Here are some tips and guidelines to keep in mind as you use the best websites for finding the best deals on car rentals.
- The earlier you reserve or pay for a rental car the better, especially if you will be traveling in high season. And if you can cancel a reservation without a penalty then it makes even more sense to make a reservation early and just cancel it later if you end up finding a better deal.
- Weekend rates typically start on Thursday at noon, and they are often significantly less expensive than the weekday rates.
- Weekly rates are typically based on rentals for 5-7 consecutive days and are almost always a much better value. However be aware that if you turn in your car before you hit the weekly time threshold that you might get charged the daily rate.
- Rent the smallest type of car that would still work for you if you were to actually get it, and then try to pick up the car as late in the day as you can. Many times all the smallest cars on the lot will already be gone for the day, enabling you to get a free upgrade.
- Compare rates for different pick up locations whenever you have that kind of flexibility. For instance, it is usually more expensive to rent a car from a location within an airport due to additional taxes and fees, although this is not always the case, especially when it comes to highly densely populated cities like New York where space is a premium. Likewise, different locations for the same rental company within the same city can vary quite a bit in prices for the same types of cars. Do keep in mind hours of operation though – for instance some locations have limited opening hours on weekends.
- Know that Enterprise offers free pick up and drop off services within 10 miles of the rental office according to their website. This could enable you to not have to get a rental car the day you arrive at the airport, thereby shaving a day off of your rental car needs and potential parking costs. Likewise, you wouldn’t be paying the typically higher in-airport rates, and you wouldn’t need to pay for transportation from your hotel to pick up and drop off your car.
- Compare rates for different types of cars. The smaller cars are not always the least expensive.
- When comparing quotes from different websites make sure all the taxes and fees are included for each quote. Some websites are better than others at revealing this information more transparently. Likewise, take into account the total cost if you will be adding extra items such as additional drivers, a gps navigation device, insurance, etc. Pricing on these items can vary substantially between rental companies.
- When you pick up the car do not opt for the prepaid gas service with the rental company unless you know for sure that you will return the car close to empty, or you will end up paying for gas you didn’t use. Likewise, don’t forget to fill up the tank just before you return the car or you will pay dearly for the rental company to do it for you.
- Pay attention to the rules and rates for mileage. Many rentals now come with unlimited mileage, but this is not always the case. And if it does come with unlimited mileage you are usually required to stay within a certain geography, such as in the same state. Supposedly some cars even have GPS devices on them to help enforce this.
- If you will need to cross an international border make sure that it is allowed within your rental contract and that you have the appropriate paperwork with you, including proof of insurance.
- If you are traveling with a small child you can save yourself some money by bringing your own child safety seat. Rental companies typically charge $7-10 per day for them.
- Be careful about using a debit card when you pick up your car, assuming the rental company actually even accepts them. First of all, if you are counting on insurance coverage from a credit card that you made the reservation with then this would nullify that coverage. Also, for the rental companies that do accept debit cards they often perform a debit card authorization hold of up to $500 which could freeze up those funds in your bank account for up to two weeks after you turn the car back in, potentially a big problem if you are counting on having access to that cash.
Go back to the best websites for finding car rentals.