Renting a vehicle can be expensive, but there are ways of keeping your cost to a minimum.
Rental agencies based on airport property are subject to taxes and concession fees that can add 10 percent or more to your total cost. In most areas, you can avoid these extra fees by renting in town. An exception to this is when you rent a car in New York City, where state and local fees add about 20 percent to the price of a rental. While the cost of a taxi ride might offset any savings, public transportation or a free van to your hotel may be an option. From your hotel, you may be able to walk or take a bus to a rental agency. Some agencies will drop off a car at your hotel.
Websites such as Car Rental Express allow you to compare vehicles and prices from different agencies, and book a vehicle directly. CRX also offers a large number of money-saving coupons and discounts. You may be eligible for discounts offered through your corporation, professional organization, airline loyalty program, hotel, university, or a member association such as AARP. Some college alumni associations offer discounts of up to 25 percent with certain rental agencies.
Early booking, two or three months in advance, gives you a better selection of vehicles and prices. After booking, contact the rental agency every few weeks to see if there are new discounts or if prices have changed in your favor. Give them your reservation number and you can usually rebook at the lower rate.
Often, the sixth and seventh days are free on a weekly rental. Consider this if you need a vehicle for five days or more. Be sure to check the agency's early returns policy before booking at that rate.
Many agencies will give you an instant discount if you pay when booking. Always ask, as such a discount may not be advertised or mentioned.
While they may make your trip more pleasant, extravagances such as heated seats, motorized cargo doors, Global Positioning Systems or OnStar may add significantly to the cost of your rental. A GPS alone, may tack another $10 or more per day to your rate.
Damage Insurance, also referred to as Collision Damage Waver (CDW) or Loss Damage Waver (LDW), relieves you of any responsibility for a rental vehicle damaged in an accident, or by vandalism or theft, and may add $10 to $25 per day to your cost. You may not need to purchase the agency's policy if you are adequately covered by your own insurance policies, or that of your corporation or organization. Your credit card company may also provide insurance, though usually for no more than 30 days, and be sure to check if you're covered for the type of vehicle you are renting. Insurance through your credit card may not cover the rental of such vehicles as motor homes, motorcycles, or vehicles rented outside the United States.
Other optional insurance coverage includes Supplemental Liability Insurance (SLI), also known as Supplemental Liability Protection (SLP), Personal Effects Coverage (PEC), Personal Accident Insurance (PAI), and Additional Liability Insurance (ALI). Purchasing any of these through a rental agency may be duplicating insurance you already have. Check your existing health, life, homeowner, tenant and vehicle insurance policies to see if you are already covered.