Best Car Rental Tips?

Sandy asks:

Looking for car rental tips!! I'm going to be renting a car for the first time next month... do you have some basic steps to help me save time and money? I'm a little overwhelmed with all the different car rental companies to choose from!

My Response:

I sure do! I've narrowed different advice and car rental tips from this whole website down to what I think are the 10 most important things that you need to do when you book a rental car.

These are my Top 10 Tips when Renting a Car!

1. Make an Advanced Booking

If you can reserve your rental in advance (a month or more if possible), you will often get the best rental car rates.

If you can't book in advance, make sure to do some research for last minute specials!

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2. Find a Car Rental Discount Code or Rental Car Coupon

Many programs and associations offer car rental discounts as part of their benefits to members. You can contact the association direct or check their website for member benefits for car rental. 

You may be able to find Rental Car Discount Coupons or specials on car rental company websites.

Sometimes you can use a discount together with an online deal, so make sure to check both options to see which will give you a better price.

If you can't find a code, coupon or online special, you may be able to get discount auto rentals by finding a prepaid car rental rate.

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3. Size makes a Difference

If you are looking for more car rental tips to save money, book only the size of vehicle that you need to meet your basic requirements.

Many car rental companies overbook their smaller sizes, so if you're looking for a slightly larger vehicle, ask at the car rental counter if there are any free car rental upgrades available.

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4. The Best Car Rental Rates are Usually found on Weekends or on Weekly Rentals

Weekly rates are generally rates for rentals that are at least 5-7 days long and include a Saturday night.

Leisure travelers can often find better discount auto rentals on weekends when the demand for some types of cars isn’t as high.

Small to large size cars will be cheaper on the weekends, but SUV's, minivans and specialty vehicles will usually be more expensive. An exception would be holiday weekends. If you don't book far enough in advance, holiday weekend rentals can be very, very expensive.

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5. Fill up the Tank, even if you only Drive a Little Bit

Most car rental companies charge a special surcharge or fee, if you drive the vehicle under a certain number of miles. But you may be able to have the fee waived if you fill the tank and show a reciept.

Most car rental companies will also offer some kind of prepaid fuel option that you can take if you don't want to have to fill up the tank before you return the car.

6. Always get a Booking Number or Email Copy of your Reservation

If you reserve your rental over the phone, make sure to get a reservation number or confirmation number and an email confirmation, if available. When you reserve your rental car online, make sure to record your confirmation number as back up until your email arrives. Bring a printed copy of your reservation with you, if you can. You may never have to show it, but you're better having having it in case there is a problem.

7. Check your Options about Rental Car Insurance

Before you go to the rental counter, be sure to do some research on what you will need for coverage for the rental car. It's important to know your options, before accepting or declining the various coverage options offered at the car rental counter.

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8. Compare Rates on Discount Auto Rentals

Although sometimes it can seem that all car rental rates are about the same, keep in mind that car companies keep track of each others prices in order to be competitive. It's important to compare rates from various companies, to find the best price.

The easiest way to quickly compare rates for several car rental companies, is to go to a booking site and check your city, dates, times and vehicle size to find which company has the cheapest rate. You can Find the Best Car Rental Rates in Top Destinations by comparing rates using Travelocity, for example.

If the rates seems reasonable and you don't have to give your credit card number, book the car. Then, go to that particular company's website, directly, and see if you can get better cheap car rental rate on the same vehicle using a discount code, coupon or special from the site itself.

9. Pick up/Return the Rental Car at the Same Time of Day

Most car rental companies charge based on 24 hour days, starting at the exact time when you pick up your car. (Not the time that you said you would pick it up!)

It is rare now to get much of a grace period for returning the vehicle, although some car rental companies will offer a 29 minute grace period.

Pick up and return at or by the same time of day to keep your price down and avoid being charged for an extra day. Make sure to check at the rental counter, to see if there is a grace period for returns, in case you are late.

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10. Check Back, after you've made a Reservation

If you book a car rental reservation 3 weeks or more in advance, call or check online each week before the pick up date, to see if the rates of your rental have gone down since you booked it. You may also be able to find last minute car rental deals if you check regularly up until your pick up date.

Online, you can try to either modify your reservation to the lower rate (try changing your pick up time by a couple of minutes) or book a new car at the lower rate. If you successfully book the lower rate, make sure to go back and cancel your original booking.

If you made your reservation over the phone, call periodically and provide your confirmation number, to check if the rates for your reservation have gone down. If the agent cannot modify the reservation to the lower rate, they will be able to book you a new reservation at the cheaper price.

I hope thes car rental tips help you in making your reservation.

Many more car rental tips, as well as information on Car Rental Policies can also be found throughout this site.

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