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The Cheapest Way To Rent A Car (Step-By-Step Guide)

If you are looking for the cheapest way to rent a car, this is the article for you. I have taken many road trips and will be outlining my top tips to get the best deal as well as ensuring you get the perfect vehicle for your trip.

This is the step-by-step guide on how to save money on car rental. It could be a short journey, or a cross-country adventure, read on for the best tips and advice. We will be covering pickup locations, vehicle types, add-ons, and more.

I will be discussing exactly how to get cheaper car rentals with this easy-to-follow list of instructions. Ensure you make a stress-free booking and have the perfect trip.

First, browse through the initial points and then use the bottom section when making your reservation.

Use A Notepad And This Guide To Outline Your Rental Car Requirements First

Use the points in this guide to carefully scope out your requirements then follow the instructions at the end of the article on how to obtain the cheapest quotes for your rental car.

The initial planning stage is important because it determines what requirements you need to enter into the Rental Cars comparison site.

Plan Your Route Carefully

The first step is to plan out the route for your journey and establish how long you need the rental car. It is worth noting that prices can vary depending on whether or not you are using the car at the weekend, so being flexible is ideal. Ideally, you should establish the length of time you need the car, but be flexible on the start and end dates of your trip.

One of the best ways to get the best rental car rates is to make sure you only rent the car for as long as you need it. It’s no use paying for a car only for it to sit outside your accommodation unused for a day or two.

This is one of the most important things to consider when renting a car for a road trip.

Decline The Optional Extras

Many rental companies have high mark-ups on optional extras such as GPS and breakdown cover. Most rental cars are close to new and the company has a strong interest to maintain their vehicles to avoid reputation concerns. I would expect therefore breakdowns to be uncommon, however, you should also consider if you will be driving to remote locations where recovery would otherwise be very expensive.

Choose The Cheapest Economy Vehicle

When you are selecting a vehicle there will be many options from large SUV’s to small compact economy cars. Choosing an economy vehicle is one of the biggest factors in getting a cheaper rate on your rental car. You may also find that if you reserve the cheapest car you actually get a free upgrade upon arrival.

This can happen because your pickup location doesnt have any economy vehicles available. Not only are these cars cheaper but you will also spend less on fuel during your road trip.

Be Flexible On The Dates Of Your Trip

If you are renting the car for a road trip or vacation, then ask yourself how flexible you are able to be on the dates of your trip. When you are following the tips below on obtaining quotes, changing the different start and end dates will often lead to different prices.

Compare rates on rentals for weekdays, weekends and weekly bookings. Try to find a balance between getting the right price and fulfiling your trip requirements.

Be Flexible On The Pickup And Drop-Off Locations

You should always check different pickup locations. Prices tend to be more expensive at the airport because of taxes and fees. Something you can consider if you are on vacation is taking a shuttle bus from the airport and picking up the car elsewhere. One-way rentals will be more expensive so try to make a round trip if possible.

Check For Hidden Fees

Always make sure that you are aware of what fees you may be liable for and in what circumstances. Common hidden fees include chargers for returning a car early or late. Some providers also charge a big markup on refueling if you return the car without a full gas tank on a full-to-full rental policy.

Do Not Add Additional Drivers

Adding additional drivers almost always incurs additional fees, so try to avoid it if possible. Some companies waive the fee for a spouse or domestic partner, so be sure to research this in advance if you are planning a long trip and need to share the mileage.

If the occupants are different ages then try adding each driver on their own and see if there is a price difference.

Do Not Opt For The Additional Insurance

When you rent a car it usually comes with basic insurance, with the option to upgrade by purchasing the CDW (collision damage waiver) policy. Companies make a big mark-up on this so if you want to get the cheapest rental car you should opt-out. It is worth noting that this significantly increases your liability as you will be required to pay in the event that you cause damage to the car.

Start With A Quote From A Price Comparison Site

Initially, you should begin by getting a quote from a comparison site such as Rental Cars. Use the above info to fill out your requirements and compare providers. Make sure that you check multiple different pickup points and options as described.

Compare The Prices Directly With The Company’s Website

After you have obtained a quote from a comparison site, go and look at the company’s website directly to see if you can get a better price. If you have already booked and you find a better price, check if you are able to cancel without paying a fee.

Check Local Rental Car Providers Not Listed On Comparison Sites

It is also worth looking on Google for local rental car operators that might not be listed on the major comparison sites. You could contact them directly and see if you can get a better rate than your current best offer.

It’s worth noting that there is some risk involved in this as the reputation of these companies is likely not as strong. If you do choose to go with a local provider make sure you research online first to check for reviews from other customers. Trustpilot is useful for this.

Search For Membership Discounts & Coupon Codes

You may find that you get discounts due to memberships with organisations such as the AAA, Costco or your credit card provider. Always check this before booking and do searches online for coupon codes.

Fill Up The Tank With Cheap Gas Before Returning The Car

Make sure you carefully read the fuel policy before making a hire car booking. Most companies operate on a full-to-full policy. In this case, you are provided with a full tank and expected to return the car with a full tank.

Plan ahead and visit a cheap gas station before dropping your rental car off. Don’t get caught out by filling up at an airport! GasBuddy is useful for finding cheap places to fill up.

Disclosure: Some of the links in this article may be affiliate links. This means I earn a commission if you make a qualifying purchase, but this is at no additional cost to you. Thank you for supporting The Road Trip Expert.