Cheap Car Rentals, 22 Money Saving How-to Tips

You’re traveling on vacation or on business — you’ll need a rental car. Your own car is the shop and you aren’t covered for a loaner —  you need a rental car. You live in a busy metro area with great mass transit; you don’t own a car of your own, but you need to travel out of town for an afternoon and the train doesn’t go there — you need a rental car.  At some point, everyone will need to rent a car.  Every city, every car rental company, and each individual dealer all have their own set of terms, prices, taxes and fees.  Renting a car can be one of the most tedious, complex, and costly arrangements to figure out. Well,’s here to keep you rollin’ with the very best tips and tricks to receiving some deep money-saving discounts for cheaper car rentals and save you valuable time as well… well worth taking a few moments before you spend your money or start your engines!

22 Ways to Save Money on Car Rentals:

If you own a car and carry car insurance on it, you may not need to purchase additional car insurance on your rental car, check with your current homeowner’s and/or your current auto insurance companies to see if a rental car is covered. In addition, many credit card companies offer automatic  insurance coverage if you use that card to rent the car.

For the most part, Pre-paid gas option is not your best option. You’ll usually fair better if you simply re-fill the tank before you return the car.  And a “re-fill” does not necessarily mean you need to completely fill the tank if it was not completely filled at the time you rented it.  Check the tank when you pick up the car, make sure the proper tank amount is noted on your paperwork.You only need to replace what you used. If the tank was 3/4 full when you picked it up, you only need to return it 3/4 full.

Use a cell phone app or online site to price compare and locate cheap gas prices at local pumps.

Reserve the least expensive car ahead of time. Often the lot may be out of smaller cars and you will receive a larger car anyway, so you might as well wait and see first, if not, then ask if they can offer you a special deal for an upgrade at the last minute if you prefer a larger car.

— Make a car reservation yourself online as far in advance as possible. Keep tabs on the rates, and if prices drop, cancel your reservation and re-book at the newer, cheaper rate. There are no penalties (at least not at the time of this writing) for canceling a reservation.

— Ask In advance, and ask again when you pick up the car, if there are any potential extra fees, you should be aware of such as one-way surcharges, and then later check your final bill carefully for extra fees, and don’t be afraid to mention anything you may have a question about.

If you are not a member of that car rental loyalty club, you may wish to sign up to become one, especially if there is no fee to do so.  You may receive points for airline miles, or a discount, or an upgrade, but the best reason, is to avoid those long lines at the regular rental counter — You can sign up ahead of time online, Pssst…. but if you haven’t signed up ahead of time and you are there in the agency facing a 3-hour long line –  just walk right up to the shorter line at the “Club Member” window… tell them you want to enroll, and proceed in renting the car without the hassle of waiting in a long line.

— Askthe rental car company if they are affiliated with any credit card companies, travel membership groups like automobile clubs, your airline, AARP, hotel loyalty clubs, local colleges and universities, and any large local businesses or industries that might be in the area. Ask if they might be offering any current discounts, coupons or deals. There may be several current specials, but they may not volunteer this information, you usually have to ask.

Walk around the car and inspect it carefully in the presence of an agent. Many dealers are doing this as routine now, but if not, you may request to do this. Have them take note of any scratches, dents, dings, or anything out of place so you aren’t charged for it when you return the car.  Call immediately to report if something is not functioning properly once you’ve driven away, and get a name and/or some form of confirmation of having made the call.

Avoid extras! Do you REALLY need to rent a navigation system or a toll payment /tag transponder?

Consider renting a car from a non-airport location. Many cities charge additional taxes, as much as 20% in some cases, for airport car rental locations.

Check the weekly rate, even if you may not need the car for the full 5 – 7 days.  It may be considerably cheaper than paying a daily full price rate.  Also,confirm ahead of time, exactly what constitutes their definition of what a “weekly” rate is. It varies and may not be what you expect.

Typically weekend rates are less expensive than weekday rates, but again you will have to check at the time of booking for their current policies or specials.

— If you do not need a car for the entire time, calculate what renting for only the time you need a car would be. This may possibly come out better when you consider savings on garage and parking fees, tipping, and gas. However, if you cannot receive a discounted daily rate, you’ll need to calculate which option you would come out ahead with: a discounted weekly rate or, say, a three-day rental at the full-price daily rate.

If you are in North America and only have an occasional need for a rental car, consider using Zipcar, a concept designed to allow for anything from an hour’s need to a full day’s rental.  This can be very efficient, especially given that gas is included. The first 180 miles is also included. $60 annual fee. $25 one-time application fee. Cars are located in parking garages city-wide and on various university campuses. You reserve a car either online or via phone for a few hours or an entire day. You go to the car, hold your card over the windshield, the car unlocks, and the car is yours for the pre-reserved time. Return the car to the same parking spot at the end of your reservation. Round-trip rentals only – no one-ways permitted. Currently available in the following North American cities:
Atlanta, Baltimore, Boston, Chicago, London, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Portland, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, Vancouver and Washington DC.

Handy Tools:

Cheapoair :  In addition to Cheap Flights, provides car rental booking and compares prices across the full range of car types including Eco-friendly & Hybrid Cars from five  major car rental dealers with one easy click: Entrprise, Hertz, Avis, National, and Dollar.

TruPrice Car Rental Calculator: Translates car rental fees into total price, including thousands of fees, for nine car rental firms in 50 major U.S. airports.

Kayak:  Offers a search for rental cars from 5 travel sites: Priceline, Travelocity, Expedia,, Hotwire.

Travelmath Fuel Cost of Driving Calculator: This calculator gives you the option of using their  ‘Quick Calculator’ in which you enter a start and destination point to receive approximate costs. And another Fuel Cost Calculator where you can enter more specific details such as mileage per gallon, price of gas per gallon, and distance in exact miles. There are options for both U.S. and European travel.

Related Videos With Money-Saving Tips:

Rental Cars: How to Get The Best Deal – Author of the Pauline Frommer Travel Guides, Pauline Frommer herself, shares insider tricks for getting the best deal.

Renting a Car? What to Ask – Travel reporter, Peter S. Greenberg’s handy questions to ask before you rent.

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