The car rental game is complex and can be confusing and expensive. Unless you’ve had lots of experience, you may be intimidated by the whole process. There are a number of lesser-known tips and tricks that will help ensure you won’t get stung. Here are a few of the most useful ones to use to get the best car rental prices.


Make car reservations well in advance. Last minute bookings tend to be more expensive.

As with airlines, car rental companies are busiest and most in demand by business travelers on Mondays and Fridays. Because supply and demand dictate prices, reserve your rental on other days of the week.

Car rental prices can be higher when you pick up or drop off at a major airport. It’s wise to crosscheck the airport price with the cost to pick up in another nearby location. Even Ubering or cabbing there may not cost as much as the airport mark-up.

Attempt to pick up and drop off the car in the same location. Prices can increase substantially when those two locations differ.

Check prices with the companies where you pay a membership fee: for instance, AAA, CAA, AARP, and Costco. Costco doesn’t charge for an extra driver like many companies do. Also check ZipCar for hourly or short-term rentals.

If you are renting long-term, compare the per week cost vs the long-term rental cost. Sometimes the shorter term price is better. For instance, four separate one week rentals may be less expensive than one 1 month rental.

With car rentals, no prepayment is needed, so reserve at a decent rate and then keep checking for special lower rates.

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Reserve the least expensive car possible and then negotiate a free upgrade at pick-up. Though if you have lots of luggage or lots of people to get into the car, be cautious and book a style that fits your space needs. If you can negotiate a free upgrade, great, but don’t pay extra for one.

Should you succumb to the Pay Now button when reserving your vehicle? Generally, no. The savings aren’t substantial.

During pick-up:


Don’t pay for last-minute add-ons like GPS, child car seats or a larger vehicle. Use your own phone for GPS and either bring a car seat or go to a local chain department store to buy a car seat. It will typically cost less.

You can save extra by foregoing the car rental insurance. Before signing up for it, check your existing car policy and your credit card insurance coverage. Some cards offer theft, damage and towing but usually not injury or property damage. To use the card’s insurance benefit, be sure to pay for your rental using that card.

If you want to add a second driver to the rental agreement, there’s no need to pay extra IF the second driver is your spouse. Since a spouse or partner is on the same car insurance, they are also covered on your rental.

Before leaving the lot, take photos of the car and any dents or scratches on it. Then you’ll have dated proof that the damage was done prior to you renting the vehicle.

At drop-off:

Before returning the car, fill it with gas. The rental company charges a premium when you return the car to them on empty.

Finally, be sure to compare your final bill against the initial contract you signed to ensure they match.


By knowing and following these tips, you will save a bit from each one and that will add up to the best car rental price when you receive your final credit card charge.

Drive safe!

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