Book now, pay later
"Renting a car is one of the last remaining travel reservations you can make with no prepayment; in most cases, it doesn't even require a credit card," says Bill Androckitis Jr., Owner, Touring Central Florida. "Book the best rate you can find, then keep checking your preferred rental company for better rates." The same company may offer different specials or change prices based on the rental location. "It's not uncommon to see greatly reduced rates in the weeks right before your desired rental period as the company wants to rent out as many vehicles as possible," says Androckitis. (Find out the 11 secrets travel booking companies don't want you to know.)
Don't book on these days
When you're traveling for leisure, you're competing for car rentals with business travelers. "I definitely try to avoid Sunday and Monday, as these days may have limited inventory because the regular corporate clients have a standard contract that guarantees them a car," says Annette White, travel blogger at Bucket List Journey.
Don't rent from the airport
Renting a car from an airport location is terribly convenient, which is why it's usually the most expensive. Instead, hop on a hotel shuttle to get closer to town, then rent from a non-airport based location, suggests Charles McCool, travel expert and blogger at McCool Travel. In some cases, paying for an Uber to a nearby car rental company is still cheaper than booking at the airport location. These are the 15 things you should never, ever buy at the airport.
Rotisserie chicken and car rentals
If you thought Costco's $4.99 rotisserie chicken was a great deal, wait till you check out their car rental deals. McCool says their rates are typically lower than anywhere else. When you search for deals, Costco Travel makes it easy to compare too. Plus Costco won't charge you for an additional driver, like most car rental companies. Here's everything you can do at Costco without a membership.
Their reputable roadside service draws millions of us to sign up for AAA membership, but did you know you can rent some wheels for up to 20 percent savings with Hertz in the U.S. and Canada and up to 10 percent savings on international rates (where permitted by law)? Other noteworthy perks are a free child seat with rental and up to four free additional drivers who are AAA members who meet rental qualifications. These are the 9 travel discounts you didn't know you were eligible for.
Perks if you're 50+
The AARP Advantage website is available to AARP members (membership is a mere $16 dollars a year) and holds a trunk load of car rental deals, such as a free weekend day with Avis or Budget-Rent-A-Car and 43 percent savings on a Zipcar membership. (If you're not familiar with Zipcar, it's an easy way to rent a car if you just need to get around town for an hour or the day. It operates in 40+ states and six additional countries.) Find out everything seniors can get for free (or discounted).
Put your search in park
If you don't want to mess around with trying to find the best car rental deal, park it and try AutoSlash. "They compare rates from several companies so you can make a better choice. Even better, they track the rate continually and will rebook when the rate lowers or notify you so," says McCool. When you enter the necessary criteria, it also asks for memberships you have, like Costco or AARP, and applies the applicable discounts to the quotes you receive via email. From there you decide which one is best for you.
Do you really need to buy insurance?
That depends. Before you book, check out your personal auto insurance policy and find out what it covers. If you have sufficient limits and coverage while driving a rental car, then you probably don't need it. But there is another issue to ponder regarding an accident. "The consumer needs to decide whether they want a potential claim on their own insurance policy," says Trevor Chapman, manager of external communications, Farmers Insurance Group, Inc. If the consumer files a claim for a loss with his or her own insurance company, this claim could result in higher premiums down the road. "If the customer purchases insurance or a collision damage waiver through the rental car company, the claim will not be paid by the consumer's own auto insurance, thus avoiding potential premium impacts," states Chapman. Speaking of insurance claims, these bizarre excuses will blow your mind.
Your credit card may cover your back
Some credit card companies offer some rental car insurance, but you have to read the fine print. First off, credit card companies, like American Express and Discover, stipulate that you decline the loss/damage waiver offered by the car rental agency and that you reserve the car in your own name, pay the full rental price, and sign the rental car agreement. Second, credit card companies generally provide secondary insurance, which means it isn't all-inclusive. It usually doesn't cover injuries to other people in your car or other cars involved in an accident or cover damages to other vehicles or properties. Carefully read your guide benefits or Google "car rental damage and loss" with the name of your credit card to learn more. Upgrade your vacation with these credit card perks.
This gets a little complicated because some car rental companies charge for an additional driver and some don't. A spouse, partner, or employees on official business may be free with one company, but an additional cost at another. "I always add the additional driver, fee or no, to prevent getting into a sticky situation if there was an unfortunate accident," says White. Read the contract thoroughly. Here's exactly how to handle 11 scary driving scenarios.