If 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.
- Do a Google search for your destination airport and make sure the city name is included in that search. Example: Orlando International Airport
- Choose the Maps tab at the top (or click the map that appears in your search result)
- Zoom your level to an approx. 10-15 mile radius from your airport.
- 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 Priceline.com 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, SmartWomenTravelers.com and PearlsofTravelWisdom.com.
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 CarRentalSavers.com), 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? Read more information about family travel deals here.