Finding a Rental Car Deal

Expert Tips for Finding a Rental Car DealIf you are flying to your family vacation destination, you’ll probably need to get a rental car.  Renting a car is a totally different experience than getting a hotel room and a flight – you usually don’t need to commit to your rental car, which means you can keep looking for a great price until you are ready to leave.  Also, the prices you pay will vary wildly depending on the location you are renting from (city or airport) and the competition in the area.  I sought out some travel experts to find out how you can get a great rental car deal.

Go for those companies that are based outside the airport grounds.

  1. Do a Google search for your destination airport and make sure the city name is included in that search. Example: Orlando International Airport
  2. Choose the Maps tab at the top (or click the map that appears in your search result)
  3. Zoom your level to an approx. 10-15 mile radius from your airport.
  4. Now do a search for “Rental Car”.

There will be very small red dots on your map. Those are the ones you are after. They are outside airport limits, they will normally have a shuttle service from the airport to their location and pricing for a rental car can easily be 15-20% less. –
Peter Van den Broeck, Owner of Discount Vacation Rentals Online

I encourage families planning to fly and drive to first decide on the best size car they need for their comfort and budget and then to research the top three rental agencies in the area they are going to visit. Doing your homework online means finding out the going rate in that area; then I check out the lowest rate for that location on Hotwire, and then I sign-in to and put in my bid for $5 – 8 under the going rate for a short-term rental and $10 – 14 for a longer term rental, and 99% of the time, my bid is accepted by one of the big 5 rental companies. It is also wise to always rent and return the car to the same location. – Sheryl Kayne, author Immersion Travel USA

Here’s a great way to achieve large savings on car rentals, sometimes 30% or more. We call it Internet bounce back offers. If you use the Internet and have given your e-mail address to any online company, you have probably received bounce back responses. These are e-mail or other Internet responses to you with a discounted offer. The online travel industry also uses bounce back responses. The marketing reasoning goes like this… If you do not book the deal when you were on their website, you are probably looking elsewhere and not coming back. So, they feel since they have lost you, why not try a better price. This is how it works…Using your normal travel booking websites (i.e. Orbitz, Expedia, Priceline, etc.), do your searches for car rentals entering your travel dates. Be sure to fill out and submit their online form including your e-mail address. Do not book it at this time. Try several Internet booking websites. Sometimes as soon as an hour you may be offered a better deal. Sometimes waiting as long as 3 days will yield you the results you are looking for. You should utilize this strategy only if you have time because bounce back offers are random and only occur on some of your Internet searches. – Wayne & Pat Dunlap, Plan your Escape

I get better deals on rental cars by: Comparing rates from locations other than the airport. The airport fees, taxes and insurance can often be much less from non-airport sites. Taking a complimentary hotel shuttle bus to my hotel; and booking a car for the next day to save a day’s rental and pay the lesser fees. Works on the return also, so can save another day of car rental. – Carol Margolis, and

Book early and check prices often – Most car rental reservations do not require prepayment.  You can book then cancel or modify if you find a better rate.  At busy locations rates change frequently.  I know several people who check right up until the day before their rental.  Look for discounts and coupons – there are hundreds of discount and coupon codes available for car rental.  Many have no membership requirements.  I have seen savings of over 75% from base rates.  Combine discounts and coupons – Some rental agencies will let you use a discount code and a coupon.  Join frequent renter clubs – All agencies have them and almost all are free.  This can provide you with better discounts and often allow you to bypass the counter.  Look for Freebies –  AAA members can get a free car seat from Hertz plus a discounted rate.  Costco members can get a free additional driver and AARP members can get free additional insurance.  Look for location specific discounts – Renting in Florida or Hawaii, there are some really good discounts just for these locations.  These are great for peak holiday rentals.  Use a car rental site that compares multiple agencies (like, rates can vary considerably by agency.  I have seen rates range from around $100 to $1000 for the same rental.  Try modifying your times slightly.  Rates can often be higher during holiday periods but sometimes by slightly changing your times you can qualify for cheaper rates.  Check both airport and off airport rates if you can.  Depending on a number of factors rates may be cheaper at either.   Many rental agencies will pick you up at your hotel and let you drop off at the airport with no additional charge.  Know your insurance situation before you get to the rental counter.  Often the insurance can cost as much if not more than the rental.  In the US if you have a credit card and an auto policy you are most likely covered.  When renting internationally always check with your credit card company as some countries (e.g. Ireland) are excluded from most coverage.  If booking internationally make sure to check out brokers.  Often they will have rates that include all insurance and have rates from local companies that can provide substantial savings.  Full Size Cars are usually much cheaper than Mini Vans or SUV’s.  They also usually have surprisingly large trunks.  If you can fit everything in this can be a big money saver. – Mark Mannell

What tips do you use to save on rental car expenses?

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About Jodi Grundig

Jodi Grundig has loved traveling since she was a little girl. She started blogging in 2007 on her popular review site Mom's Favorite Stuff and after doing quite a bit of family traveling, decided to launch her own travel blog. Jodi resides in Massachusetts with her husband, eight-year old son, ten-year old daughter, and Havanese dog.


  1. Good tips! We usually drive to our destinations, but this year we are flying and will need a rental car. I just pinned this article and will re-read it before I make my reservations.

  2. I love reading the above tips and the replies by others. I particularly likes Peter’s response on how you can find satellite rental car locations as they are called to save more on renting. The only word of caution with smaller outfits is that you may want to inquire in advance how frequently their shuttle services run. You don’t want to be waiting for their shuttle for excessive periods if you are traveling with kids and arrive late at night or have a small window to get to your flight or destination. This coming from someone who travels to Orlando frequently and learnt a lesson there with one of the smaller outlets that made us wait more than an hour and then the lines to get the car were 2 hours long. With kids and older parents, that was definitely not a bargain I had hoped for at 02:00 am. So, please check references and know what you are getting in to.

  3. These are all good ones! The outside the airport locations definitely save a ton on fees but sometimes have inconvenient shuttles. I definitely agree with the sleep near the airport save a day of rental car fee tip.

  4. Renting a car is no doubt a great idea for many vacation rental destinations though some locations really are close-knitted and do not need a car. In some locations (like New York), it is a hassle to drive a car and the public transportation is the ideal choice. As Mark mentioned above, I find Costco to be the cheapest option combined with their Five-Star Customer Service..

    Also, Carol suggested above to try non-airport locations. Great idea but comes with a caution. Some of the locations might be out of the way and you may end-up spending a few hours combined to pick-up and drop-off the car. So, you may want to consider the lost time in the equation and see if that still makes sense for your case. If you are planning to go straight to a theatrical from the airport, this may not work for you.

    On a different topic, we always prefer to drive our own car and not rent one even for long drives if we are on a road-trip. For those vacations that we fly to, we end-up renting from Costco. A few weeks back we drove to Smoky Mountains and rented a van as the kids wanted more space. That was the best decision I had taken lately :-) The roads are so winding and hilly that I was either pressing on the gas or the breaks all along. I am sure I saved a a lot of wear and tear on my own car by not driving personal car.

  5. Delores Lyon says:

    Thanks for sharing this! It is good to know that you can find a great deal on rental cars! I am going to be traveling to Europe, and I want to get a rental car while I’m there. I’ll definitely book early and to check prices frequently!

  6. Thanks for sharing this guide on finding rental car places near your destination airport! It is nice when you just walk straight to a rental place after you’ve made it to your vacation destination. However, if there’s a deal, it might be worth it to take a shuttle to a place a bit farther away.

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