Whether you’re traveling for business or pleasure, renting a car can often be the most economic way to get around or to explore a new city. If you’re not careful during the booking process, though, you could end up spending a lot more on a car rental than you need to. The following tips can help you save money on your next car rental:
Avoid the airport
It may be more convenient to just rent a car the airport, but you’ll likely pay for this extra convenience, especially if you don’t book far in advance. Instead, explore your other options for the location you’re visiting. Airport rental cars might be your only choice, but if you’re traveling to a big city, odds are you can just rent a car from another location—your hotel might even offer car rentals. Crunch the numbers first to determine if you’ll actually save money by renting your car in the city. If you’ll have to pay for an expensive cab ride from the airport, it might not be worth it. But if the city center is just a few miles away and you’ve got public transportation options, you’ll likely save money overall.
Pay in advance
Paying for your car rental at the time of booking, rather than once you pick up the car, will likely save you some money. Just be sure that your travel plans are permanent before prepaying, because you might not be able to receive a refund if your plans do change.
Use coupon codes
Search for coupon codes at websites like RetailMeNot.com if you’re reserving your car online, which can be applied to your reservation total and possibly lower the entire cost. You can potentially find coupon codes for car rental websites, but you might have better luck using coupon codes for larger travel booking engines, such as Orbitz or Expedia.
Reserve your vehicle ahead of time
If you show up at a car rental location in hopes of reserving a car right there on the spot, you may have a difficult time. If it’s a weekend, holiday, or even if you’re in an area where car rentals are in high demand (such as an airport), there’ a good chance that the car rentals will be fully booked. If there is availability, you’ll likely pay a lot more money than if you booked the car in advance. Take advantage of the lowest rates possible by planning ahead.
Fill up the gas tank
If you return the car on anything less than a full tank, you’ll usually be charged the difference and you’ll pay premium for it. Usually, the only exception to this is if you received a rental car that didn’t have a full tank of gas initially. It may be a little inconvenient, but make time to fill up the tank before returning the car, or you’ll see some extra charges on your credit card.
Reserve a small car
Unless you’re traveling with a large group and/or large equipment and you absolutely need the extra space, reserve the smallest car you can. These are often the cheapest options, and many car rental companies end up overbooking their compact cars due to their lower prices. If they’re all out of the smaller cars when you pick up your rental, you’ll usually be upgraded at no extra cost.
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Nothing above is meant to provide financial, tax, or legal advice. You should meet with appropriate professionals for such services.