Showing posts with label Car Rentals. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Car Rentals. Show all posts

Sunday, December 6, 2009

12 money-saving tips for renting a car by David Grossman

I thought that this was a timely article because of the holiday traveling season but these tips are mostly for those of you who travel for business. I know of a few conferences that are coming up for 2010 and I will certainly use a few of these tips while I travel!

12 money-saving tips for renting a car

By David Grossman, special for USA TODAY

In a tough economy business travelers must find new ways to economize. One area often overlooked is the cost of renting a car. Here are 12 of my favorite tips for saving money when renting a car.

1. City vs. airport: Many states and municipalities levy exorbitant taxes and user fees on airport rentals. I often find it less expensive to rent my car at a city or off-airport location. On a recent trip to Philadelphia I saved $103 on a five day rental by using a Hertz location in the city center instead of renting at Philadelphia International Airport.

2. Airport drop-off: To further enhance my savings in Philadelphia, I actually dropped the car at the airport on my way home eliminating the taxi fare from downtown to the airport. While one-way rentals from city to city often carry a drop charge, car rental companies rarely charge customers to pick up or return their car at different locations within the same metropolitan area. Returning that Hertz car to the airport was the same price as dropping the car at the rental office in the city center. Sometimes it even pays to rent a car at a city location solely for the drive back to the airport rather than using other forms of ground transportation.
3. Single day vs. overnight: On many trips I rent a car only for the days I need one. This works nicely if you're staying in the city and need to use the car to attend meetings in the suburbs, for example. Even if you need a car every day, renting and returning the vehicle each day can help avoid costly overnight parking at a city hotel.

4. Parking alternatives: If you need a car for the entire trip and you are staying in a city center, it is often cheaper to park overnight in a nearby public garage than pay the inflated rates charged by most hotels. If you return to your hotel in the evening and plan to leave again in the morning, you can even park overnight on the street for free in cities, even in major cities like San Francisco or New York, as long as you move the car before the daytime parking meters or restrictions are in force.

5. Renting in smaller cities: In most cases, large cities or airports charge the highest fees to maintain their expensive airport rental facilities. When visiting several cities in Arizona on a three day trip recently, my Budget rental car in Phoenix was priced at $235, but I saved $110 by renting the same car 120 miles away in Tucson and I've had similar savings by renting in Milwaukee vs. Chicago just 90 miles away. In addition, picking up a rental car in a smaller city is often much quicker and easier than large airports like Chicago O'Hare or Phoenix International Airport.
6. Using airline and other discounts: If your company doesn't have a direct corporate discount with a rental car company it often pays to use discounts offered by airlines or large organizations like the American Automobile Association (AAA) or the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP). On my Philadelphia trip the non-discounted daily rate for my midsize car was $72 while the AAA member rate was $65 and Southwest Airlines discount rate was only $52 per day. Most airlines offer discounts from multiple car rental companies. The discount numbers are generally posted on the airline's website and you usually don't have to fly that airline on that particular day to receive the discounted rate.

7. Weekend vs. weekday rentals: In tourist destinations like Florida, renting a car at the airport for a weekend during peak periods will generally cost more, while during the week there are likely to be fewer travelers and deals may abound. In contrast, at business destinations, airport rental car lots are full and prices are lower on weekends. In cities like New York or Boston, where many city residents don't own a car, rental cars are often in great demand during the weekend at city locations while airport rental counters are begging for business.

8. Web bookings: The Internet often yields lower rates than telephone bookings. In addition, travelers can comparison shop across many vendors simultaneously on travel agency websites.

9. Opaque shopping/bidding websites: I often find great car rental deals from the top rental car brands by purchasing on "opaque" websites like and These sites allow you to purchase "distressed inventory" from suppliers who need to move cars off their lots on a particular day. You don't know which rental car company has been assigned until after booking and it is a guaranteed, pre-paid, non-refundable reservation, but I often find the best prices here, particularly in this slow economy.

10. Avoiding unnecessary insurance: Car rental companies always try to sell insurance to accompany your rental, but many homeowners or home automobile insurance policies and some premium credit cards already cover car rental insurance so it always pays to check before accepting this option.

11. Prepaid gasoline: An increasing number of rental car companies offer a prepaid gasoline option. You pay for a tank of gas up front and then try to bring the car back with the tank as empty as possible. This can be a great convenience if you don't want to search for a gas station on your way back to the airport, but while prices for prepaid gasoline are generally lower than pump prices, any savings could evaporate if you bring the car back with more than a gallon or two in the tank.

12. Finding cheaper gas: At home, you probably know which service stations consistently offer the lowest prices, but on the road you may not. I always make a mental note of gasoline prices at stations near the airport, but using websites like or can take the guess work out of finding cheap gasoline anywhere in the country. On a recent trip to Cleveland I saved $8 on a tank of gas by checking the Internet first.

Of course, staying where you don't have to rent a car at all may offer the greatest savings, but when driving is unavoidable following the tips above for every rental can add up to big savings for business travelers.