There is nothing more you love than a good road trip, especially when traveling with our kids. Road trips make family travel more practical and cost-effective.
The freedom of seeing a new destination with your own vehicle is our favorite way to travel.
It brings you greater flexibility and helps you reach those off the tourist trail places. It’s also more comfortable and easier to carry your luggage.
When you travel overseas or interstate and don’t have your own vehicle, once you’ve booked your flights and chosen your accommodation, the next thing to look for is the best car rental deal.
When searching online for the best car rental, there are a few strategies and tips to be aware of so you end up booking your best deal.
19 WAYS TO SAVE MONEY ON RENTAL CARS
1. Book in advance
When you book online in advance you will almost always get a better deal than at the counter. And it’s easier and quicker. The last thing you want to do after a long flight is deal with car rental companies at the airport and negotiate a deal.
Be sure to take all your documents with you as proof of hire and your rates to avoid any hassles (scan and save in your email account).
2. Check prices frequently
Just like when you search for flights it pays to check prices frequently as they do change – different days can have different rates. If you use an aggregator site that searches all the major car rental companies at once it’s fairly quick and painless.
And compared to flights, the great thing about renting a car is that reservations often times can be cancelled and re-booked without fees, and in most cases your credit card doesn’t get charged until you pick-up the car.
So if you do book early with no cancellation penalties and the price drops before you pick up your car you can always cancel and re-book. Sometimes car companies will drop their prices just before a weekend if they have excess stock.
3. Adjust Pick-Up and Drop-Off Times
Sometimes tacking on an extra day to that weekly rental, or even adding a couple of hours to extend it over a weekend, can actually lower your rate. This strategy takes advantage of lower prices aimed at leisure travelers who are more likely to travel on weekends. Weekend rates are great, but weekly rates can be the best of all.
4. Book the smallest vehicle you’ll need
Think carefully about what type of vehicle you need. Sure it might be tempting to go for the big SUV or the fancy sports car, but always think fuel consumption and the practicalities of your car.
Being comfortable is important so you enjoy your road trip. Don’t go small and cheap if you are crammed in like sardines.
Book the lowest-class vehicle you’ll comfortably need, and chances are you might get a free upgrade at the counter, which often happens to us! Just make sure you can afford the increased fuel costs of an upgraded bigger car!
5. Avoid the airport
Off-airport locations are typically cheaper than airport locations (they tack on fees). Look in nearby neighborhood locations to save money. Just make sure the downtown branch is not on the outskirts of the city limits meaning a long and costly taxi ride.
This strategy is best applied in cities that have efficient and affordable public transport to get you to the dealer without hassle.
You can’t beat an ‘on-airport pick-up for convenience, but an ‘off-airport pick-up with a shuttle bus can be much cheaper!
6. Save on a day rental
If you don’t need your rental car immediately, take the complimentary shuttle to your accommodation and book a car for the next day. You’ll save a day’s rental and should pay less being an off-airport location. And do the same at the end of your trip.
7. Be wary of one-way drop off fees
Obvious I know, but one-way drop off fees can be huge and make it difficult to find cheap car rental. Where possible plan your trip so that you return your rented car to its original location.
8. Check for unlimited mileage options
Make sure your rental includes the unlimited mileage option and you can take your car where you need to go. The last thing you want to worry about is getting stung for any excess miles.
9. Check the fuel policy options
Some rental car companies will require you to return the car with the same amount of fuel it had in the tank at pick-up. Others operate a fuel policy where you, the renter, must purchase the first tank of fuel and may drop the car off empty – in which case, there may be no refund for unused fuel.
Where the car hire company charges for fuel, the cost may be higher than it would be at a local petrol station.
10. Age requirements
In most locations, the minimum rental age is 22 years. Additional fees can apply with certain car rental companies for drivers aged under 25 years or over 65 years. They are defined as more at “risk” drivers.
If you’re not yet over 25 years but are traveling with a companion who is, have them be the designated driver to save on this cost.
11. Additional driver fee
Extra fees typically apply for additional drivers. However, in some states and countries spouses are mandated additional drivers by law. But you MUST add the additional driver’s name to the contract to make any necessary insurance claims valid.
Again, if you can get by with having only one designated driver you’ll typically save 35 AED per day. Of course, NEVER run the risk of driver fatigue, a few extra bucks is nothing when it comes to your safety and that of others on the road!
12. Additional state taxes and fees
Be aware of additional state taxes and fees that may apply if you cross state borders or enter another country. And don’t lie about where you are taking the vehicle, because if you have an issue you probably won’t be covered by insurance!
13. Decline the GPS (Navigation system)
If the car navigation system is an extra add-on, skip it and use the Google maps app on your phone to save AED 50 - AED 85 per day. I did that on my last car rental from Sydney without any issues.
14. Save on Insurance
If you use a certain credit card to pay for your hired car, you may not need to pick up the insurance, as the credit card company does that for you. Ask your card carrier before you travel, and you MUST use that card to book the rental.
Also, check with your current auto insurance company to see whether a car rental abroad would be covered under your current policy. Again, call your insurance provider to see if extra insurance is even necessary. NEVER just assume you’re covered!
But there’s no reason to pay for coverage that you already have!
15. Don’t use your debit card
Book using your credit card. Not only for added consumer protection and rewards points if it’s a rewards card, but rental companies tend to hold a larger deposit for use of debit cards and the hold on your deposit may take days to be returned.
16. Bring your own child safety seat
If you’re traveling with a little one, it is practical for you to bring your own child safety seat to save yourself some coin!
17. Ask about specials
Do you qualify for senior citizen, AAA, credit card, and frequent flier program discounts or add-on offers? These discounts can all add up and help you with finding cheap deals on car rentals.
18. Inspect your car before driving away
Do a thorough inspection of your rental car before driving out of the lot. If you find any damage fill in the documentation (get a copy) and take pictures with your phone so you have a time & date stamp. You don’t want to be held liable for damage from a previous driver.
19. Check your credit card statement
Once you have completed your rental, double-check your credit card statement to ensure any extra charges or fees weren’t added that you didn’t ask for or receive. This can and does happen.
If you are like me and don’t have much free time, the last thing you want to do is spend days looking for a deal. But searching for cheap rental cars doesn’t have to be a pain in the butt.
The quickest way to compare rental companies is to use an aggregator site that searches all the major car brands at once and checks which supplier offers the best prices for your chosen dates and location.
We always start with Finalrentals.com when searching for the best car rental deals, it’s a site you can book through several times over the years when traveling worldwide.
This site saves time and money in the past for finding car rental suppliers and we continue to use them.
In case you don’t know, Finalrentals is the world’s biggest car rental booking service and in one quick search, you can compare all the major brands like Shift Car Rental, Paramount Car Rental, Autorent Car Rental, Thrifty, and Dollar.