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Getting the Best Car Rental Rates


Rental Car Insurance


Rental Car Extra Fees & Costs


Rental Car Alternatives



Getting the Best Car Rental Rates


Finding the best rental car rates is as difficult as finding the best air fares, perhaps more so.  Whether you are renting at an airport or some other location, there are many large and small car rental companies to consider, and rates will most likely vary considerably among companies.  Finding a low rate can save hundreds of dollars over a one-to-two week trip.  And like air fares, finding the best rates and making a reservation is most easily done on the Internet.  However, unlike air fares, rental rates generally change less often and to a lesser degree, over a given period of time.  So “getting lucky” and finding the right rate at just the right time does not come into play as often as it does with air fares.  But there are still bargains to be had, particularly if you can wait to book until you are quite close to your travel dates.  Sometimes published rates for those dates or specials will offer some very attractive pricing, because of a surplus of vehicles for those dates at those locations.  Of course, if the reverse happens, vehicles may be hard to find and rates may be very high, so booking a reservation early may be advantageous.  Here are some tips on getting a good rate.


1.     Once your travel dates are firm, start searching the Internet for rental car companies.


a.  The first step is to identify rental companies that do business at the airport you will be arriving at.  Pull up the web site for the airport and this information should be available.  Of course, most of the major car companies will rent cars at the airport, and perhaps one or two smaller companies will also.


b.  But do not limit your search only to companies that do business at the airport.  Most of the time, rates at airports are higher than local rates, do to both the perceived “convenience” factor, and because airports usually charge rental companies very high surcharges, which are passed on to you.  Sometimes rates can be 25% or more higher.  If you are staying at a hotel not at the airport, chances are they have free shuttle transportation available from the airport, or the cost of a shuttle/taxi will be minimal. Since, at many airports, you have to get on a shuttle to get your car in any case, the convenience is not much different.  Once you are in town, you can pick up your rental car at a local location not connected to the airport, and perhaps save a considerable amount of money on the rate, and even reduce the number of days you need to rent the vehicle.  When your trip is completed, you just return the vehicle to where you picked it up and get the shuttle/taxi back to the airport.


c.  And if you are considering renting “downtown,” make sure you consider smaller, less well known rental companies.  They can have some great pricing.  A little research will probably let you know if they have a good reputation and can be trusted.


2.     Now that you have identified potential companies and rental locations that will fit your plans, decide what kind of vehicle you need.


a.  Assuming you do not need a specialized vehicle, like an off-road vehicle, luxury car or sports car, it’s just a matter of deciding what size and type of car (or perhaps SUV or van) will be best, keeping cost in mind.  But be careful, some rental car companies define vehicle sizes differently, even though they use the same terms like compact or mid-size.


b.  Generally, small vehicles are less expensive to rent and cost less to run. Given the price of fuel today, if you plan on traveling a lot of miles, this is an important consideration.  However, given supply and demand, and what vehicles are expected to be available, sometimes large vehicles cost very little more, upgrades are available to larger vehicles at no cost or, in rare instances, large vehicles may even be priced at a lower rate. So, if you know exactly what kind of vehicle you want to rent, just concentrate on finding the best rate for that vehicle.  If you are flexible on type of vehicle (taking into consideration fuel costs), do not limit your search just because you think smaller vehicles are less expensive.  This is particularly true if you are shopping for rates near the dates for your trip, or actually on the first day of your trip.  And be sure to ask if any free upgrades are available when you check in.