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7 Tips For Renting a Car: Negotiation Tactics and Mistakes to Avoid

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There’s absolutely no reason for you to be spending 100% when renting out a car, especially since they always try and charge you for extra services. We’ve put together a list of 7 tips for renting a car that will end up saving you over 50% on your next rental.

Throughout this guide, we’re going to use Enterprise Car Rental as an example since I enjoy using their service. See one that’s not on here and should be? Let us know in the comments below.

Table of Contents

1. The Power Of Negotiation

What most people don’t know is that you can usually negotiate your car price. This is especially true for smaller cities with a decent-sized population since most of the time cars are just sitting on the lots. If the car isn’t being rented, they’re losing money.

This is key for finding the best price. I almost always go with Enterprise because I’ve had great experiences with them and they’re often willing to lower the price.

However, they are not usually the cheapest. Sometimes Enterprise’s rates are so high compared to other companies that I wouldn’t even consider using their company, at least until I shop around and make them aware of the situation.

The reason I look at prices from other car rental properties is so I can use that information as leverage. As an example, let’s take Thrifty and Enterprise and do a side-by-side comparison for their most economical car available.

We go to their website and find that Enterprise is renting their car for $27 a day and Thrifty for only $21.

tips for renting a car enterprise thrifty

Even though I want to go with Enterprise, Thrifty is $6 cheaper per day. I don’t want to pay the extra price, but Enterprise has always given me great service. So what can we do?

Inform Enterprise Of Their Competitors’ Prices

The first thing I do is call the rep at Thrifty and see how low they are willing to go in order to rent you a car per day. I politely say that I’m also considering renting from other car rental places if they have a lower price.

The rep at Thrifty understands my situation and says that $25 dollars is the lowest they can go. I thank them for his or her time and call the Enterprise rep with this information in mind.

Mention that Thrifty is willing to rent their car for $25 a day after taxes. While I’d prefer to go with Enterprise, I can’t pass up such a big difference in price. From there, ask what they can do?

In most cases, Enterprise is willing to budge at least a little bit in order to ensure that you’ll go with them. As mentioned above, if a car is sitting in their lot, they’re losing money, so they need to get as many cars out as possible.

Based on the price they’re willing to drop down to, it’s your decision as to weather you want to accept it or not. If you don’t want to call Thrifty or another car rental company first, you can always call up Enterprise and see what they’re willing to do on the spot.

Most places are willing to drop the price by at least a few dollars. Do not mention a counter price. By mentioning a price, you forfeit the opportunity of the rep on the phone to make a lower price; let them do the talking first.

Mention That You’re Considering Purchasing Insurance

One way to get your price down is to mention that you’re thinking about purchasing insurance (which we’re not going to). Sales reps typically make a commission on any insurance that they offer.

This will make them even more likely to lower the price. Even if you’ve already negotiated the price down a little bit, you can always try and go a bit further. Instead of using only Thrifty, be sure to look at multiple car rental websites and see what the best deal is.

Take that lowest offer and bring it back to the rep of your choice. You can always go back and forth between different car rental companies until you get the price that you want. The reason we use Thrifty is that they tend to have the lowest prices.

Remember, it’s you that makes the calls, not the rep. If at any point you think the price is too high, you can directly them directly that you’re going with another company for a lower price.

This might even persuade the rep you’re talking with to bring the price down a little to keep your business. Keep in mind that you can’t negotiate prices online.

If our original cost was $27 for a rental, we’ve already brought it down by at least a few dollars. Let’s see what else we can do to save some extra money.

2. Never Pay for Car Rental Insurance

Each time you rent a car, the rental company offers you insurance on your rental in case you get in an accident. There’s absolutely no need to purchase this. This is because most credit card companies often have a policy that covers your rental.

Take a look at the text below to view Visa’s policy when it comes to car rentals. You can see the full policy here.

visa cdw rental insurance policy tips for renting a car
Credit Card Companies Give You Free Rental Insurance

Right in the first sentence it says that by using a Visa credit card when paying for your rental car, you are covered for theft or damages up to the value of the car.

In other words, Visa has auto-collision insurance already included when you use their card upon making a purchase. This way you don’t have to buy any extra.

You Must Decline The Car Rental Company Insurance

These benefits aren’t widely announced to the public, but they do exist. Of course there are certain restrictions when using a credit card for your car rental insurance. You can’t rent a luxury car, and you can only rent the car for a certain amount of time.

Yet the most important requirement is that in order to make the car rental insurance from your credit card valid, you must decline all insurance offers from the car rental company.

If you use a credit card and accept the insurance that the car rental company provides, they will not help you if you happen to get in an accident. I’ve only used Visa for car insurance, but I know that MasterCard and Discover has a similar policy.

Be sure to look up the policy for your specific card as it can be slightly different depending on what card you have. If you ever have any questions on what they cover, you can always call the number on the back of your card.

They won’t usually give you a direct answer to the rental in question. Yet as long as you rent for a short time, don’t rent a luxury car and decline the insurance from the rental company, you should be fine.

Insurance for car rentals can be extremely high, costing a minimum at Enterprise of $7 per day with a price of around $20 for their maximum coverage policy. With these numbers, we’ve already saved around 50% of our car rental price.

3. Use A Cash Back Credit Card

When renting a car, cash back credit cards can really add to your savings. We recommend the Discover It Card  since it gives you 5% in cash back on all ground transportation purchases from the months of January to March.

Not only that, but they also double the cash back you earn in the first year. This means you could potentially be getting 10% in cash back. The card comes with no annual fee and gives you 1% in cash back in all other purchases. Here’s a quick glance at the card and what it has to offer:

tips for renting a car discover cash back

Apply Now

    • No annual fee
    • Earn 5% in cash back on categories that rotate quarterly
    • Earn 1% in cash back on all other purchases
    • Cash back earned your first year is doubled at the end of the year
    • Discover Deals Portal gives you extra cash back for online purchases
    • Free online FICO® Credit Score on every statement
    • Free overnight delivery for lost or stolen cards

4. Buy a $40 Enterprise Gift Card for only $20 using Discover

When redeeming points through a Discover Credit Card, you can use use them to buy gift cards at their Online Discover Mall. Fortunately, Enterprise is one of these gift cards that we can use. You can buy a $40 gift card at the price of $20, cutting your car rental price in half.

tips for renting a car discover card
Spend $20 dollars in points and get a $40 Enterprise Gift Card

From what I’ve heard, you have to purchase the car at the current online price in order to be able to use your gift card. So if the car is renting at $35 online and you want to get that $20 dollars off bonus, you can’t negotiate, but it doesn’t hurt to ask if you can use them both simultaneously.

Either way, you’re still saving a huge amount on your car rental price. The Discover Partner Gift Cards also include other car rental companies such as National and Alamo. Make sure to check with Enterprise and Discover before ordering the ticket, as there are only specific cars you can use it with.

If you order a gift card and change your mind about renting a car, you can usually call up Discover and have them cancel it, refunding your cash back. The Discover It Card is all around a great credit card to have due to its many benefits.

5. Look for Specials

This one I’m sure is obvious, but I want to mention a deal that I haven’t to found to be near as good anywhere else. Enterprise often has a special in which you can rent a car for as little as $9.99 per day over weekends. The catch is that you must rent it for a minimum of 3 days: Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

Keep in mind that it’s most likely only going to cover the most economical car available. In order to find out if this deal is going on or not, you can usually find it right on their front page.

Enterprise Weekend Special tips for renting a car

6. When you Call Matters – When the Rep is Happy, You’re Happy

When you speak to the agent on the phone, it’s important to call at the time when he’s going to be in the best mood. It’s not going to be early in the morning on Monday after the weekend, especially since most reps at car rental companies are recent college grads.

A good time to call is typically around Friday right after lunch around 1 pm or 2 pm. This is because the week is winding down and they need to make as many sales as possible before the week ends. Be nice to them and they might return the favor by offering you a discount.

If they have to work on the weekend, empathize with them, and then ask them what they can do for you. Remember, you get what you give.

tips for renting a car at enterprise

And even if you don’t receive a better discount, you’re still making someone’s day better, and that in my book is one of the best deals you can get. It also helps if you have all of your information available when you call. Tell him the exact dates and times for your pick-up and return.

Make The Rep Do Less Work

Having your credit card and driver’s license available when you first make the call will also save the rep a lot of extra hassle. Telling the rep before you negotiate that you have your information ready will make him or her ecstatic to know that another sale is about to close

One last thing is that reps hate is giving people rides or picking them up at home. They’re already busy enough. Put them in a good mood by stating that a ride won’t be necessary. Even if you do need a ride, make sure to leave this out until after the price has been negotiated.

7. Protect Yourself From Hidden Charges

We’ve all heard of those terrible car rental experiences in which someone ends up forking up more money than they should. Let’s stick with Enterprise as an example, as their process is pretty similar to other rental car companies.

Once you agree on a price, the rep will do a walk-around to see if there’s any damage on your car. If they find anything, they mark it down so that the damages won’t be charged to your account.

It was recently that Enterprise implemented their golf-ball policy. They have a little tag that says any damage smaller than a golf ball will not be charged to your credit card. Also keep in mind that they won’t mark this down before you drive the car off of the lot. We recommend to be extra cautious with this.

enterprise damage evaluator tips for renting a car

Ask the rep politely that even though the damage is smaller than a golf ball, that he needs to report it. If you have to, tell him, or you cannot take the car off the lot. Even if it just looks like a small scratch when you rent the car, you never know if it’s going to look differently a few days later.

What I usually do is try to make things fair. I tell the rep to mark the small dent on the damage form, and then write off to the side that this damage is smaller than a golf ball. That way, when the car comes back, the rep will know that if it turns out to be bigger than what it says on their damage evaluator,  they can charge you for it.

Take A Close Look Around

Make note of any scratches, dents, cracks or bumps. This includes windows, bumpers, doors, side mirrors and everything. Anything that worries you when you drive off the lot is only going to make you that much more stressed. You’re renting a car to make life easier, not harder.

After doing this, it might be even wise to consider taking pictures of the car if you’re up to it, especially images of where damages are already placed. This leaves room for no argument for when you return the car back to the rep.

One last final note is to look at the interior very carefully. It’s okay to ignore the small stains on seats and carpets, but make sure to look at the ceiling as well as inside the trunk. Many people tend to forget this.

Final Thoughts

Although renting a car can be a financial stressor for some of us, it definitely doesn’t have to be. Use these 7 tips for renting a car and negotiation tactics to help save on your next car rental. We also suggest renting with Turo to even more save money, a peer-to-peer car renting service.

If you have any tips for renting a car that you’d like to share, we’d love to hear about them in the comments below. Thanks for reading and happy frugaling!

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