Booking a rental car can add hundreds of dollars onto vacation costs, but it doesn’t have to. Here are some money-saving hacks to remember the next time you book.
Because of extra airport fees, it’s typically more expensive to rent a car from the airport. If possible, take public transportation or a cab and pick up your car at an off-site location.
For instance, renting a standard car from Avis at the St. Louis International airport costs $171 for a weekend rental. The exact same car will cost you $102 from an off-site Avis location that’s just a 10-minute drive from the airport. After subtracting $20 for the cab, you’ll save $50 by reserving the car away from the airport.
In some cases, the hassle and the cost of getting to an off-site spot might not be worth it. You’ll have to take time to research off-site locations by checking a specific company’s website or searching for locations on Google Maps. Still, if you’re on a tight budget, it’s important to know your options.
Join the loyalty program
There’s really no downside to joining a car rental company’s loyalty program. It’s free, and members receive regular emails with offers like free upgrades and discounted rentals.
Beyond saving money, joining a loyalty program also comes with perks. Members typically get their pick of cars, making it easier to reserve nicer and newer models. Most programs also let their loyalty members bypass the counter and go directly to the car lot, getting you out of the airport quicker after a long flight.
Skip the extras
When you go to pick up your car, they offer up all of these extras that you feel compelled to buy… DON’T!
Instead of buying rental insurance or a damage waiver, simply book the rental with your credit card. Most cards issued by Visa, Mastercard, American Express and Discover offer basic car insurance coverage that can actually be better than the package offered by the rental car company. With that said, credit cards have various levels of insurance, so before you make a reservation, check with your credit card company on what exactly is covered.
Also, don’t pay for a GPS system if you have a smartphone. You can use the GPS on your phone or download an app like Waze.
Those two things alone can save you $20 to $30 a day.
Always refill yourself
Never take the pre-paid gas option. Sure, it’s convenient, but it’s always a few dollars more than what you would pay at the gas station. Instead, take time to fill the tank before you drop the car off.
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