Looking for a rental car? Booking a great car at a good price can be quite an uphill task. Here are a few tips to help you get the best car rental deal:
1. Compare websites:
Once you decide that you will hire a car, the array of choices is bound to confuse you. Try the websites like priceline.com or kayak.com which compare the services of various car rental companies on different factors like price, service, satisfaction, and so on. If you want a pick-up service from the airport, try and find one that is located off-airport as generally the airport ones are more expensive. You can ask your hotel and see if they provide such a service or if they can recommend a local one.
2. Selecting the best deal:
Once you have selected some companies, visit their website and look at the deals. Some websites like Thrifty offer pocket-friendly deals. You can also try websites like Avis , Hertz and Budget which are quite popular. You may get a better deal if you book directly through the website of the company. Where possible, book your car rental services for weekends as most of the companies offer special weekend deals.
3. Book in advance:
Booking the car rental service early will always give you an edge. There are some fantastic ‘pay now’ options which allow you to pay in advance and get a great discount – hotwire.com often lists such deals. Priceline.com often gives a ‘Name your own price’ option. Of course, be careful when you are booking these, as, if you cancel your money may not be refunded.
4. Read the fine print:
When you proceed to pay for your car rental double check all costs. Check the type of car you book – you probably don’t need a huge fancy car for a quick personal visit. Check if the price includes taxes. Also don’t jump at deals which scream ‘cheap’, because if a deal seems too good to be true, it is.
5. Be wary of add-ons and upgrade offers:
At the counter, rental companies will often offer a ‘full tank of gas’, GPS rental, child seat rental, and of course a bigger / better car. Be aware of the fine print behind these, the extra charges levied for these, and whether it is a daily charge for the duration of the rental, or a one-time charge.
6. Full tank of gas? You probably don’t need it:
At the counter, you will often be offered a full tank of gas – which will be charged at the regular price of gas available in that area. So it will look like a reasonable offer. But what many people don’t know is that even if you return the car with half a tank of gas, you will be charged for a full tank of gas. (And you are charged for filling up the full tank of gas even if you return the car with a full tank of gas). So, unless you are sure about returning the car with a nearly empty tank, this offer doesn’t make sense.
The other option would be to have the tank topped up at a higher price per gallon of gas. It is usually better to go with this, and return the car with a full tank. This way, you don’t have to pay to get the gas tank topped up by the rental company. It is sufficient if you top up the gas tank within 5 miles of returning the car to the rental company, to avoid the rental car company’s topping up the tank.
This, along with these gas saving tips (especially for long rides) will ensure that you have a good amount of savings on gas, when you rent a car.
7. Rental car insurance? You probably don’t need it:
At the counter, you will usually be offered rental car insurance. Now, most credit card companies (including Visa, MasterCard, Discover and American Express) offer free collision damage waiver insurance on most car rentals – when you pay with the card. (If you are renting a vehicle larger than a minivan, then the free collision damage waiver may not cover it). In most cases, your existing car insurance company would cover the liability insurance on the rental car too. So, you probably don’t need the collision damage insurance (usually charged at ~ $20 / day), from the car rental company. Disclaimer: Please check with your credit card company if they offer this on your specific credit card though and what kind of vehicles their collision damage waiver would cover).
8. Alternatives to a rental car:
- a. Zipcar.com offers car rentals by the hour, at much lower rates than a rental car company. But you have to be a member, and the service is only available in some of the larger cities. So if you have a longish stay or frequent trips at one such city, it is definitely worth looking into.
- b. Uber car service: uber.com offers a premium cab service but that seems to be worth the price – see http://techcrunch.com/2011/04/06/i-just-rode-in-an-uber-car-in-new-york-city-and-you-can-too/ . If you need a car only rarely, this may be a good option.
- c. Cab: Again, this may be a good option if you need a car only rarely.
9. Go for the local ones: The big national chains in the business are surely reliable but they are expensive. There are some local car rental service providers who are just as good. So ask your friends, colleagues or keep an eye on online reviews to find local agencies. They will provide you with a good car and will not cost a bomb.
10. Subscribe if possible: If you visit a good website and if they have a subscription offer then sign up. In most cases you’ll just have to provide your email id and it will be free of cost. This ensures that the best deals will directly reach your inbox.
Keep these tips in mind as you hunt for the best car rental service. If you plan in advance and be cautious then you will surely be able to find a great deal of your choice.
About the Author:
This guest post was contributed by Mike Fischer, who is currently promoting UnoCarDealers as a venue for buying and selling cars. He invites requests for automotive related content at mikefischer620 [at] yahoo [dot] com