Save When Renting Cars

ABC has some good tips on how to save when renting cars. For instance:

  • Book online, it’s often cheaper.
  • When you walk in, ask about rates without mentioning your reservation. You may get a better deal right there.
  • Many credit cards will cover you in the event of a rental car crash. If so, pay with it , decline the rental car insurance, and save.
  • Renting for 4-5 days? Ask about the weekly rate. It may be less expensive.

What tactics do you use to keep car rental places from driving off with your wallet?Car Rentals: Don’t Get Taken for a Ride [ABC]
(Photo: Mr Marmot)


Edit Your Comment

  1. mantari says:

    1. Don’t be a jerk
    2. FLIRT!
    3. Playfully ask.

    Hey, a little grease on the wheels never hurts. You’re getting paid for your performance.

  2. Televiper says:

    I’m not sure about that rental insurance. I dinged a rental once and having the insurance made it a no questions asked experience. They handled all the details of getting the vehicle towed, and payed for my cab ride home (over $200). I wouldn’t really want to go to bat with my credit card company over the their insurance policy and what they actually cover.

  3. timmus says:

    Many credit cards will cover you in the event of a rental car crash. If so, pay with it , decline the rental car insurance, and save.

    If only it were that simple. The fine print says “coverage is secondary to any other applicable insurance or coverage available to you”. So you’ll be battling with your own insurance company, and you may pay in the long run with your insurance rates going up. Also from what I’ve seen the rental companies are more likely to make up BS damage, which puts the burden of proof on you to take lots of pics before and after rental in order to stay safe.

  4. freshyill says:

    I don’t own a car but my parents keep me on their insurance as a part time driver for times when I rent or when I’m at their house and need to use a car. It covers rentals, even though the person at the Dollar counter tried to tell me otherwise just last week.

    Speaking of which, I had a $19 and change rate at Dollar from Thursday through Sunday. My reservation was for 5 p.m. Thursday. I ended up calling them to change it to 12:30, and the assholes jacked my rate up to $22 and change — not just for Thursday (which would be understandable) but for the whole time I had the car.

    I’ve had much better experience with Thrifty, which, oddly enough, is apparently the same company.

    As for tips, when paying for ANYTHING online, always check first []

  5. CRNewsom says:

    Paying for extra insurance is crap anyway. The rental company already pays insurance for the car. They are covered for any damages, period. They are just trying to get some sucker to pay up for damages that may or may not exist, or were caused by someone else.

    I had a one-way rental for work, and the rental company called 3 weeks after I turned the car in to say that there was “major scratching” on one of the mirrors. Of course, they didn’t have any pictures of the damage, and the car had already been repaired (supposedly). I told them that they would have to take me to court for the $800 they were asking for. They never called back.

  6. JustThatGuy3 says:

    Check out the boards at – the boards for the various rental car companies have postings of a lot of extremely useful coupon codes that can save quite a bit of money.

  7. jeffeb3 says:

    I rent through my company. They are a large company, and do lots of travel, so they’ve negotiated great rates on rentals. Plus they pay for LDW.

    As for the insurance, there is some benefit to it. If you get in an accident that’s your fault, you could be stuck paying rent on the car until it gets fixed, and they aren’t exactly quick to get it done. I’ve heard horror stories (granted, no factual reference here) of people paying to rent the car for a month even though their insurance paid for the repair.

  8. jscott73 says:

    FYI, if you rent through most major agencies be prepared to give them a credit card when you pick up the car. I travelled on business recently, just a one day trip, so I didn’t think to bring any credit cards with me, which I normally don’t carry.

    Even though it was already paid by my employer, Enterprise would not let me get my car without a credit card, since I did not have one on me my only other option was to let them run a credit check, the full credit check that dings your score.

    I was a little upset and even asked to speak to a supervisor, the lady was nice enough and said that Hertz was the only car company she knew of that would not require a credit check but they would hold an additional $400 or so on your check card. Since it was booked through my company I could not change to Hertz though.

    Needless to say I had to let them run a credit check to get my car but at least they upgraded me to a nice convertible. Still, I won’t make that mistake again.

  9. heavylee-again says:

    It’s a such a Seinfeld cliche, but it’s true. I arrived at a destination and went to the rental car company with whom I had a reservation for a mid-size seden for a week. When we arrived, we were told they didn’t have any mid-sized cars, but we could have a (gas-guzzling) SUV instead.

    “But we have a reservation. Isn’t that what a reservation does? It reserves the car for us.”

  10. Don’t forget this one: it takes less than 6 minutes to fill up the car with gas before you return it. If you don’t, you’ll be stuck with an $8-a-gallon fuel charge.

  11. heavylee-again says:

    @jscott73: I’m not sure why you don’t travel with credit cards. You never know what you may need it for …….. like renting a car, even though it was already paid for.

  12. b612markt says:

    My biggest tip echoes that of Mantari – FLIRT!

    No matter who is helping me, be it a man or woman, I always compliment something about them or their location. When they confirm my reservation (I always book the smallest car) they usually try to upsell me to a midsize for pennies more. If I ask nicely, that can turn into a convertible or luxury car for just a few dollars more. Also, I enrolled in AmEx’s rental protection plan which provides incredible coverage for a fraction of the price that the rental agency would charge.

  13. bostonguy says:

    I do recall reading somewhere last week (possibly on this site) that some companies charge a penalty for returning a weekly rental early, presumably to punish you for trying to cheat their daily/weekly rental rates.

  14. laddibugg says:

    yes, but if other people don’t return their reservations on time, there is no car for you to rent. kinda like dinner reservations…if people don’t leave there is nowhre for you to sit.

  15. chrisjames says:

    @bostonguy: That’s true. They’ll enforce (or try to enforce) a minimum rental period by charging a fee if you return a weekly rental early. The minimum period would have to be in your rental agreement, and, like all fees, you can attempt to have them waive it and there’s a good chance they will.

  16. BigElectricCat says:

    “Renting for 4-5 days? Ask about the weekly rate. It may be less expensive.”

    @bostonguy: “I do recall reading somewhere last week (possibly on this site) that some companies charge a penalty for returning a weekly rental early, presumably to punish you for trying to cheat their daily/weekly rental rates.”

    This is quite true. If you’re going to try to return a weekly rental early, ask the rental car agent if you’d get charged the weekly rate even if you return the car early. And READ the rental contract; most rental car agencies clearly state that you’ll be charged the more-expensive daily rate if you don’t keep the car long enough to qualify for the weekly rate — EVEN IF your rental contract specifies the weekly rate.

    Don’t get burned on this. I’ve run afoul of it before.

  17. Sudonum says:

    I recently learned this the hard way. Rental car was backed into in a parking lot, unattended hit and run. I called AMEX immediately and was told that they would cover anything that my regular insurance wouldn’t. The only good thing about it was that they would also fight Hertz on the charges for loss of use. They told me that if Hertz posted any other charges to my card to file a chargeback immediately.
    I have done this many times in the last 10 years renting cars for both business and personal use with Hertz, Budget and Avis. I have never had them even try to charge me a penalty.

  18. zgori says:

    Insurance is complicated. Don’t decline just because you read that it’s ok to do so on a blog. Understand your own auto policy, your credit card’s policy and your state’s minimum requirements (which rental companies are required to provide). Don’t believe anything an agent tells you — they often don’t understand themselves. Read the fine print.

    Also, if you get involuntarily upgraded to a less efficient car than the one you reserved, ask for a discount to offset the extra gas you’ll need to buy.

  19. waitaminute says:

    Check out, These are two easy to use and competitive rate comparators. has really good rates in many US cities, but they’re offshore, so their best rates are on international rentals. So, next time you need to drive to Cap d’Antibes or Fiji…

  20. zgori says:

    One other thing: There is a difference between the top tier companies (Avis/Hertz) the mid-tiers (Enterprise/Alamo/National) and the bottom-tiers (Dollar/Thrifty). The difference becomes most apparent when something goes wrong.

  21. WhirlyBird says:

    Every summer, I take a two-week road trip. I have a local garage chain that works on my truck, and here’s how I save money and hassles: I put the truck in the shop, even if it’s just for an oil change, and then Budget will give me their “shop rate”. It’s a flat daily rate with unlimited mileage, and no penalty for late or early returns. Last year, I reserved a Mercury Marquis; they didn’t have one when I got there, so I got the Town Car for the same rate – $32/day. We even kept the car for 2 extra days, and just had to pay the $64 extra – no penalties. I’m doing the same thing this summer (in 3 weeks, in fact).

  22. Orv says:

    @laddibugg: I’d buy that if it were an uncommon thing, but almost every time I’ve rented a car the vehicle I’ve reserved has not been on the lot. On one occasion the people in the Avis office had to spin the “wheel o’ cars” three times before they came up with one that was actually on the lot and drivable. It would have been funny if I hadn’t had to trudge out onto the lot with all my luggage looking for a car that wasn’t there.

    It’s gotten so I always reserve the smallest, cheapest car on the lot, because I know they probably won’t have it and will have to give me a free upgrade.

  23. induscreed says:


    I guess there really is some truth to that, being “friendly” did get me a quarter tank of gas free and a free upgrade. She basically said the tank is 7/8th full and I could bring it back at half. Additionally she gave me her card and wrote “free upgrade next time”, signed it, didnt even try selling me insurance.
    This was Enterprise, Gaithersburg, MD

    My advice is to always be friendly.

  24. dmuth says:

    I take public transportation everywhere, so I don’t own a car and therefore don’t have insurance. That being the case, there’s two kinds of insurance that you need to be aware of when renting a car:

    CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) – This covers the rental car. If you rent with an American Express card, they’ll pick this up for you at no charge. Otherwise, expect to pay $24.95 per *day*.

    LLW (Limited Liability Waiver) – This covers what (or who) you might hit with the car. Credit cards almost never pick this up. Your auto insurance might not pick this up either, so be sure to check with them. This will cost you $11.95 per day or thereabouts.

    There are other kinds of insurance such as PEP (Personal Effects Protection), and medical insurance if you’re in an accident, but those are generally not necessary if you have renters/homeowners insurance and medical coverage.

    Bottom line is that if pays to read the fine print on any insurance policy you have, and what the car rental company offers.

  25. diablofreak says:

    never get their empty tank gas option unless u can plan on emptying it out. the savings is not that much and you end up losing more money anyway.

    case in point: i just rented a car this past weekend on trip to vegas to drive to grand canyon and bryce canyon, i measured the mileage i get on a full tank, then come back carefully filling up and i got to the point where the low fuel light came up when i got back to the vegas airport, but the damn thing still probably has a few gallons left. and they charged me $60 for the full tank. i doubt the tank is 16-17 gal on a Chrysler Sebring (@”discunted rate” of $3.59). when i filled up on my outgoing run, it was only $54 at 3.69/gal. that gets me closer to 14-15 gal tank.

    unless you can’t be bothered to fill up your own gas before returning it to the rental, or unless the rate is really good, don’t bother with it.

    also the lady had some stupid comment about how i shouldn’t use my AMEX coverage, saying how Nevada law prohibits that and I will still be billed/charged if anything happens to the car. yadda yadda yadda. is this true? or does this only mean they won’t bill to my insurance/AMEX?

  26. freshyill says:

    @diablofreak: Sebring has a 17 gallon tank. I just had a Dodge Avenger with a 16 gallon tank over the weekend, and Dollar wanted $3.49 for the full tank option. I actually had to think about it for a second, but I was able to fill up at Costco right before returning it at $3.61/gallon.

    I would have had to return it with less than two gallons in the tank for it to be worth it, and that wouldn’t have happened because I had half a tank when I filled up.

  27. BigElectricCat says:

    @Sudonum: “I have done this many times in the last 10 years renting cars for both business and personal use with Hertz, Budget and Avis. I have never had them even try to charge me a penalty.”

    Clearly, our experiences diverge. Thus it would certainly behoove the prudent renter to ask questions and check things over before signing the contract and driving off.

  28. jscott73 says:

    @heavylee-again: Well, like I said, it was just a one day trip, and it was actually to my home town of Sacramento and I was staying with my parents for the night, didn’t even think of it. I now keep at least one credit card with me, but still it is such an anti-consumer policy to require a credit check to rent a car if you don’t have a credit card. If you damage the car they know who you are and where you live and even what company you work for, if my credit score was too low were they not going to let me rent the car?

  29. jfischer says:

    No, DO NOT rent for a week if you only need a car
    for 4 or 5 days. You may be charged a fee for returning
    the car early, you may have your rate forced to the higher
    rate you “should” have paid for the time you used the car.

    See this link for Alamo rent-a-car’s version of this little

  30. brockmjd says:

    1. If I have some lead time, I’ll go through what I can to get a good deal (many good ideas have been posted here). Since most rental places don’t have a cancellation policy, I’ll then re-attempt my reservation a few times between booking it and my departure. More than once, it’s gone down by $50 or $100 on a one-week rental. Then when you have the cheaper res., you just cancel the old one.

    2. Make sure you’re aware of the gas policy. Budget (I think) has (or had) a pretty neat deal — If you drive under 70 miles, you get charged $10 for gas. No fuss, no muss, don’t fill it up, that’s it. If you missed the sign and you DID fill it up, you can take your receipt to the counter and get the $10 refunded. But if you’re dropping off a rental car, there’s a good chance you’re on your way to a flight, and the last thing you want to do is wait in line for 20 minutes to get your $10 back. One additional point: The 70 miles is calculated on the EXACT mileage of the car. I once dropped off a car with 70 miles on it — literally — it was something like 10638 out, 10708 back — and they said, “Sorry, it’s *under* 70 miles”. I had some buffer time, so I went down to the counter and took care of it.

    I’d tone down “flirt” to “be friendly” … and I always ask, “What do you have me in today?” Sometimes they’ll give you a choice. When I get to a rental car, I do a quick walk-around (just to double-check for damage), get in, do a sniff test (I hate a smoker’s car), and check the mileage (rental cars with over about 18k are starting to show their age. I’m not saying they’ll break down, but … frankly, I just like a newer car). If I don’t like the results of any of these, I go back and *very* nicely ask for something else. Sometimes I’ll go from a crappy green car to a slightly-less-crappy silver car, same make/model/year. Sometimes they have an Eclipse convertible just lying around. You never know if you don’t ask.

    Finally, I’ve heard that you can frequently get REALLY good rates by using Priceline-type services — get your best deal, knock as much as you want to try off of it, and run it up the flagpole at Priceline. Worst thing that happens is you don’t get a car.

  31. Martina-George says:

    This all might be useful, but if you plan your holiday during peak season you better book your hire car before coming to this country. In my case, I am speaking about our annual vacations in Spain and we do book our rental car with VictoriaCars (Spanish car rental company), due to the high competition at Alicante airport they are obliged to offer pretty low rates. I also recommend online bookings, you will note the price difference indeed.
    Further, on my opinion the better you know a company’s conditions, the better you are able to decide if you want to hire a car from them or not. We prefer Victoria because you can choose between insurance with and without excess, as well as you can hire your car with a full tank of petrol and give it back full and they will return you the gasoline price. You can check them for car hire Alicante at if you plan vacations in Europe’s warmly south.