Car rental rates are high and rising still. Analysts say that’s because the big chain companies have been buying up the competition. Hertz for instance acquired Dollar Thrifty which runs Thrifty Car Rental and Dollar Rent A Car, the Avis Budget Group purchased Zipcar, and Enterprise got Vanguard which holds National Car Rental and Alamo Rent a Car.
With an oligopoly, prices can be more easily dictated from the supply side of the market. If your on a budget, but rent a car you must, you’ll have to find ways to make both ends meet. Here are some tips from industry experts on what you can do to save on your car rental expenses:
Compare competing offers among the car rental companies in the area before making your reservation.
Doing some online comparison shopping weeks in advance of your trip comes highly recommended by frequent and experienced travelers. Visit Kayak, Orbitz, Expedia and other travel sites for tips on cheap car rentals in the area where you’ll be going. Of course, you can also make a local Google search on your smartphone or tablet for “cheap car rental” and the name of your destination. If you’ll be staying for less than a week, you’ll probably be better off with Hertz or some other big name car rental chains. But if you’ll be using the car for a longer period, you could probably haggle for a negotiated lower price as part of a package deal with some small independent local rental services.
Additionally, by shopping around the web first before making a reservation, you might chance upon some special or seasonal promo offers that could give you substantial discounts. If you’re a member of organizations like AAA or AARP or you are a holder of an American Express or some variant of Visa or MasterCard credit card, you might be surprised to learn that you are also already entitled to some car rental perks and discounts at some of the car rental companies in the area.
Bring along your own accessories so you don’t have to pay for the extras.
If your watching your budget, don’t agree to pay more than you have to. Decline the extra charges for the HD radio, GPS navigation system, prepaid gasoline, the built-in e-toll transponder, the child seat, the roof rack, among others.
Don’t use the airport car rentals.
While its convenient and quicker to rent a vehicle right from the airport-based companies, it’s also quite certain that you’ll be paying them more. These companies have to pay concession fees to the airport authorities, which they in turn will of course pass along to you. Since off-airport companies don’t have to pay concession fees, they’ll invariably be a cheaper option for you.
Skip the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) or Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) insurance option.
If you’ll be renting the vehicle just for a few days, and you’re within the country, you can politely decline the CDW or LDW insurance policy that will be offered to you by the rental car dealer as a matter of routine. If you check with your insurance agent, chances are you’ll be told that your personal car insurance policy’s comprehensive coverage should already include protection for a rented vehicle in cases of accident. If not, check with your credit card company to see if the card you are using for the rental payment provides collision coverage. Typically, it does. Aside from CDW or LDW, the car rental dealer will also try to sell you Personal Accident Insurance (PAI), Personal Effects Coverage (PEC) and Additional Liability Insurance (ALI), and other insurance coverages which are really just optional.
Reserve for the smallest budget car, then ask about an upgrade later.
This is a favorite trick by veteran car renters. When it’s peak travel season, and they know there may not be that much compact cars available for rental, they’ll ask to have a reservation for one. Later, since these compact cars are in demand and one will not likely be available once you get there, try inquiring about a possible upgrade. Usually, you’ll be upgraded to a bigger and better make of vehicle at no extra cost to you. Of course, this tactic will not always work. But if it does, you get to drive a more expensive vehicle for the rental price of a compact car.