Most travelers know how to search for flight deals, but finding the right rental car deal can seem like uncharted and bewildering territory. We may not rent a ride as often, but that’s no reason to let confusion get the best of us and our wallets.
1. Avoid rental cars at the airport.
Locations listed as “off-airport” on airport websites may still charge an airport fee, so call the office ahead of time to ask. If they do, consider the next-nearest option, which will likely require public transportation or a ride to get to.
And finally, note that big cities like New York may be exceptions to this rule. It’s always worth checking a few locations to compare.
2. Check for discounts.
If you work a corporate job, chances are you have access to a company code that can score you huge discounts at major rental companies. Brands like Hertz and Alamo also offer discounts for students, and perks abound for government employees and AAA members, too. Before you book, check with your rental company of choice or your HR department for discounts that apply to you.
3. Consider using Costco or Hotwire.
Yup, Costco has a travel website that compares prices among major rental car brands to turn up some of the most impressive deals out there. It also offers brand-specific discounts, like waived second-driver fees, to Costco members. Hotwire has comparable pricing, but one possible downside is that you won’t know what copmany you’re renting from until after you’ve booked.
4. Book multiple cars, then cancel as rates get lower.
Unlike plane tickets, you can generally cancel a rental car reservation at any time before you drive, without a fee. This means you can make reservations (with as many companies as you want) and cancel and re-book if you see prices fall. It requires checking your dates every so often, but may be lucrative.
5. Skip insurance, if you can.
A quick online check or call to your insurance company will likely reveal that you’re insured when driving a rental car. This allows you to skip insurance when you book, resulting in savings up of to $50 a day by NerdWallet’s estimates.
More spending money for road-trip snacks? We could all do with some of that.
This article has been updated to include additional information about off-airport rental offices and the likelihood of their charging extra fees.