Any links in this post to a merchant may contain an affiliate link, which means that if you click on that link and then buy something, I may earn a commission from it. However, all opinions in this link are 100% mine and 100% honest. If I didn't believe in a particular product, I wouldn't recommend it to you.
Renting a car can your travel plans easier. It ensures you will have transportation when and where you need it. And sometimes, it’s not only convenient, but necessary. Yet, having a rental car, especially if it’s for more than one week, can get expensive. So, how can you get better deals? Is it even possible to save money on rental cars? Yes! We recently saved $450 dollars on a rental car for an upcoming trip! With a little bit of time and effort, you too can save a significant amount. Here are 11 tips to save money on rental cars.
Tip #1: Shop Around
Like airfare, the price of rental cars can vary from place to place and day to day. So, to get the best deal, spend some time shopping around. Check prices on the websites of rental car companies, such as Enterprise or Hertz. Compare those prices to what you can find on travel sites like Travelocity or Expedia. Also, see what you can find on rental car sites like Sixt.
Tip #2: Use a Discount Code
To save even more money on your rental car, use a discount code when booking. Discount codes can save you as much as 30% off the normal price. Usually, there are restrictions on discount codes, so you will want to find one that fits your situation. Look at all applicable codes to see which one will give you the biggest savings. Mousesavers, a website about saving money on Disney trips, has a list of discount codes for car rentals. These codes can be used for any trip, not just Disney. You can also find discount codes at Retail Me Not.
Tip #3: Think Rewards
Another great way to save money on rental cars is to book your car through a rewards program. American Airlines AAdvantage program, for instance, has great deals on rental cars. Not only do these rewards programs offer you discounted rentals, but they also give you reward miles or points for the reservation. It’s a win-win situation for you.
Tip #4: Bundle It
Bundling will almost always save you money. So, if you are renting a car as part of your travel plans, bundle it with your hotel, flight, or other components of your trip for a discounted price. Travel sites like Travelocity make it easy to combine your car, hotel, and flight. But, you can also add a rental car on to the purchase of theme park or ski lift tickets at sites like Undercover Tourist.
Tip #5: Use Your Membership
Membership has its privileges, and sometimes that includes deals on rental cars! If you are a member of Costco, you can take advantage of their travel services to save money on rental cars and other aspects of your vacation. AAA also has discounts on rental cars for use by their members. You may also find other clubs or associations that you are a member of offer discounted rates on rental cars. For example, Texas attorneys can get rental cars at a lower rate by booking through the Texas Bar Association website.
Tip #6: Be Flexible
A practical tip to save money on rental cars is to be flexible. Play around with the dates of your pickup and dropoff, if possible. You may find that moving your dates by a day or two can save you quite a bit of money. For instance, if you are landing at your destination at 11:30 pm, look at the difference between picking up your car at 11:30 that night or 12:30 am the next day. That one hour difference in pick up times may save you some cash. You may also find that by having someone pick you up at the airport and then getting your rental car the next day can get you a lower rate.
Tip #7: Try Alternatives
When shopping around, look at alternative pickup and drop off locations. Many times, by using a smaller, less popular location, you can get a better price. For our upcoming trip, we were able to save quite a bit of money by dropping our rental off in a neighboring town instead of where we are staying. Driving a few extra miles is saving us a few hundred dollars!
Tip #8: Segment It
You can save money on rental cars by breaking your trip down into segments. Instead of thinking of your trip as a whole, think of it as multiple legs. If you won’t need a car for the entire trip, only get one for those parts where it will be needed. If you only need it to get you from the airport to the resort and then back, rent a car for one day at the beginning of your trip and another for one day at the end. This way, you are only paying for 2 days as opposed to an entire week. This could have the added bonus of saving you money on parking fees during the trip.
I recently did this on a trip to Disney World. We were staying on property, so we didn’t need the car during our time at Disney. It saved me several hundred dollars because it reduced the number of days I had the rental car.
Tip #9: Forget Insurance
Rental car companies are always trying to sell you their insurance plans. However, you should skip this added cost most of the time. Usually, you don’t need it. Many times, your regular car insurance will cover you if you have an accident in a rental car. Additionally, many credit cards offer insurance coverage for rental cars. Check with your insurance and credit card companies to see if you are already covered.
Tip #10: Fill It Up
Another easy way to save money on rental cars is to opt to fill the car up with gas before you return it. The rental company will let you bring the car back less than full for a fee, but this usually will cost you more than filling it up yourself. You can save $10 or more by simply filling up the car before the return.
Tip #11: Bring Your Own Gear
Rental car companies will also offer you car seats, GPS system, or satellite radio for an additional fee. Don’t do it! Save that money by simply bringing your own. If you are flying with small kids, you can bring your own car seats with you on the plane for no additional charge. Throw your GPS system in your suitcase to use in the rental car. Forego the satellite radio for local stations or streaming your own music through your cell phone.
Rental cars are sometimes a necessary part of traveling, but that doesn’t mean they have to cost you an arm and a leg. These 11 tips will save money on rental cars so you can use those vacation dollars on fun stuff. Do you have a tip to save money on rental cars? Share it in the comments. For more budget-saving tips, check out how to save money on hotels and flights. Also, see my practical ways to save for vacations and how to have amazing vacations on any budget. Happy travels!
P.S. To learn how to take the ultimate vacation, get our FREE work sheet that will take you from bucket list to “been there, done that.” Grab your copy in the box below.