difference between the daily cost of a larger car that is a hybrid opposed to a smaller gas-powered vehicle.

 If you are planning on driving for a lot of miles, you could save enough on gas with a hybrid to offset the higher daily cost of the larger, more comfortable car. Not to mention that hybrids are environmentally friendly.

Be sure to ask if the car you are reserving has an automatic transmission if you are unable or do not want to drive a stick shift vehicle. You don’t want to wait until you get into the car to find out it is a stick shift.

 Worse yet, what if they do not have any other automatics available at the time. In many countries, manual transmission cars are quite common, so please check ahead of time.

Ask ahead of time if you will require extra add ons such as ski-racks, audio jack connections, child seats, ice scrappers, or GPS systems.

About Booking A Rental Car

Booking a rental carIt’s not a hard task to find any of the major auto rental agencies in your travels. After all, you can find access to them in just about any international airport in the world.

However, you might be wise to check the locally operated agencies and their rates. In many cases, they may be able to offer you better rates on your rental. It is always a good practice to compare before you commit.

Be sure to check their reviews before you fork over your money to get a better understanding of what the reputation is of the company you would be dealing with. You want to save money for sure, but you don’t want to sacrifice service and trustworthiness.

Do your due diligence, check with the major online car rental booking websites to see what they are offering. Then also check the websites of the local agencies as they can at times have exclusive offers on their site that you won’t find in the major booking sites.

Finding local car rental agencies is as easy as performing a Google search for car rental companies in the city where you would be picking up the car.

How To Get Discounts On Rentals

You may be able to get lower rates by doing any of the following

  • Search for coupon codes online. You can input these codes on the rental agency website when booking
  • Check car rental rates outside of the airport
  • Reserve and pay for your rental in advance, not at the counter
  • Be bold and ask for discounts
  • Join car rental agencies loyalty rewards program
  • Check if you have a credit card that offers discounts on car rentals
  • Check if your employer has a rental car discount program

Another option that has become popular of late is Carsharing or car sharing. One such company is ZipCar. With Carsharing, you can rent cars for short amounts of time, even by the hour. You can find more information about Carsharing here.

Understanding The Terms & Conditions

rental car agreementOne of the most overlooked aspects of renting a car online is reading the terms and conditions of your rental before locking yourself into a rental car agreement. Renting by phone? A good practice is to inquire with the representative about their restrictions.

You want to be aware if there are any penalties for cancelations or if you do not pick up the car on time, how long will they hold your reservation. What if your plane is late or you get delayed arriving to pick up your vehicle.

Are there additional charges to add another driver and who is eligible to be an additional driver. Do they have to be on the contract, must they be present when picking up the rental?

 Make sure to ask what the restrictions are in respects to where you can travel in the car. I made a mistake once when I rented a car for an awesome price. Only to my horror to find out when I was picking up the vehicle that the contract forbids me from driving in many states. 

States I needed to travel in to reach my final destinations. I had to find another rental car company at the last minute at not such a good deal either. Since then, I always make sure I am aware of the details of the terms and conditions of rental and, they can be vastly different for each company.

Inquire about what the policy is if the car breaks-down or what to do if there is an accident. Will the rental agency have a location in the area where you will be traveling? 

I once was in Las Vegas on my way to interview for a singing gig at a casino, a big rig made an illegal turn. It hit me in a rental car, fortunately right in front of a parked police officer. Talk about a good witness! 

I had rented the car in Los Angeles, but now I was in Las Vegas, so I called the agency where I rented the car. They had the local agency deliver me a replacement car right at the scene of the accident, so I wouldn’t miss my appointment. Now that’s what I call excellent service!

If you are planning on picking up your rental at one location and then dropping it off at another location. Then you need to carefully understand what the agency’s policy is in regards to one-way rentals. The fees for one-way rentals can be astronomically high. You have now been forewarned,

It is an excellent idea when renting at airports to make the rental company aware of your flight number and keep your rental confirmation number on you. This can assure you that the agency will hold your car for you if your flight is delayed.

What Does It Actually Cost To Rent A Car?

rent a car costCan there be hidden fees in car rental charges when searching for the best car rental rates? You bet they can. With possible drop-off fees, all kinds of government state and local taxes, Charges applied by airports, insurance cost, charge for gasoline. Charges to add additional drivers and who knows what else. 

You could be shocked at how much your final expenses can be. Make sure the price you see is the price you pay and beware of any potential extra charges.

One other note, if you come across an advertised price, make sure to know if there are any restrictions for that offer like seasonal restrictions or car model restrictions.

To be fair, most major rental companies now have a great deal of transparency in the prices that they quote. Most now will also show you the estimated final cost, just be sure to check if that is the case when you receive a quote, so you won’t get any surprises.

Rental car companies have begun to use the yield management model used in the airline industry. Yield management allows for on the fly adjustments to prices based on the available supply of cars at any given time. 

What does this mean for you? It means that the quote that you see is fluid and that it may only be valid at the time you are viewing it. If you like the estimate, you might want to reserve it right away as the price may change when you search at a later time.

When Picking Up The Car

rent a car pick upWhat If your first and only destination after arriving at the airport is to your hotel room? You might consider saving money by picking up your car the next day, saving you a day on the rental cost. Many hotels offer free shuttle service from the airport to the hotel.

In the case that you do need to use your car from the day you arrive, you can possibly save money by picking up your at a site other than the airport. Picking up your vehicle at a local location can help you to avoid airport-related fees that can really add up.

Save money by skipping the extra insurance coverage offered by the rental agency. You may not need to add the rental agency’s auto insurance coverage as your own auto insurance may protect you against collision damages. 

Many credit card companies can also cover you when you pay for the rental with their card. It would be prudent to check with your personal insurer and or your credit card company for details of their rental car coverage.


When you receive your car, make sure to inspect the vehicle for any existing damage. Before you drive away, be sure to notify a representative of anything you notice and that they make a note of it.

Check that all lights and signals lights are in working condition. You might also check the mileage on the odometer, especially if your rental does not come with unlimited mileage.

Take a moment to get familiar with the car. Things like windshield wiper operation, where the gas tank is located and does it have a lock, turn signals, emergency brake operation. Become aware of the color, make, and model of the car in case you need to find it in a large parking lot.

Returning Your Car

Please make sure you give yourself more than enough time not only to return the car in time but allow for unexpected delays. Checking out at return centers can take more time than you think at certain airports. The last thing you want to do is miss your plane because of delays during the rental car return.

I would avoid the prepay gas plan offered by the agency, this could cause you to pay for more gas than you used. Instead, plan ahead and give yourself time to fill the gas tank yourself near the return location.

Another word of caution, try not to fill the tank at stations that are really close to the return station as the prices are often much higher there. You can find current prices and locations of gas stations within a few miles of the return station by using phone apps like Waze or GasBuddy.Com.

It is possible that if you return your car early, it could end up costing you money. Some rental agencies have an early return fee. On top of that, if you rented a car for a week but returned it after six days or less, it could change your daily rate and causing you to have to pay the difference, so read your agreement.

It should be obvious that returning the car late can result in additional charges. The practice of many car rental companies is to allow you to return the vehicle within a thirty minutes grace period. After the grace period, the penalties will begin pile up.

I always do what I call an idiot check when returning a vehicle, and you should check too. Check to make sure you have all your possessions with you before you leave. Check the glove compartment, trunk, and under the seats. Typical left behind items includes plane tickets, cell phones, hats and, sunglasses.

Have an agency attendant sign off that the car was returned with no additional damage. Or that you agree with any new damage after they inspect the vehicle in your presence.

Lastly, be sure to get a receipt from the attendant and check that all the charges are correct and that you have been refunded any deposit that may be due to you.

Hopefully, you have found these tips on how to get the best car rental rates to be helpful and informative. Tips that you can use to make your travels less stressful and more enjoyable all while saving you money as well.

How Do I Get The Best Car Rental Rates

best car rental rates

You may be able to get lower rates by doing any of the following Search for coupon codes online. You can input these codes on the rental agency website when booking Check car rental rates outside of the airport Reserve and pay for your rental in advance, not at the counter Be bold and ask for discounts Join car rental agencies loyalty rewards program Check if you have a credit card that offers discounts on car rentals Check if your employer has a rental car discount program Another option that has become popular of late is Carsharing or car sharing. One such company is ZipCar. With Carsharing, you can rent cars for short amounts of time, even by the hour. You can find more information about Carsharing here.

Is It Cheaper To Rent A Car For A Week

Many rental car companies will lower their daily rate when you are booking a rental car for a week or more. Beware, though, as there may be extra charges if you return the vehicle in less than days than you booked it for. Ask in advance or check your rental agreement to understand their policy on early returns.

Do I Need an International Driver's License in Europe

Most English speaking or European countries will not require you to have an IDP (International Drivers Permit); however, many countries will require you to have an IDP along with your current driver's license to dive in that country. The IDP will translate your info into the language of the country you will be traveling in to make it easy for them to understand your information. You must obtain the permit in your home country before you leave for your trip. Be sure to check with the country or countries you are planning to drive to verify if an IDP is required.

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