How to Rent the Cheapest Car Possible
Photo: Penedès, Spain © Thrifty Traveler
Search Several Rental Websites
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Consider booking directly with the rental agency
Once you find the cheapest rental through an online travel agency such as Priceline, always search directly on the rental company’s website. You may be able to find the rental for a few dollars less directly on the rental agency website. Also, try searching for an online coupon code for your rental agency. This won’t work for Priceline but it will work for a specific rental agency such as Hertz.
Book Off Airport
In some cities, you can take a shuttle just off airport and save quite a bit of cash. Don’t sacrifice convenience though if it’s only a few dollars.
Check nearby cities
Mrs. TT and I recently rented a vehicle on our travels to Germany and Austria. If we rented in Austria the rental was $423, but if we went 5 miles across the border in Germany, the rental was only $221. Always search nearby cities, especially if it is a neighboring country.
Always rent and return to the same country
This one could be very costly if it’s not done right. If you rent a car in one country and drop it off in another country, you will likely have to pay a large fee to have it shipped back to the country you rented it in. Always pickup and return the vehicle in the same country. Make sure to do some research before renting internationally.
Consider using Uber or hailing a Taxi
The freedom of a rental car is great but it may be cheaper and easier to simply get a taxi. You’d be surprised how quickly fees can add up for rental cars such as tolls, parking fees, and expensive fuel (especially international rentals). You also have to worry about paying for any damage that might happen to your vehicle. Depending on your situation a taxi may be a better choice.
Booking with a credit card that offers insurance coverage
Another big money maker for rental companies is insurance. Luckily this can be avoided now that many credit cards now offer rental car insurance. Make sure to check what is offered by your credit cards before paying extra for insurance. Also, read the fine print on your credit card to know exactly what you are covered for.
Ask for an Upgrade
Many times you can get an upgrade for free or only $10-20 more. Be nice and simply ask the rental agent. Mrs. TT and I recently rented a car in Spain and we were offered a BMW for only $50 more than our tiny Toyota Prius. You won’t know until you ask.
Avoid prepaying for Gas
This almost always seems like a scam. The rental agency will offer to charge you for a full tank of gas up front. Unless you’re returning it completely empty, avoid prepaying. Fill it up at a nearby gas station before returning the rental. Just don’t forget to fill it up! Otherwise, they’ll make you pay significantly higher than the market price for gas.
Editorial Note: Any opinions, analyses, reviews, or recommendations expressed in this article are those of the author’s alone, and have not been reviewed, approved, or otherwise endorsed by any card issuer.