Even in these troubled economic times – people are on vacation. You might have purchased your vacation months ago – or just need a vacation. Now that you are about to take off to Arizona, Hawaii, California, or Florida — you want to control the expenses that are not already “sunk costs” like your airfare. One of the easiest places to save money is on your rental car. If you’ve got time– maybe at work (grin) – you can get a very cheap car, and not drive a junky econo-box. The photo above is our Chrysler 300 with leather seats in Maui – for which we are paying under $20 per day. Here are our top five tips to getting a disgracefully cheap deal on a rental car:
1.) Forget Avis and Hertz. You won’t get a good deal from either one. We’re here to play with the “Tier Two” car rental companies like Alamo and Dollar. Alamo and Dollar compete on price, not service and are ready to deal. Budget is really just Avis in disguise, so don’t bother there either.
2.) Shop around like crazy: Here’s the dirty secret of car renting. You can make a reservation with every company – with no credit card – and there is no obligation. In fact, you can (avoid) make multiple reservations with the same company using various email addresses and family members. We do advise to cancel all un-needed reservations and never maintain more than one reservation with a single car company. Net-net — shop around and reserve until you do better – then cancel. Since there can also be “outages” on rental cars – its good to always have a 2nd backup reservation with a 2nd rental company.
3.) Coupon codes rule. There are the deals you can get on the web which are good – but the real deals can be from coupon codes. One of the best places for coupon codes is at your local Costco. When you visit Costco, there is a “travel guide magazine” which contains two full pages of rental car codes from every major rental car company.
4.) Check your reservation weekly. If you spend just five minutes per week reviewing your reservation and how pricing has changed (ie make it again) — you can save almost 30-50%. Prices do and will change. Take advantage.
5.) Hotwire and Priceline are your friends, but lock you in. Avoid being locked in, but when all else fails, try Hotwire (prepaid, you don’t know the rental car company) and Priceline (same scenario). For priceline – bid 30%-50% below the lowest price you have been quoted. You will prepay; be locked in; and need a great deal to make it worth it. Priceline and Hotwire also charge add-on fee’s. You can use this method to access the lowest rates, when you don’t have the needed coupon codes.
In summary – rental cars are an industry with wildly different prices that you can leverage by “playing the market”. Check prices often, and you can save a bundle and get an awesome vehicle.