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It’s a given that having your ride has got lots of perks. For starters, you’re free to drive around whenever you want. If perhaps, you don’t own a car, you could consider renting a car.
Car renting has its share of ups and downs. The only way to get the best value for your money is to know who you’re doing business with.
Most car owners take advantage of the fact that you need transportation and hike fare prices to unbelievable levels. You’re more likely to fall prey to them if you don’t carry out due diligence.
Sure, car prices vary and companies have different rates for their vehicles but how can you tell if a figure is legit?
One of the best ways to be safe when renting a car is to do some research online. This way, you’re able to identify different offers, compare them, and pick the one that you’re most comfortable with.
When choosing a car to rent, put the hours of operation into consideration. The last thing you would want is to rent a car only to realize that it’s not available when you need it the most.
If you don’t have the experience, don’t rent a car on your own. Go with someone you trust and is a pro at it and let them handle it.
Most companies love taking an early break during the weekend. Renting a car during the weekend is a great move. Prices are generally lower than they are during weekdays.
Whether you need a car for a summer road trip with those close to you or to move stuff from your old home to your new one, here are some ways to save money renting a car that will make your car renting experience smooth and frugal:
1. Go for Less-Obvious Brands
Everyone wants the best. That’s why most people choose popular company brands such as National and Hertz when renting cars.
The result? They have to pay more. Worse still, there’s a probability that you might not get a car when you need it, especially during the week.
Brands that are popular among the public generally offer more for their services.
Why not take a different turn and go for a lesser-known brand? Just because they aren’t popular doesn’t mean that they may not have amazing deals.
It’s a risky step to take but think of the saving that you could make.
Before identifying them, of course, you’ll have to take a good look around. Most cars for rent are located far away from the airport.
Less-obvious brands also may not have a frequent renter loyalty program. If you need to rent a car as a one-time thing, this won’t matter to you much.
On the other hand, if you’ll be needing rental cars for quite a while, try not to go to the same company each time. The case is obviously different if you would like to rent vehicles for a longer time.
Locate other brands and try them out instead. Trying out new things may not be a number one option for many.
However, you never know what you’re missing until you take the lea and who knows? You might just be a step away to insanely great discounts.
Don’t be too quick to conclude that less-obvious brands have poor offers without giving them a try.
2. Size Matters
There’s a sense of prestige that comes with driving a large car but the downsides outweigh the perks, especially if you’re renting a car.
Most car companies know that people love full-size and mid-size cars and they, therefore, have many of them in stock.
Full-size vehicles are generally more expensive than smaller ones. Unless you’ve got lots of stuff with you, this should be your last option.
Why should you choose a smaller car? Apart from the fact that they’re super affordable, here are some other reasons:
They Take Up Less Parking Space
Because of their size, finding a parking space for smaller vehicles is a piece of cake. You can park them almost anywhere without much effort as long as the spot doesn’t belong to someone else.
Better Gas Mileage
Smaller cars have small engines so you don’t have to spend a lot on gas. You may have to stop for gas frequently if your destination is a distance away but you will definitely pay less as compared to buying petrol for a full-size car.
They’re Easier to Maneuver
Many smaller rides have interior volumes that start at just 100 cubic feet and this makes controlling them easier. This feature is convenient when you’re driving down narrow one-way streets or making your way on a busy street.
Easier to Maintain
In case something happens to the rented vehicle while you’re using it, replacing a part or two will be less costly and easier since they have smaller parts. All in all, maintaining it is easier if you’re an experienced driver.
3. Don’t Rent a Car at the Airport
After a trip from a foreign country or state, renting a car at the airport seems like the right thing to do. It’s faster, convenient and saves you the trouble of having to look elsewhere for a rental car.
That might be the case, but there’s one detail you may have overlooked; crazy prices. Many airports charge 30 percent taxes or more on your rent. Usually, these taxes run about half that rate.
Additionally, operating and renting business space at airports is costly but these companies have a way around it. They carry a ‘concession recovery fee,’ where they charge you to regain the amount they lose to airports.
You should always check the rates at a downtown location or nearby rental offices and determine the cost of transportation from the airport before making a choice.
There are many money-saving options that you can choose from. For instance, if you need to stay overnight at your destination, secure a hotel for accommodation first.
Afterwards, search for a car rental company that is near vital points like banks and entertainment joints. It will be cheaper to move around that way.
You could also look for a car that’s ready to provide transportation to the rental lot. You can also save cash by taking a car from the airport to a nearby car rental agency.
4. Watch Out for Hidden Fees and Extras
What you see isn’t always what you get. Taxes and other fees might be increased without your knowledge. When shopping around for a rental car, consider the charges on the rental cars.
Sales tax should be regular in a particular location. However, certain companies add some extra charges on vehicle licensing fees, energy surcharges, battery and tire recovery fees.
Technology in vehicles is excellent, but unless you make it clear that you’re not ready to pay extra for features such as satellite radio and a GPS navigation system, they will charge you for them.
They may also charge you extra for unnecessary insurance to cover theft of any of your items in case someone breaks into the rental car and any additional drivers.
Here are some hidden fees that a lot of companies bury in fine print that you should avoid and steer clear of if necessary:
- Under 25 Penalty: most places have lowered the age to 21 years. You’re required to pay $25 or more in a day if you’re below this age.
- Early Return Fee, where you’re charged for returning a car earlier than the agreed upon date.
- Frequent-Flyer Fee, where car rental agencies charge customers who’d love to use the vehicle to gain airline miles.
- Concession Fee
- Collision Damage Waiver where you’re liable for a high insurance deductible if you get into an accident with the rental car
- Vehicle Licensing Fee, which is also referred to as Road Tax and VLF. It’s mostly applied in Europe. The rental company adds an additional fee of $5 daily on your bill
5. Turn Down the Company’s Insurance Offers
You need to have a firm stand about what you want before going to a rental counter. This is because when the car rental company offers insurance and you decline it, they will often put pressure on you to take it.
Others have gone the extra step by not doing the pressuring themselves. Take note that they don’t make it come off as pressuring.
They train their clerks to cause anxiety for anyone who turns down their seemingly generous offer.
Why does these insurance offer matter so much to them? They make big profits from them with every customer who accepts them. The additional costs might double your expense.
A common assurance that many clerks use is their insurance offer closes costly loopholes and that your insurance might not cover all damages. This is true in some cases.
They could also bring up a loss of use cost that reimburses the rental company for all lost revenues on a car as it’s replaced or fixed. Before deciding to accept the insurance, make sure that they’re necessary first.
These clerks are so convincing that it’s easy to fall into the trap. To avoid this, employ smart techniques such as:
- Bring someone you trust along to the rental office. The clerks’ charms are less likely to work on both of you at once.
- Prepare yourself in advance.
- Walk away if you feel that you’re almost caving in. There are many other offices that you could visit anyway.
- Ask as many questions as possible. The more you know, the better your chances of making the right choice.
6. Fill the Tank Before Returning the Car
Maintaining a rental car involves filling it up with gas before returning it. You may reason that you’re spending money when you refill the tank.
On that note, have you thought of the high charges that most car rental companies charge if you return their vehicle with an empty or nearly-empty car? This fee is known as a service charge.
There are several ways that you can avoid this charge. First of all, pay for gas in advance before renting it. This not only takes off the hassle from your mind, but it also saves you the trip to the service station before returning the car.
You could also fill up the tank of the vehicle at a service station that is close by. If you are in an area that you’re not familiar with or one that is flooded with traffic, do some research first so you can know where you should go for the refill.
There are factors that you should consider first like finding out if such an agreement is stipulated in the rental contract.
Go through the contract and if possible, take its photo so you have some substantial evidence to provide to the company in case they decide to turn on you.
When refilling, it doesn’t always have to be a full tank. Most times, a contract requires you to return the vehicle with the same amount of gas that it had before you borrowed it.
Always review the contract for answers before refilling to know what amount of gas you should put in.
7. Inspect the Vehicle First
You’re in a hurry to use the car and that’s okay. Before renting it, inspect it with the agent. Don’t just pay attention to the exterior. Pay attention to the interior as well.
- Check the windshields, light covers and mirrors for cracks and scratches.
- Additionally, take a look at the body for dents and any stains on the upholstery and other problems before renting the car. Otherwise, you’ll end up paying for it.
- Have a look at the brakes, turn signals and headlights and confirm that they’re in working order.
- See if there’s an owner’s manual for the car. It might not seem necessary, but it may come in handy.
- Confirm the gas, tire pressure and fluid (water/oil) levels
Take your time as you carry out the inspection. Take notes of each part and if necessary, take photos of the areas with problems.
Aside from inspecting it, ask the agent some questions such as:
- If they’ll be around when you return the car
- What happens if there’s a disagreement between both of you
- If there will be an inspection when you return the vehicle
- What’ll happen if you drop off keys during after-hours
When you identify any damages on the car and have made a note of them, give the form to the staff before you rent the vehicle. Also, ensure that those damages have been recorded in your contract.
The agent might not be for the idea of re-inspecting the car when you return it, but insist on it. This is the safest bet to clear your name.
8. Book In Advance
Most people reserve booking a rental car for the last minute, when they’re all packed and ready to leave.
This might seem logical, but it has lots of downsides. The most common one is the hassle that comes with it not to mention the stress.
It’s even worse if you have to be at your destination ASAP or you might not get what you’re looking for and out of desperation, settle for any vehicle.
Do things differently. Book a week or earlier before the actual time that you will be traveling. You stand to enjoy loads of benefits like:
Freedom to Change Your Mind
If you land a great car rental rate as you explore other options, you can always cancel the current reservation. There’s no charge for this.
You Save on Cash
This list can’t be complete without this point and this is the main reason to book early. It’s a general rule: early booking equates to lower charges. It all depends on supply and demand.
You Get to Weigh Your Options
Last-minute booking doesn’t grant you this privilege. When booking early, you’ve got all the time to compare car rental prices and options at your pleasure.
You Minimize the Worrying
Whether you’re renting a car for pleasure or business, doing it early relieves you of the stress of having to worry about transportation at the last minute.
9. Have an Accurate Return Time Estimate
Most car companies pay attention to small details like when you should return the car. Many of them give you a grace period of an hour or so if you don’t show up at the agreed time.
Others go to the extreme and charge you for another day, even if you’re late by 30 minutes. If you have a rental company that you work with already, it’s best to stick to it.
Keeping time might be a challenge for you if you’re not used to getting things done on time but it’s possible. You can avoid the extra charge of returning the car late by:
- Setting an alarm two hours before the time the car’s due.
- Getting everything in order way before the due date-take everything you own out of the vehicle, check if the vehicle is in excellent condition, etc.
- Choose a shorter route to the company that you rented the company from.
- Get enough sleep on the day before the day that you’re required to return the car. This is especially helpful if it’s needed first thing in the morning.
- Having a note that reminds you when you’re supposed to return the vehicle.
- Asking your friend or loved one to remind you.
When determining a time that’s right for you, always check your schedule first. Pick a time when you have no commitments.
You could also ask the clerk for the company’s policy on returning the car late.
Remember: It’s important to have a time cushion in place. It’s not a guarantee that everything will work out as per your expectations.
10. Get Some Great Discounts at Hotwire.com
Established back in 2000 by Gregg Brockway, Karl Peterson and Spencer Rascoff, Hotwire is a travel website that customers use to book rental cars, airline tickets, vacation packages, and hotel rooms.
It has gained recognition by selling off unsold travel inventory at discounted prices.
When renting a car, the website enables you to reserve a car rental either bundled with a package or alone.
You can search for car rental within your area or airport rental locations. Hotwire displays each car option, from a vehicle of economy size to a full-size car.
Prices of the vehicles are displayed below the cars at per-day rental costs, plus a total approximated cost included.
Upon choosing the car that works for you, the website shows the cheapest alternative and the rental company first. It also includes several alternative companies and prices just in case you have a particular rental company in mind.
Also, Hotwire includes essential information on the vehicle like the number of passengers it can carry as well as where you can pick it up on the day of your trip.
You don’t receive a final cost when you reserve the vehicle. Instead, you get it when you pick up the car. It goes the extra mile of breaking down the costs so you can see where every cent you produce goes.
Enjoy a Smooth and Affordable Rental Experience
You have enough to worry about when you are setting out to travel. Don’t let renting a car be one of those worries.
You don’t have to rent an expensive car if it’s beyond your financial capability. Your finances matter, but you matter more. Do the renting in a manner that will make you happy in the long run.
Renting a car isn’t as difficult as most people make it seem and it isn’t for the ‘selected few.’ Follow the tips from the article above, use your intuition if you have to and always carry out due diligence.
Even if it’s your first time to rent a car, it’s possible to get a deal that works for you when you use the right procedure. Have a safe trip!