Whether you need a car rental for a day or a week, while you are just passing through or you need one while your regular ride is being repaired, there are few things to keep in mind when looking to rent to make sure you get the best deal all the way around. Here, in no particular order or preference (other than numerical, because a top ten listing requires it) are ten things to bear in mind.
Reserve in advance, and as early as possible – Just like plane reservations, dinner reservations, or reservations about your decisions, the earlier you can act, the greater the chances are that you will get what you want at the best possible rate.
Enroll in a loyalty program – If you rent vehicles even on an occasional basis, you can realize big dividends by enrolling in a preferred customer program, or other loyalty-based plan, offered by car rental agencies. The rewards often consist of free upgrades, lower rates, or free days.
Shop around – Comparing prices and searching for advertised discounts or special offers can bring big savings with low or special rates or reduced prices on upgrades. When you are talking with the agent, do not hesitate to ask about unadvertised discounts, as many individual sites have their own specials available.
Be aware of limitations if you are crossing international borders – Some companies either do not permit their rental cars to leave the country, or there are conditions that must be met and they can be expensive. Before you go, check with the agent, and obtain written approval.
Reserve the smallest car possible – This one of the easiest ways to get a larger car at a lower price, especially if you are flying into a smaller airport or traveling over a busy period. Many locations do not stock enough small vehicles, so the odds of an upgrade are in your favor.
Be judicious with that liability waiver – Check with your insurance agent to see if your personal automobile policy covers car rentals. Also, if you are paying with a credit card, it may provide the needed insurance. However, do not assume. If you are not covered, you will need the agency’s policy.
Pay attention during the pre-rental inspection – Rental companies can be nitpicky when finding damage when you turn your car in. Review the inspection and make the agent note any damage you spot. It is your best form of protection.
Check the different groups, clubs, and organizations to which you belong – Many of these have special arrangements with car rental companies to provide good discounts for their members.
Eschew prepaying for gas – If you have to return the vehicle with a full gas tank, fill it yourself just before you bring it in. Paying to have the car rental company do it can result in charges that are more than double the going rate for gas – a big chunk of change if the car has a large gas tank.
When traveling with your family make sure you rent a car that will seat everyone – Hours of driving in close confines and the constant “He (she) keeps touching me” can make for endless miles. Choose a car with plenty of room for passengers and luggage. Also, make sure any family member who may drive the car is listed on the agreement.
Car rental is not a complicated process, but it can be tricky if you are not familiar with it or you enter into the contract unprepared. Use these humble suggestions as a basic guide and you will be sure to drive a good bargain.