Looking for rental car hacks! Join the crowd. While a lot of people talk about hacking airline travel, or hotel stays or credit cards, there are not many folks offering rental car hacks which is exactly why I’ve put this guide to the best (secret) rental car tips you need to know!
Rental cars are often a key part of any trip (business or pleasure). And, if you are business traveler, it’s likely you are spending a significant amount of time in a rental car. If you are leisure traveler, it’s likely that a rental car plays a large role in the success of your trip! Whatever your reason, you want to save money, avoid unnecessary time-wasters and get the nicest car you can with the least amount of hassle.
So, buckle up, here are some great Rental Cars Hacks you need to know (and that the rental car companies don’t want you to know about!).
Rental Car Hacks
- Skip the insurance. It’s likely your personal car insurance covers the rental or if on corp travel, your company’s insurance. Rental car insurance is a really just a scam. It’s not needed, unless you literally have no other insurance options some where else. If that’s the case, you are probably not a business traveler…and more like a 26 year old kid in college. :-). It’s also possible that your credit card (yes, your card!) might provide additional coverage for your rental car as well.
- Signing up for reward programs. You signed up for the frequent flier program w/ your fav airline, but don’t forget to get on board w/ the rental car company’s program. They offer lots of benefits that you can use to your advantage (like scoring free rental days, or upgrading to a luxury car).
- Paying attention to the the bonus programs the rental companies often offer (and require you to “register for”) – many folks sign up for the basic rewards program, but never check the rental company’s website to see if there are other offers they can pile on top (and there are). The key is, you usually have to register for them.
- Never prepay gas. It’s stupid expensive. Plan your return w/ enough time to fill up and save $$. Rental car companies charge you for a FULL tank even if you only used up 1/4 tank. And it’s at a much higher rate (like double). Do it yourself. Manycompanies actually prohibit employees from taking this option – forcing you to fill it up yourself before returning it. And if you are a leisure traveler, just do it yourself…it’s not that hard!
- Book early. It’s always been my experience that booking your rental car earlier than later gets you the best rates. As the cars on the rental car company’s lot get reserved, they prices inch up.
- Rent from the rental company directly. Many times your company will prohibit this and force you to got through their travel booking system. But if you can book
direct you might be able to get a better rate and/or be able to use a discount code. Certainly, if you are on vacation, go direct and skip sites like Orbitz and Travelocity (unless there’s some crazy good deal bundle they are offering you).
- Download their mobile app. Most rental car companies now have a mobile app (some better than others). It can help you book the car, but more likely you will use it to track your reward program, special offers, or figure out which car you are renting and where it’s at.
- Ask for the upgrade. You’d be surprised at how often they will give you one. Especially if you are a regular traveler and its a slow rental day. Can’t hurt to ask! I’ve scored Camaro’s, Caddy’s and even a Benz once – by simply asking.
- Book using a group membership discount code. Often, organizations like AAA or AARP will offer their members discounted rates for various products – including, at times, rental cars.
Bonus Rental Car Hack: When buying a personal car consider a pre-owned rental. Conventional wisdom says don’t do this because they’ve been rode hard and put away wet. I’ve found the opposite to be true. They likely followed regular maint schedules, were fixed when damaged, and are usually only 2 years old. I’ve found some wonderful vehicles this way (we have a 2007 Suburban w/ 170k miles on it now that was a rental). And you can usually get a good deal.
Bonus Rental Car Hack: Don’t forget to check your car out before you drive it off the lot. Do a walk around and check for damage. If you find it, take a picture of it, and if you have time, let the staff note so they can add it to you rental car record.
Closing Thoughts – Rental Car Hacks
I hope these rental car travel tips were helpful. Use them to get the most out of your business travel life and maximize your rental car experience. Don’t forget to check out all of my travel hacks via 101 Travel Hacks for the Business Traveler!