You’ll need to do some research to uncover the best rates, but the time you devote to “seeking” can result in you “finding” significant deals.
1. Use your cards — Many Americans are AAA or AARP members, sometimes both. Use these memberships to your advantage to get a lower price, shaving five to 10 percent or more off of your bill. Be prepared to show proof of membership at sign in time.
2. Pay it now — Some car rentals companies, such as Budget, encourage customers to pay for their rental at the time of reservation. For example, Budget discounts its car rentals by up to 35 percent for customers who reserve early and pay up at least 16 hours before checking in.
3. Get a weekly rate — You say you only need a car for four days? A weekly rate may prove to be a better deal than the four- or five-day rental. Compare both arrangements; make sure that the rental car company won’t penalize you for returning the car early.
4. Off site rentals — If it is possible for you to rent a car away from the airport, then do so. Airport car rentals are among the highest as you pay for the convenience (and the shuttle service) of such operators. Some rental car companies will still pick you up at the airport and take you to its location just off of the beaten path where you can pick up your rental.
5. Start small — Do you have you eye on that big sedan with a pillow soft ride? If so, you can expect to pay a mint for your rental. Instead, opt for the smallest car possible — many of today’s compact cars are surprisingly roomy and feature amenities such as leather seating and navigation systems common to larger model. You’ll save on gas and you may be eligible for a free upgrade.
6. Forget the insurance — Contact your auto insurance provider to verify that your personal auto insurance coverage is sufficient to cover the rental car. If so, opt out on the pricey rental insurance coverage — you won’t be needing it.
7. Gas it up — Always return your rental car with the same amount of gas in the tank as when you got it. That means if you were given a car with a full tank of gas, you’ll want to stop at the nearest gas station to the gas rental drop off point and fill ‘er up. If you allow the rental car company to handle it, you’ll be charged a dollar or two extra per gallon for that convenience.
8. Miscellaneous fees — Expect to pay local sales taxes on your car rental, but you may find your final bill inflated significantly if any number of other fees are assessed. Besides the previously mentioned insurance coverage and gas charges, your rental outfit may charge you other fees, many of which can be waived if you ask. These fees include equipment rental (car seats for the kiddies), personal effects coverage, personal accident insurance, additional driver fees and other surcharges.
With gas prices hitting record levels in 2011, car rental companies will be competing hard for your business. Shop around to find the lowest rates, using comparison websites such as Expedia, SayFunTravel or Travelocity to find the best deals available.
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