Sarah Niebrugge | 

10 Ways to Spend Less and Find Rental Cars

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Are rental cars more expensive at the airport? How can I save on a car rental? You’re probably looking to spend less on a rental car as you gear up for your summer vacation. The trick is, rental car inventory is super low and it’s getting increasingly hard to even find a car, and when you do, not pay up to $700 a day!

But don’t stress. It’s totally possible to save loads the next time you need to rent a car, whether you’re going on vacation, taking a work trip, or have a car in the shop. I’m going to show you how.


1. Book cars from AutoSlash instead of a rental company to save up to 22%. homescreen showing easy steps to rent a cheap car

AutoSlash is a company that combs the internet looking for the best deals on cars, including AAA and Costco. The best part is that you can set alerts as your trip gets closer, to get the best deal you possibly can. This, right now, is key!


2. Book cars from Turo instead of a rental company to save up to 59%.

via Turo

If you can’t find any cars or deals in the city you’re heading to, Turo is a company that lets you rent cars from people, rather than from large rental car companies. It’s kind of like an Airbnb, but you’re borrowing people’s cars instead of their houses.

I found a four-door sedan for $70.84 a day before tax for a car through a rental company in Denver and found a similar car for just $29 a day through Turo.

Related: We found ways to save up to 30% on rental cars with the Hopper app.


3. Don’t rent a car at the airport to save up to 24%.

San Francisco International Airport Rental Car Service

Extra taxes and fines can be brutal when you rent cars at the airport.

You can rent a Volkswagen Jetta at the airport in Denver for $27 per day and $29 per day off-site — but the final bill tells a different story. To rent a car Friday through Sunday, the final bill at the airport will run you $80, while the off-site total ends up being just $67.

The difference? Higher taxes and fees.


4. Fly to a cheaper airport and rent a car to save up to 16%.

This is also helpful if the rental car company you’re looking into says their cars are sold out in that city. I found tickets to Miami from Salt Lake City for $555 a ticket, but if I flew into Orlando, tickets were only $444 a person.

I could then rent a car to drive to Miami and rent another one on my way back for $93 round trip.

For a family of four, that’s a whopping $351 saved by flying into a different airport.


5. Pass on rental car insurance — you may already have it.

It’s very possible that the car insurance you already have covers car rentals. Some credit cards even come with rental car insurance as a benefit. Here are a few that do: Chase Sapphire Preferred, Chase Sapphire Reserve, and United MileagePlus Explorer.


6. Rent the smallest, cheapest car you can get away with for the best chance at a free upgrade.

hand in front of hertz sign holds a small model car

I was on a trip to Hawaii and we rented a basic economy car.

When we got there, they had rented out their last one, so we were upgraded to a standard car but still paid the economy car price. For example, an economy car price in Maui I saw recently was $30 while a compact car was $41. For a five-day trip, that’s a $55 savings.

This is not unusual at all, so go small and hope for the best.



7. Bundle your car rental with your hotel booking for the best deals.

expedia home screen showing rental car hotel bundle button

If you need a hotel as well as a rental car, try bundling the two together to get a better deal.

I found a deal for a hotel and car for four days in downtown Los Angeles for $1,277.46. When I looked up the same hotel and similar car separately, the total price came out to $1,297.76. By booking them together, I saved over $20.00 and it was less work for me!


8. Use TransferCar for trips where you don’t want to have to bring the car back.

open highway with a double yellow line down the middle

TransferCar is a website where you can rent cars from rental companies who are wanting to transfer their car to a different location.

This would normally cost them a bunch of money, so to get around that, they let you drive them for $1 a day. You can then leave the car at the drop-off place instead of having to drive it back.

Look for this service in California, Nevada, Florida, and parts of Canada.


9. Take photos of any damage to your car before you start driving it.

Close up hand of woman holding smartphone and take photo of car accident

It’s really important to document anything wrong with the car as soon as you get it. That way they can’t blame you and charge you damage fines at the end.


10. Don’t prepay for rental car gas — ever.

If you prepay for gas, you have to use every last drop of fuel in the tank to get what you paid for. It’s much more sensible to pay for gas yourself.

That way, if you only use half a tank, just fill it back up before you return it. You’ll have paid half the price you would have if you prepaid.

TIP: Use the GasBuddy app to find the lowest fuel prices around.




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