Rental cars are probably the area where my tenacious approach 🙂 to vacation planning has gotten us some of the best bargains. It takes some time and effort, but you CAN save quite a bit if you’re willing to make that time investment.
- Reserve early!! There’s no way to predict when rates will go up or down, but you won’t go wrong by reserving early. If they go up, you’re locked in at the cheaper rate…. but if they go down, you can rebook – which brings us to the next tip.
- Check back frequently for cheaper rates: If the rates go down (and they often do), cancel and re-book at the cheaper rate. I check back every 4-5 days. This takes time…but there have been vacations where I’ve saved as much as $100 from the initial booking to the day we leave for vacation. In the beginning of this process, I may see savings of $5-$10-$20 at a time. The closer we get to the vacation, the less the savings ($2-$4) but I still cancel/rebook anyway. Even those small savings add up over time. Tip: Create a folder in your e-mail program to drop all the confirmations. They’ll be easy to locate when you need to cancel the higher rate. BUT…and THIS IS IMPORTANT: Don’t make a reservation that requires pre-payment or that can’t be cancelled. Always read the fine print.
- Are you a member of a Warehouse Club? We recently bought a Costco membership. When I first went to check their Travel section, I fully assumed that they would NOT be able to beat the AAA quotes I had reserved for rental car. What I found was that they beat the AAA price by $26!!! I made a new reservation!!!
- Check Your Quote: Confirm that your quote covers the full charges (all taxes, fees, surcharges) so that you’re comparing TOTAL COSTS.
- Unlimited mileage on rental cars is pretty standard these days, but confirm this if you plan to drive long distances.
- Out of State: If your travel plans will take you out of the state where you rented the car, make sure this is within the policy of that company. (Policies vary) Several years ago we flew into Providence R.I. and were headed to Cape Cod for our vacation (about 60 mi away). We had to get special permission from management to cross the state line. They “ok’ed” it without a problem, but wanted to see our return airline ticket. If we had not let them know, then had any kind of car problems or accident, we could have been in a lot of hot water!!
- Extra Driver: Some companies allow for a spouse as an extra driver without charge….other companies will charge. Though I’ve never needed to drive a rental car on a vacation, (my husband does the driving) I’ve always worried just a bit about what would happen if there were some type of emergency and I NEEDED to drive. Would the company say we breached the contract and assess fines or penalties? We try to only rent from companies that will allow a 2nd driver at no charge. (they want a signature, driver’s lic. etc…from me too ) It gives me peace of mind.
- Get the right size car: Obviously, the smaller the car, the better the rate AND gas mileage will be. The most important thing to consider when trying to downsize is ‘Will the luggage fit?” If you have to make a upgrade to a larger car AT the COUNTER, you will pay the premium rate. That happened to us once. I reserved a small car to save money and though my family fit, the luggage didn’t. All my savings were gone! We paid the same rate we would have paid if we had walked up to the counter to rent on the spot. 😦
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