How (and When) to Find the Best Car Rental Deals in 2019

Signing a Car Rental Agreement
••• Getty Images/simonkr​

If you plan on traveling to an unfamiliar area and want a set of wheels to accompany you, you’ll probably find yourself looking for a car rental. Although it’s a breeze to book a rental car online, it’s not always easy to know when you are getting a great deal or whether you’re getting taken for a ride. If you want to know how to find great deals on rental cars, read on.

Be Prepared To Do The Work

Like anything in life, you will get out of the car rental process what you put into it. If you’re in a rush and only check one or two websites, you are not going to find the best deals. Before you book, check out the major travel sites – Orbitz, Expedia, Kayak, Carrentals.com, etc. – as well as the websites of different car rental companies. Enterprise, Hertz, Avis, and Dollar Thrifty are the biggest national rental companies and a good place to get started, but don’t stop there!

Book During The Weekend

The vast majority of car rental clients are business travelers in unfamiliar cities who need a car during the week. If you are visiting on a non-holiday weekend, you will likely get much better rates.

Avoid The Holidays

If you’re booking a rental car to drive around during the holidays while visiting family and friends, this is hard to do. If you are simply planning a vacation for yourself, you can save money by not booking during the busiest and most costly times of the year, like Thanksgiving and Christmas.

Be Aware Of Hidden Fees

If you don’t book directly through the rental car company website, you might not be quoted a price that includes standard fees, such as the added driver fee or minor driver fee. Make sure you know what those costs are and keep them in mind when comparing quotes so that you’re looking at apples to apples, not oranges.

Back Away From The Airport

We can almost guarantee that a rental car location close to the airport will have the highest prices in town. It might seem convenient to book a rental car you can pick up at the airport, but you’ll often save money by looking at a location closer to your hotel or where you will be staying, even if you have to take a taxi into the suburbs to get there.

You will likely pay $20 or more per day for a car rented from the airport than you would for a car from a different location.

Think About Discounts

Are you a member of AAA, AARP, BJs, Costco, USAA or another national club? Have a frequent flier mileage number? You probably have a car rental discount available that you haven’t even considered. These discount codes won’t save you a ton, but they can shave a few dollars off of your daily bill.

One thing to be careful of when surfing the web is finding sites for discount codes. If you don’t know where the code is coming from, the chances are high that it could be for a corporate discount code, and using someone else’s company’s code is pretty unethical – and they could come after you.

Book An Economy Vehicle

It might sound obvious, but to get the best deal, you need to be looking for economy models, not luxe ones.

Consider Bundling

If you need to book a hotel, car, and a flight, you should do some comparison shopping to see if you can save money by bundling your car with either of those other travel expenses. Sometimes, you can, and other times, you won’t, but it never hurts to check.

Skip The Insurance If You Can

If you book your rental with a credit card, you will more likely than not be covered in the event of an accident – just make sure to read the fine print. The same could apply to your usual car insurance policy. Either way, make sure you know the details before you get to the car rental company. Otherwise, the agent will try to sell you additional insurance that you may or may not need.

Refuel On Your Own

It might be tempting to avoid the hassle of filling up your rental car’s gas tank, but rolling up with just fumes in the tank is a great way to pay a huge rate per gallon, and sometimes, pay additional fees.