The more you travel, the more you know the hassles that come with renting a car. Long lines, expensive price tags, fine print conditions you don’t look at until it’s too late. So why do we put ourselves through it?
Because having a car equals freedom. Whether you’re flying or planning a road trip, you want to be able to go where you want, when you want. Car rental companies know that and try to take advantage of it. The good news is there are ways to avoid the most common pitfalls of renting a car.
Here are our top ten best tips and tricks for having the perfect car rental experience.
- Scour the internet for coupons. This may sound simplistic, but it’s something a lot of people just don’t think about. Tons of internet sites offer coupon codes for rental car companies. Check out as many as you can find. And don’t forget to look at the car company’s website itself. A lot of times discount codes will be posted directly on their site, it just takes a little searching. Sign up for their email list, and you might find a coupon code delivered straight to your inbox.
- Don’t buy insurance unless you need it. Rental companies like to use scare tactics to get people to buy their insurance when a lot of people just don’t need it. Chances are that if you already have car insurance or a service like AAA, your rental is already covered. Some credit cards even offer protection on rental cars, so long as you use their card when paying for it. But don’t assume. Always check with your carriers before making any final decisions.
- Scrutinize your rental car before you leave the parking lot. Unexpected damage is one of the biggest ways rental companies get money from their customers. Whatever you do, make sure you inspect your car before you drive it out of the parking lot. Once you’re out there, you’re on your own. Take pictures with time stamps, write down every ding, scratch, and dent you see. Make sure you point them out to an agent and have it documented, then get a copy of the documentation. This can save you big later.
- Sometimes more days equals less money. It may sound strange, but adding days to your car rental may actually save you money in the long run. All car rental agencies offer weekly discounts. Bumping that rental from 6 nights to 7 could save you a hundred dollars. You can also find deals like “buy 2 days get 1 free” or “add an extra night to your weekend and save fifty dollars.” Take advantage of these. You can still return your car early, sometimes you’ll even get a prorated refund if you do.
- Watch out for mileage. Nowadays, it’s easy to find car rentals that come with unlimited mileage, but you should never just make that assumption. Always read your rental agreement before you make the final purchase. Some sneaky car companies may limit you to a certain amount per day or per week. It might not be a problem if you’re only planning on some light driving, but if you’re renting a car for a road trip across the U.S., you can end up owing big!
- Buy ahead of time. Don’t wait until the last minute to purchase a rental car. Booking car rentals in advance often mean bigger savings, it’s waiting until the last minute that can cost you. If you’re not sure of your dates, that’s okay. Just search for the dates you’re most interested in and then check the surrounding dates to compare. It may turn out that booking on a Tuesday instead of a Saturday can save you a hundred dollars right off the top as well as the time you’d be stuck waiting in line.
- Don’t pay for their gas. It’s standard practice at car rental agencies to offer customers the opportunity to refill the gas tank for you upon its return. Since every car must be returned with a full tank, this is marketed it as a convenience for you. But filling the tank yourself at a nearby gas station can save you big. Often the rental agency’s gas prices far exceed those of any gas station you might encounter. Just stop at a station before you drop it off and you won’t have to worry.
- Use your own GPS. Yes, car rentals all come with GPS systems available, but that doesn’t mean you should use them. Often, there are extra charges associated with using the rental company’s GPS. If you use it your entire trip, it could end up burning a big hole in your pocket. Instead, bring your own GPS. There are no rules against it, so there’s nothing stopping you. Or just use the GPS on your phone. Either way, you’ll end up saving.
- Use your points. Most credit cards these days offer points for purchases made. Depending on how often you use your card, these points can accumulate rather quickly. The credit card companies have a list of approved things you can then redeem your points for. Guess what? Car rentals are almost always one of them. Just check with your creditor if you’re not sure how to redeem, they’ll be happy to explain it all to you. Don’t let your points go to waste.
- Loyalty programs. These are a little different than credit card points programs because they’re usually specific to each car rental company. Just sign up for their loyalty program and every time you purchase a car rental, you’ll earn points towards a discount or free rental at a later date. Some airline rewards programs have struck deals with car rental agencies, so you can use your airline points towards a car rental too. Just check first and see what offers are available to you.
Car rentals don’t have to be a hassle. Just follow our tips and tricks to help you find the best deal. You’ll save money and time the earlier you start your search, so start looking today! And when you get back from your trip, make sure to save your memories so you can look back on them later.
Photo albums are a great way to keep your memories alive forever. Travel maps like Newverest® Trek Scratcher™ are an even more fun and exciting way to make your memories last. Use them to track your travels and plan new ones. Make sure to drop us a line and let us know how your latest adventure went, we love telling travel stories as much as we love hearing about yours!