As the holiday season ramps up, so do highway traffic numbers. Most of these drivers are heading somewhere for Thanksgiving, Hanukkah, Christmas, Kwanzaa, or New Year’s Eve, and quite a few of them are renting cars to reach those destinations. (The holidays are typically one of the busiest rental-car periods of the year.) If your holiday plans this year include car reservations, here are a few tips on how to save on rental cars:
Book early. The law of supply and demand states that prices rise in response to high demand. As the holidays near, the rental-car supply will dwindle. Not only will you have fewer models to choose from, you’ll also pay more for the privilege.
Search for deals. From online coupons to discount codes, from credit-card arrangements to corporate rates, you can find rental-car savings if you know where to look. Be sure to compare and contrast rates and offers from every rental-car agency in your given area.
Read the fine print. Just because a rental-car ad says “$20 per day” doesn’t mean you’ll only pay $20 a day. Extra charges and hidden fees can turn what looked like the best available deal into one of the most expensive ones.
Book only what you need. Larger vehicles may offer more space, but they cost more, too, not just in per-day rates but in fuel charges. Smaller cars generally get better gas mileage, and they also have smaller tanks, which makes fill-ups more affordable. Plus, compacts are one of the most popular choices, so they might all be taken by pick-up time, which could lead to a free upgrade.
Pay for your own gas. Rental-car agencies are happy to fill the gas tank for you, a courtesy that doesn’t come cheaply: Their per-gallon charges are typically much higher than the price you’d pay at the pump yourself. Make sure that, when you return the rental car, the gas-gauge needle is in the exact same spot it was when you drove the car off the lot.
Avoid airport pick-ups. Rates are usually less expensive if you pick up your rental car in town or at other locations that don’t ask you to pay “airport fees” or other convenience charges.
Skip the rental insurance if you can. If you already own a car, your auto insurance policy probably covers rental cars, too; call your insurance company to confirm. If you don’t have auto insurance, your credit card issuer may very well offer rental insurance when you use your card to pay for your rental car; again, call to confirm. Only if you’re not covered elsewhere should you consider purchasing insurance from the rental-car company.
One final way to save on rental cars is to book yours through Travel Plus. You’ll earn 5% cash back on your reservation, along with rebates on rental-car services, including equipment rentals, additional drivers, late returns, and more. Wherever you’re going over the holidays, travel safely!