Top Money-Saving Tips for Booking a Car Rental

Renting a car doesn’t have to break the bank. Resisting sales tactics, comparing prices, and using the best travel credit card for cars can save travelers a lot of money.

Many membership-based organizations and certain credit cards provide discounts for rental cars. Checking online shopping portals and maximizing frequent flyer or hotel loyalty programs also help travelers save money.

Shop Around

Transportation expenses can significantly dent your travel budget, whether jet-setting worldwide or traveling across the country. Car rental rates are among the most expensive of all travel expenses, but savvy travelers can take steps to keep costs low. For valuable tips on minimizing car rental expenses, consider exploring resources at

For example, booking with a company that offers discount codes to frequent flyers and credit card members can save a bundle. In addition, membership in organizations and stores can yield special deals.

It’s also important to shop around for car rental deals and not just compare prices on aggregator sites. Rental car companies offer discounts on reservations directly through their websites or may have exclusive deals for loyalty program members.

Another smart move: Reserve your rental car as early as possible to get the best rate. Keyes uses AutoSlash to track his reservation, and the service will notify him if the price drops. He says he has saved as much as 30% using this trick. And because most car rentals are flexible enough to cancel without penalty, you can always rebook if the deal improves.

Make Multiple Bookings

Leaving car rentals to the last minute often sounds like a good idea until you show up at the rental counter only to discover that there aren’t any available cars. Last-minute prices can be sky-high for specific locations or certain types of vehicles (like sporty convertibles).

Another way to save is to check rates and book multiple reservations over time. “One of the best things about rental cars is that they’re generally free to cancel if you find a better deal,” says Keyes. He also relies on a site that tracks his reservation and notifies him if it drops. “I’ve saved over a thousand dollars by doing this,” he says.

Also, double-check currency conversions, as some foreign rental company sites use fudged exchange rates to make their prices look cheaper than they’ll be on your credit card bill. And don’t be afraid to ask about discounts and extra fees when booking. Some rental car companies offer loyalty programs and will waive or discount these charges. This can be especially useful for frequent renters.

Avoid Additional Fees

Car rental can be an effective way to navigate a new city or road trip, but watching out for extra charges that can add up quickly is essential. Many rental companies charge additional driver, fuel, and admin fees, so reading the Ts & Cs carefully is best to avoid being nickel-and-dimmed.

One of the easiest ways to save on a car rental is to use a booking site, which compares prices from dozens of car rental companies and alerts you if the price drops. You can also use a corporate code from your employer or university, as some of these can offer huge savings.

Another way to save is by paying for tolls alone instead of through the agency. This typically requires telling the company you’ll pay on your own and closing the toll transponder in the vehicle. A toll pass that allows you to automatically pay for most toll roads, bridges, and tunnels in California may also be worth considering.

Don’t Rent at the Airport

While picking up your rental car at the airport may be convenient, it comes with several fees that can add up quickly. These fees include airport surcharges, taxes and fees, fuel service charges, and more. For this reason, it is typically cheaper to rent a car outside the airport when possible.

You can also save money by booking your rental car through a cash-back shopping portal. Some of these portals offer a bundled coupon code for rental vehicles that can often be used with a frequent flyer or hotel loyalty program to earn additional points for your booking discount.

It would help if you always tried to be punctual when dropping off and returning your rental car. Rental companies often charge hefty fees if you are even a few hours late with a drop-off. Sometimes, you will even be charged for an extra day if you are significantly late with your drop-off. Avoid these budget busters by being on time.

Research Parking Options

Knowing where you will park your rental car during your trip is essential. Some cities have high traffic, and finding street or garage parking can be brutal. There may be better options than renting a vehicle if this is the case. However, if your destination is car-friendly and has ample public transportation options, a rental car can be a great way to explore the city.

It would help if you also considered whether or not you need additional insurance for your rental car. Some companies offer collision damage waivers and liability insurance, which can cost $30 or more daily. However, you can save money using a corporate discount code and renting during off-peak times.

It’s also a good idea to research the areas you plan on driving in, including whether or not there are tolls and how much they can add up to. Additionally, it is helpful to find out if you need roadside assistance and equip yourself with a GPS device. Lastly, remember that you can always pack your traveling extras instead of paying a rental agency for things like child seats and satellite radio.

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