If you’re like most people, you may be ready to get on the road and see something different or new. Whether you’re new to traveling and renting cars or you’re a seasoned traveler who’s rented cars since you turned 25, there’s always something new to learn.
You may not be keen on traveling in mass transit very much, though. Renting a car is a really convenient way to set off on a road trip or give yourself a little freedom when you reach your destination.
It’s always nice to know how to make the most of your time, money, and your trip. To give you the most enjoyable experience, here are ten top car rental hacks to help you.
Hack #1 – Book Your Rental Car in Advance
To save money on your rental, book your rental car in advance. Typically you know ahead of time when you’ll be traveling. So, when you find yourself planning your next trip, book your car rental as soon as you have your dates.
This hack also increases your chances of snagging the type of vehicle you’d prefer to rent. If it’s going to be a particularly busy time for bookings in the area, you won’t have to fight for a vehicle or get stuck with rideshare.
If you’re concerned about a change of plans before you actually take your trip, companies like Advantage Rent-A-Car are flexible about making changes to your reservation.
Hack #2 – Make Your Drop Off and Pick Up Location the Same
Some car rental companies will add fees if you need to drop your rental car off at a location that’s different from where you picked it up. While it might not always be feasible to keep your location the same, it’s still nice to know this little hack when you can make it work for your trip.
Keep in mind that the fee might not be a huge sum of money, but most people would like to keep as much of their money in their pocket as possible. So, as you plan your trip, you may want to work it out to make it a loop.
Hack #3 – Take Pick Up Pictures and Drop Off Pictures
When it comes to borrowing property like you do when you rent a car, it’s good to take pictures when you take possession of it and again when you relinquish it. Taking before and after photos serves to document the vehicle’s condition prior to and directly after driving the rental car.
Taking a picture of the odometer, the fuel level, and any damages will help you in the event you have to fight a claim or prove that you aren’t responsible for an issue. If you are responsible, the before and after photos can help you show the extent of the situation.
Hack #4 – Fuel Up Wisely
Different rental car companies will present your rental car with different fuel levels. Some will set you on your way with a full tank, and others will start you out with a quarter of a tank of gasoline. You may request that the company fills the tank up, but this can cost more than fueling up yourself.
Also, you’ll want to read your rental agreement. There is usually a fueling requirement for when you return the vehicle, and there can be a fee if you fail to fulfill this part of the agreement. Again, it will cost less if you fuel up yourself instead of accepting a penalty fee for not doing what they asked of you.
Typically you can find an inexpensive fueling station nearby with ease as you plan your trip. Keep in mind that fueling stations located close to the airport are usually quite a bit higher than if you go a little farther away before you fuel up because they’re most often heavy traffic areas.
Planning your fueling stops for a road trip is just a good habit to form when traveling anyway.
Hack #5 – Check Your Existing Insurance Policies
You will have some insurance as part of your rental agreement. However, you may be asked to add additional insurance. Insurance is a great way to protect yourself from what can go wrong in any situation.
While it’s never good advice to suggest that you go without proper insurance, it is a good idea to look at policies you already have in place. For example, the auto insurance you have for your personal vehicle may cover your rental. Your medical insurance will likely cover you in the event of injury while you’re in the rental. Additionally, your homeowners’ policy may cover you and your belongings if they are stolen from the rental vehicle.
Take some time to review your policies before you add additional insurance to your rental. This can save you a lot of money on this unnecessary expenditure.
Hack #6 – Test Out Different Pick Up and Drop Off Date Ranges
If your trip dates are relatively flexible, you may want to price picking up earlier, dropping off earlier, or extending your rental to a full week. Tinkering with different dates for picking up and dropping off may reveal some seriously discounted rates you would otherwise miss.
Also, signing up for a whole week may reduce your daily rate. Just be sure that your rental company won’t penalize you if you return your vehicle early.
Renting a car is a lot like booking a hotel room. There will be peak times, and when demand goes up during peak times, the price goes with it. Choosing to come into the area on an off-peak time can really add significant savings to your rental.
Hack #7 – Call Your Credit Card Company
Occasionally your credit card company will offer perks for your car rentals. The perks may be in the form of additional car insurance, discounts on your rental, special upgrades, or the ability to use your points to pay for a rental. It’s worth exploring, but remember to use the credit card for your booking in order to use the perks.
You may have wanted to pay with your debit card, but using your credit card can save you some effort with your rental. Plus, paying off your rental car purchase before it has time to accumulate interest helps your credit.
Hack #8 – Book Directly With Your Car Rental Company
It’s perfectly understandable if you can’t book directly with the company because it’s a business trip. However, if you have the choice, booking directly with the rental company can help give you a lower rate or make it possible to use a discount code.
Choosing companies like Advantage Rent-A-Car can make it a lot easier to make changes if you need to adjust your reservation.
Hack #9 – Use the Right Kind of Car for Your Trip
It may seem natural to go for compact or economy cars when you want to save money on your rental, but consider the nature of your trip. Depending on the terrain of your trip, the distance you’ll travel, and the length of time you’ll spend in your rental vehicle, you might need to pick a different vehicle.
By thinking outside of the knee-jerk options, you may be able to save money on gas with better fuel economy options, save yourself undue pain from sitting for prolonged periods in a less roomy option, or add an experience to your milestone trip by opting for something nicer. The rate differences may surprise you by being less than you thought.
Hack #10 – Sign Up for a Loyalty/Rewards Program
Even if you don’t rent cars very frequently, you can benefit from getting on board with the rental car company’s loyalty program. For starters, you may be given a discount on your current trip. Additionally, you can earn discounts or even free rental days on future rentals.
You may be able to upgrade your rental or add perks to your rental at no extra costs. We all want to maximize the value of our trips and the money we’re spending on them. Signing up for a rewards program is an easy way to do just that.
We all want to save money on our trips. Sometimes you can save money by avoiding additional costs, but sometimes you can find a good discount or take advantage of a benefit here to save money there.
Whatever saves us money, right?
Most of us also want to have the most enjoyable experience possible. Knowing what to expect, making the most of your time and money, and learning hacks to improve our methods can help the newbie and the seasoned veteran alike.
Find what works for your situation, and make the most of your rental car experience.