With the ridesharing revolution of the past few years, many of the travelers who would once have rented a car for trips are now skipping the cost and hassle by simply using Uber or Lyft to get around. This means rental companies have to compete even harder to earn your business and keep up sales–which is good news for deal-seeking folks like myself.
It still takes a few steps to make sure you’re getting the best deal:
- Get a feel for the going rate for your time and destination by doing a search at carrentals.com. The search is simple, and the results provide quotes from a variety of rental companies, budget and higher-end alike. Since most companies don’t require a credit card to make a reservation, you’re free to make a reservation without any pressure to commit. Don’t fall for the “pay now” rates though. While they’re a few bucks cheaper at that moment, they lock you in even if you find a lower price or need to cancel later.
- Experiment with the pick-up and drop-off time to see if you could save a substantial amount by picking up or returning the car earlier or later. Sometimes you’ll be charged a full day’s rate for only an hour of use if you just choose your pick-up/return time based on your flight schedule. Or you may be able to keep the car a few hours longer without the rate going up. Try different combos until you find the optimal time to pickup and return.
- Go to Autoslash.com. This is a site that will find you the cheapest rate, then will monitor the rate all the way up until the rental to see if they can get you a better deal. If a cheaper rate is found, they e-mail you with the new offer, and ask if you want to accept the new quote and cancel the old one. Enter the optimal pickup/return time you found on carrentals.com, and see if Autoslash can get you a better deal than carrentals.com. They seem to use some kind of magic to get lower prices sometimes, as one of my recent rental contracts had a mysterious, unexplained $25 off on the itemized receipt. Thanks Autoslash!
- Waive the collision insurance and use a credit card with car rental insurance. Rental companies make a lot of their profit from up-selling customers on insurance, roadside assistance, and toll coverage. Almost every credit card offers rental coverage, though it’s usually secondary coverage, meaning you’ll use your personal car insurance first, then the credit card company will cover anything your insurance doesn’t. A few credit cards offer primary collision coverage, meaning you can use that before using your personal insurance. The United Airlines Chase card and the very popular Chase Sapphire Preferred both offer primary coverage. The next question is whether you want to purchase liability or personal accident insurance, neither of which are covered by the collision coverage, but may be covered by your personal auto insurance. I’m a gamblin’ man and have great personal car insurance from USAA, so I never purchase either of these. If you have the money and want total peace of mind, go for it. Either way, be sure to check with your personal auto insurance company so you know what they do and don’t cover for rentals.
- Stay tough with the salesperson. Only purchase what you planned to purchase. If you like the convenience of pre-paying for the gas fill-up, go for it, but remember to bring that tank back as close to empty as possible so you don’t pay for unused gallons. Toll coverage is convenient as well, but you’ll almost always be paying at least double what the tolls would cost if you paid at the tollbooth.
Feel free to email me with any questions about your next car rental quest.