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Travel News Tips 7 hacks to find affordable car rental deals

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7 hacks to find affordable car rental deals

Times are tough for travellers. But with the world preparing to reopen in 2021, we're here to keep you dreaming and planning for your next adventure - whether that's a staycation or flying off to parts unknown. Until then, we've got the latest COVID-19 travel advice and updates to keep you up to date and ready to go.

If you have plans to travel and need a vehicle, shopping for an affordable car rental can be overwhelming with so many choices available. Without planning ahead, you may find yourself paying a premium price for a simple rental. Luckily, we know a few car rental hacks that will help you find a great deal.

Before you travel, check local government guidelines or the CDC to ensure you’re complying with all current measures and requirements.

Use these hacks to find affordable car rentals:

  1. Shop multiple locations
  2. Look for membership discounts
  3. Employee and alumni discounts
  4. Skip the upsells
  5. Use an internet-wide discount code finder
  6. Avoid age restrictions
  7. Ask about current promotions

With a little know-how and some car rental hacks, you’ll be on your way to finding a great deal on your next auto rental.

1. Shop multiple locations for affordable car rental

Often when you need to rent a car, you are traveling and tend to look for affordable car rentals at an airport. But the convenience of an airport is not always your best option when you’re looking for cheap car rental deals. A simple search for car rentals in Chicago, for example, will show vast savings opportunities when renting a car in the city versus at the airport.

When looking at economy-sized cars and pricing out multiple car rental companies, you will often see that the best deals are at city locations. On average, you can save $25 or more per day by renting at a location other than the airport.

Be sure to create a plan when flying. Many major cities have free shuttles or cheap public transit from airports. You can also take a taxi, which may cost a bit upfront, but you will likely still save money despite the round-trip expense.

2. Look for membership discounts

A membership can come in a variety of forms. You may already have access to affordable car rental deals and not even know it.

Do you happen to be an AAA member? For only $52 a year you get access to a number of benefits, including saving money on car rentals through Hertz. Having a Costco membership is also an easy way to save on a rental.

Here is a quick breakdown to show you which car rental deals you can access with various memberships.

MembershipCar Rental CompanyDiscountDetails
AAAHertzFree additional driver, free use of a child seat and savings of up to 20% off the base rate.Offers are updated regularly.
AARPAvis, Budget, & PaylessSave up to 30% on base rates at Avis and Budget, 5% on rentals from Payless and discounts from other companies.Discounts are applied via coupon code.
BJsBudgetUp to 35% off rentals or get a free upgrade.Discounts are applied via a code.
BJsAvisUp to 30% off rentals, free upgrade or save $15 when you spend $175+.Discounts are applied via a code.
BJs PaylessSave 5% on rentals.Only valid at participating locations.
BJsEnterprise, National and AlamoOne car class upgrade.Only valid at participating locations.
USAAAvis, Budget, Enterprise, HertzDiscounts vary for each company. Up to 25% off, fee waivers, damage liability, and more.You can also call to request car rental coupons.

3. Employee and alumni discounts

One of the perks of being hired by a great company is the employee discounts you can receive. And that often includes affordable car rental discounts. Unfortunately, many people forget or simply ignore this as one of the best car rental hacks.

To see if you have available discounts for car rentals, just ask your employer. Typically your HR department will have some information on all of the discounts that are available to you.

There are even some websites, like CorporateShopping.com, that allow you to see the employee deals and discounts by company.

If you are still uncertain if there are any discounts made available by your employer, you can also ask a representative at the car rental company. They will be able to help you explore your discount options.

Likewise, you may also have access to affordable car rentals through an alumni association that you are part of, like your former college or other group membership. Browse online to see what offers are available to you based on schools you attended or other associations you belong to.

4. Skip the upsells

Car rental companies definitely know how to upsell their customers. Insurance, GPS devices and vehicle upgrades all fall into this category. More often than not, you do not need these upgrades.

You current car insurance likely covers you for rentals (and sometimes even the credit card you pay with may cover you as well—look into the benefits that your credit cards provide). The fear of getting into an accident and being slapped with a large bill can really open people’s wallets.

When you are put on the spot and asked if you need it, you may be forking over cash that you don’t need to spend if you are uninformed. The best way to be certain is to call your auto insurance provider ahead of time to see what your policy covers. If you don’t have insurance and it’s not covered by the credit card you are paying with, then you probably want to add it to your rental. This is also true when renting a car overseas.

Don’t spend money on a GPS device. Unless you are still sporting your Razor phone from 2005, you already have a highly advanced GPS device in your pocket (your smartphone!). Why waste the extra $15 a day?

Of course, if you are overseas or do not have access to a smartphone, you can always plan ahead and print out directions. Does MapQuest ring a bell?

5. Join Honey

Honey is a free browser extension tool that automatically looks for discounts. All you have to do is have the extension downloaded and activated.

After you have found a car rental that makes sense for you, simply let Honey do the work for you.

If there are any coupons available, Honey will automatically aggregate them for you to try during checkout. With one click, Honey will try every code available before you have to hit the pay button. There is no guarantee that you will be able to use one, but it is definitely worth a try and can sometimes be key to finding an affordable car rental.

6. Avoid the age requirements

If you are under 25, you can be hit with some extra fees that feel a bit discriminatory. Luckily there are some ways you can get around this.

There are several memberships that also allow you to avoid the fees. The AAA membership mentioned above can get you around the fees if you are to choose Hertz for drivers 20-24 years old. For Enterprise customers, a USAA membership will allow you to avoid the under-25 fee for drivers age 18-24.

Try not to book under your name if you’re traveling with someone 25+. If there are others in the group over 25 years old, ask them if they would be willing to rent the car in their name. It will be less expensive and end up benefiting everyone if you’re all splitting the cost anyway.

7. Ask about current promotions

Businesses frequently run promotions as a marketing tool to get new customers and beat the competition. If you have already gotten to the end of the purchasing process, a car company may not make you aware of any promotions.

Call and ask what the current promotions are if you can’t find any online. Some promotions might even help you avoid hidden and unclear fees. For instance, you may be able to get a free child booster seat if the right promotion is active.

Woman with her hair flying out the window of a car. Use our car rental hacks to save money.

Car rental hacks, helping you reach your destination.

Whether you’re planning a road trip or need a vehicle on vacation, it’s worth taking the time to see what deal and discount options you have. What you save on a car rental might even be enough to allow you splurge on a nice meal or hotel room upgrade during your getaway. When you search for rental cars on Skyscanner, our flexible booking filter lets you view offers that allow for free cancellation.

As always, we encourage you to check local government guidelines before booking so you can stay safe while traveling.

Discover where you can go

Making plans to get back out there? Find out whose borders are open with our interactive global map, and sign up to receive email updates when your top destinations reopen.

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Frequently asked questions about car rentals

Who is the cheapest car rental?

Lower-end car rental companies like Alamo, Thrifty and Payless frequently have more affordable car rental options than many of the more well-known, high-end car rental companies

What is the cheapest way to book a rental car?

The cheapest way to book a rental car is by leveraging memberships, rewards programs, employee/alumni discounts, online coupon codes and current promotions. It’s also helpful to skip airport locations and rent from city locations.

Is renting a car through Costco cheaper?

Usually, yes! If you’re a Costco member, check prices with Costco Travel before booking a rental car to see what deals are available to you.

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