We all have to rent a car at some point, and it costs a little bit of money. But there’s no reason it has to cost a lot of money, even as the rental agencies try to rack up the bill. Here are 15 tips that can lower your rental costs.
1) Check your insurance. For example, your current auto insurance policy may cover you behind the wheel of any car, not just the one you own.
2) Research your credit cards. Some cards offer free insurance if you use them to rent a vehicle. Check your terms and conditions closely to see where the insurance applies.
3) Make them top off the tank before you rent. There’s no reason for them to rent you a car that can barely get off the lot before you have to fill the tank. Only request this if there’s no fee involved, of course.
4) Return it with a full tank. That way, they can’t hit you with expensive refueling fees.
5) Always be suspicious of a low, low rate. Call the rental agency and ask for a full price quote, including taxes and fees.
6) Avoid airports. Most airport rental agencies charge an "airport fee."
7) As a rule, you won’t need the insurance offered to you: between your credit card and auto insurance policy for your own car, you’ll be covered in the vast majority of situations.
8) Reserve a compact. Either you’ll save on gas, as they have better mileage, or, when you get on the lot, they’ll have no compacts…meaning you’ll get a free upgrade to a mid-size or bigger car, at the compact rate.
9) Check the weekly rates. If you need a car for most of the week, for example, and the weekly rate drops the overall cost by a substantial margin, consider picking the car up a little early, and returning it a little late.
10) Be way with websites like Priceline. They can have good deals, but may also have rates that are the same or even higher than just going to the rental agency directly.
11) Check for deals. Memberships in certain organizations like AAA, holding certain credit cards, or being an employee of certain corporations may entitle you to discounts, free upgrades, or similar perks.
12) Look into dropping off at a different location. For example, say you go to a city by air and rent a car in the city itself. See if you can drop your rental off at the airport, saving you some cab fare.
13) Avoid peak times. For example, if you were renting a car on a weekend in Florida, you’d pay more than renting the same car a few days earlier.
14) Rent outside the city. For example, if you have to go to Chicago, you could fly to Milwaukee and rent a car there for much less money; then drive to Chicago.
15) Check mileage requirements and see if you can get a lower rate in exchange for driving less. For example, if your meeting or other obligation is only a few miles from the hotel, see if you can get a lower daily miles limit in exchange for a lower rate.
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