One of the best ways to see a travel destination is driving around. Driving gives you access to local spots that you otherwise may not come across when you're on a tour; plus, it gives you the freedom to go at your own pace and see the unique sites you want to see. Finding cheap rental cars or even affordable ones can be challenging depending on the time of year and the destination.
This post is all about how you can find your way to good rental car deals and hopefully include them in your next trip!
Rental Car Costs
Rental car costs aren't just the cost of the car itself. There are also a few other things to consider and keep in mind that will drive up rental costs.
For instance, there's the cost of gas. Rental car companies will ask you if you want to fill up the tank before returning or prepay for them to fill it up after you've returned the car. In this case, always state that you will do your the gas.
Then there is liability insurance. One is the loss damage waiver (LDW) or the collision damage waiver. The loss damage waiver protects you in the case of an accident and absolves you of paying for damages (definitely worth getting). It also saves you from dealing with fees related to scratches/dents that may already be on the car. The cost varies depending on the type of car you get and the company you choose.
I highly recommend you always get the LDW. It's worth the extra dollars spent.
How to Find Cheap Rental Cars
First, determine how many days you'll want the rental car. Some destinations may not require a car the entire time. Cutting down on rental time can help you save.
Next, the lodging you choose can make a difference as some hotels charge for parking. Be sure to include this in your rental car calculations! If you're staying somewhere in a city center, street parking can also be tricky, and then a spot off-street can get expensive.
Finally, it would be best to look in the right spots to find the best cheap rental car deals. Here are some areas to get you started.
Online Travel Sites
When booking your trip, you're likely looking through some of these sites anyway. While you're there, check out their rental car deals. For instance, some of the best websites for cheap rental car deals are:
Then there are cheap car rental specific sites such as
You can also go directly through rental car websites themselves. Some of the best ones out there for cheap rentals cars include:
Another newer service that has some up is Turo. Turo allows you to rent cars from private owners who maybe have an extra vehicle and are trying to make some extra money on the side. While Turo may not be the cheapest option, it is an option you can explore, especially if the rental car companies have a shortage.
A company that is similar to Turo is Zipcar. They are another type of car-sharing company, but they are owned by the Avis group. There are a couple options for car-sharing.
Use Travel Perks To Your Advantage
Do you have a great travel credit card? Well, many of them offer you deals on car rentals. Be sure to check them out when booking your trips. For instance, you get some of the driver's insurance fees covered when you book through Amex Travel.
In addition, depending on the card you have, you may qualify for elevated member status at certain rental car companies, which can further help you save.
Outside of credit cards, another perk is that if you're a member of AARP, you can qualify for discounts with Avis, Budget, and Payless.
Costco offers great travel deals for its members, including budget car rentals. Often with booking through them, you can get cashback in the form of a Costco card, further increasing your savings!
Booking a vacation package is another excellent way to secure cheap rental cars and deals. By bundling your hotel and a car, or hotel, car, and flight together, you lower the overall cost of everything.
Random Travel Hacks
Keep these travel hacks in the back of your mind to save a little extra on your bookings.
Use points: if you have a travel credit card, consider using points to help with your booking. If you have to cancel for some reason, you can get your points back.
Book early: If you know you're going somewhere, make your car rental reservations as early as possible. Usually, you can cancel without issues, so book now and think about it later. Even if you're unsure if you need a car, securing it and having it ready to go sooner rather than later can save you a lot of dollars.
Travel with friends: Rental cars can be expensive, and depending on the destination, car rental rates can be a significant part of your trip budget. Consider inviting others to come with you! It's a great way to have some company and split the costs, making it a bit more budget-friendly on your travel wallet.
Partial Vacation Rentals: Ask yourself before booking whether or not you need a rental car for the entire trip. There's no point in having the car for the whole time in many destinations. Plus, depending on where you go, the hotel may charge you for parking, or as mentioned above, if you're staying in a city, street parking/must-haves-in-y may become difficult (and expensive). Be sure to plan accordingly!
Check the location: Car rental locations can affect car rental prices. In my experience, rental car locations in the community tend to be more expensive than near major airports. So watch where you book your rental car. It can make a big difference!
Consider the return time: Typically, returning a car will cost you extra after a particular time of day (usually noon). So, try and plan your excursions and activities to where you can return your car in a timely fashion and avoid the extra charge.
Consider the return location: To the above point, be sure you avoid a one-way rental and return your rental car to the exact location where you picked it up. Returning to a different site can add considerable fees to your rental price.
Book the minimum: Car rental agencies have various options available for rent. Depending on where you are going, you'll have different automotive needs. If you don't need a large car or a tough one to navigate rugged roads, get the car that fulfills your basic needs. Smaller, compact cars tend to be much cheaper and have cheaper associated fees.
Benefits of Renting a Car On Vacation
I want to touch on some of the benefits of car rentals when traveling. Even if you only book for a day, having a car gives you autonomy, freedom, and flexibility to go to areas that you otherwise may not get to.
Navigating foreign roads can give you a sense of adventure and enhance your experience. It gives you a chance to veer off the beaten path for tourists and helps you feel more like a local. You can also have the opportunity to take a mini road trip or a day trip to a different city or area that may otherwise have been difficult to do!
Finding the best cheap rental cars for your needs boils down to doing some research, comparing prices, being intentional about the length of the rental and where you'll be. All of this can help you get the best deals, reliably secure a vehicle for your trip, and make your travel experience much richer!
This post originally appeared on Savoteur.