I consistently get really good deals on rental cars and here are my secrets:
- Book early – You don’t need a deposit for rental car reservations so book early as it doesn’t matter if you cancel it.
- Use both a discount and a promotion code when reserving.
- Rent from local or non-airport locations.
- Don’t get the insurance – use the coverage provided by your credit card instead.
- Book for longer – A one week rental will be cheaper than a 5 day rental due to pricing rules.
The number one thing that will lower the cost is applying the discount codes. It’s simple to get one. Nearly all airlines offer a discount code “CDP” for use with car rental agencies. To find it just google “CDP”, your airline, and rental agency. United’s is ‘62455’ for Hertz. Next go to the rental agency’s website and look for their promotion and coupon page for a promotion that fits your rental. Add the Promotional Coupon “PC” to your rental and let the magic unfold! Here is a great resource to find rental discount codes that I use: www.carrentalsavers.com
Car rental agencies are like restaurants in that they don’t make their profit from their core product (restaurants make their profit on drinks not food). Their biggest markup is from insurance, and you’ll find it will typically double the total cost of your rental. If you can, use a credit card which comes with rental car insurance coverage and decline the insurance from the rental agency – and try not to crash.
Another counter-intuitive artifact of car rentals is that it is often cheaper to rent for a longer period. Agencies have a stepped pricing model, with the typical being 1-day, 3-day, weekly, and monthly pricing. If you need a car for 5 days it will almost always be cheaper to make the rental 1 week so that your pricing drops to the weekly rate. You can still return the car after 5 days, you’ll just pay less for it.
Lastly think about renting from a non-airport location, particularly when doing one-way rentals. A great example I have is from this summer when I did a one way month-long rental from LAX to Reno, NV. If I had rented the car directly from the airport location the cost was $950. Instead I hopped in a taxi and took it 5 miles to a nearby neighborhood location. The taxi was $25, but the car rental was now $525.