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Best Car Rental Tips

car rentalsAt The Travel Broker, we understand how complex the car rental process can be. Unless you’ve had lots of experience, you may be intimidated by the whole process. As a full-service travel agency, that's one reason we suggest booking car rentals through us. We know the tricks of the trade and can help find the best pricing.

However, if you do need to reserve your own car rental, there are a number of lesser-known tips to understand at all stages of the booking; the reservation, when you pick up the vehicle and when you return the vehicle. Here are some pointers for getting the best car rental prices.

When you reserve the car:

Make car reservations well in advance. Last-minute bookings tend to be more expensive and may not be available. I learned my lesson last year while planning a trip to Newfoundland. My neighbour, who's from NL, suggested I book my rental at least 10 months in advance. I thought that was excessive, but decided she knew best and so I booked it but I wasn't pleased with the rate I'd reserved. So a month later, I went back to check rates and hopefully update the reservation at a better price. WELL, as far as 9 months in advance, there were already no rentals available. I still had my first booking (thank goodness), but if I'd waited just one more month, I'd have been out of luck. 

As with airlines, car rental companies are busiest and most in-demand by business travelers on Mondays and Fridays. Because supply and demand dictate prices, reserve your rental on other days of the week.

Car rental prices can be higher when you pick up or drop off at a major airport. It’s wise to crosscheck the airport price with the cost to pick up in another nearby location. Even an Uber or taxi to the off-airport location may cost less than the airport mark-up.

Attempt to pick up and drop off the car in the same location. Prices can increase substantially when those two locations differ.

Check prices with the companies where you pay a membership fee: for instance, AAA, CAA, AARP, and Costco. Costco doesn’t charge for an extra driver as many companies do. Also, check ZipCar for hourly or short-term rentals.

If you are renting long-term, compare the per week cost vs the long-term rental cost. Sometimes the shorter-term price is better. For instance, four separate one-week rentals may be less expensive than one 1 month rental.

With car rentals, no prepayment is needed, so reserve at a decent rate and then keep checking for special lower rates.

If you can be flexible, reserve the least expensive car possible and then negotiate a free upgrade at pick-up. Though if you have lots of luggage or lots of people to get into the car, be cautious and book a style that fits your space needs. If you can negotiate a free upgrade, great, but don’t pay extra for one.

Should you succumb to the Pay Now button when reserving your vehicle online? Generally, no. The savings aren’t substantial.

When you pick-up the car:

Don’t pay for last-minute add-ons like GPS, child car seats or a larger vehicle. Use your own phone for GPS and either bring a car seat or go to a local chain department store to buy a car seat. It will typically cost less.

You can save extra by foregoing the car rental insurance. Before deciding, check your existing car policy and your credit card insurance coverage. Some cards offer theft, damage and towing but usually not injury or property damage. To use the card’s insurance benefit, be sure to pay for your rental using that credit card.

If you want to add a second driver to the rental agreement, there’s no need to pay extra IF the second driver is your spouse. Since a spouse or partner is on the same car insurance, they are also covered in your rental.

Before leaving the lot, take photos of the car and any dents or scratches on it. Then you’ll have dated proof that the damage was done prior to you renting the vehicle.

When you return the car: 

Before returning the car, fill it with gas. The rental company charges a premium when you return the car to them on empty.

Finally, be sure to compare your final bill against the initial contract you signed to ensure they match.


By knowing and following these suggestions, you'll save a bit at each stage of the process and that will add up to the best car rental price when you receive your credit card charge.

Drive safe!

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