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21 Ways to Get the Best Travel Deals – Car Rental

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21 Ways to Get the Best Travel Deals – Car Rental

Renting a car is something that many people do when they go on vacation. But most people don’t realise all the potential traps and pitfalls that can be avoided when renting a car. Having worked for a car rental company, I’ve come across lots of hacks that you can use to save time, save money, and generally make the whole process of renting a car a lot easier. Today I’m going to share 21 rental car tips with you; I guarantee there will be at least one tip you hadn’t thought of in the list!

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airport car rental desk
    1. Ditch the travel agent
      Have a think about where travel agents earn their money. They work on commission. That means they get a certain percentage of the booking amount, and they may get kick-backs from certain suppliers. The more expensive your booking is, the more money they make. Booking car hire by yourself is so easy, and only takes a couple of minutes.
    2. Book early to save
      Just like airfares and accommodation, prices for rental cars usually increase as you get closer to the date of service. This is especially true around holidays such as Christmas and Easter. Because demand is so high and rental car fleets are limited, the suppliers can charge just about whatever they like and know that people will still be desperate enough to book. Booking far in advance means you’ll get the best possible rate, as well as choice of the full range of cars.
    3. Compare, contrast, and find a deal
      Comparison websites are a great way to book car hire. Using one of these comparison sites, you can compare all the major car rental suppliers against one another on the same screen, and find the cheapest deal. There are plenty of comparison sites around, just make sure you use one that doesn’t charge any booking fee or cancellation fee so you’re not out of pocket if you happen to find a better deal later on. My favourite is probably VroomVroomVroom because they offer a lowest price guarantee. They also send you a confirmation SMS so you don’t need to bother with paperwork when you pick up the car.
    4. Airport rental centers cost more
      Did you know that the price of rental cars at the airport is way higher than that city depot, even for the same supplier? It’s partly because airports charge the rental car suppliers a huge amount for renting the car spaces and desk space inside the terminal. They also charge customers more for the convenience. If you’re renting a car for just a day or two, it might not make much of a difference in your total bill. If you’re renting for a week, it could mean huge savings. Compare the price for airport and downtown locations to see if it’s worthwhile getting other transport from the airport to the city and picking the car up there instead.
    5. Don’t forget to fill up!
      Rental companies will charge you a fortune if you don’t fill up the car before taking it back. They’ll charge you up to double the regular pump price, and some will even add an “administration” fee on top! Fill the car up before you drop it back, and don’t forget to keep the receipt! In the case of a dispute, the time/date and amount on your receipt is evidence that you filled the car up.
      gas pump rental car
      • Consider the environment
        I’m not just talking for the environment’s sake, either. Choosing an economical car or hybrid can save you lots of money when it comes to refuelling. Sure, that giant Cadillac might look nice, but if you’re looking to save money then maybe a Civic would be the smarter choice.
      • Don’t pay in advance
        Book through a supplier or comparison website that doesn’t require any payment up front. If you find a better deal somewhere else, or if something else comes up and you need to change your plans, at least you won’t be stung with a cancellation fee! It also means you can make a few bookings and choose the one that’s best for you as the date gets closer. By booking early you can lock in good prices, and just cancel the ones you don’t need before the date.
      • Take photos of any damage
        Make sure you take photos of any damage to the car before you leave the depot. If your camera has the option, mark the photos with the time and date, or upload them to somewhere online that lists the time and date. If there is a staff member available, get them to walk around the car with you, and make sure you mark any and all damage and marks on the car, no matter how small. Don’t let them tell you not to worry about the small marks. It’s better to be safe than sorry! What most people don’t know is that if you happen to return a car with damage, you’ll not only be up for the cost of repairing the damage, but also for any potential loss of rental fees while the car is off the road. That can add up to thousands of dollars!
      • Look at your insurance options
        Insurance can vary by country, but most rental cars come with some basic form of insurance. You’ll generally have to pay an excess of a few thousand dollars if you have an accident. The rental car supplier will offer you excess reduction or an insurance waiver, but there are often better options available. Keep an eye out for travel insurance or credit cards that include this insurance automatically – it can save you lots of money.
      • Try different rental lengths
        Suppliers often have special rates for different length rentals. As an example, I recently saw one supplier offering a special 4-day rate which was actually cheaper than their regular rate for three days. In this case it would be better to take the four day rate, and just drop the car back after three days instead. Weekly and weekend rental rates are the most common. If you only need the car for 5 or 6 days, just try comparing the price for 7 anyway; you might be pleasantly surprised.
      • Keep your schedule in mind
        Suppliers generally charge in 24-hour blocks. If you don’t need the car until 1pm, make the booking starting at 1pm! Most search forms default to 9 or 10am, so watch out for this when you’re searching. If you book for 1pm it means you’ll have until 1pm on the day you drop it off. Also worth noting is that suppliers generally have a grace period—usually an extra 29 or 59 minutes past your drop off time before they charge an excess fee. If you think you’re going to be late dropping the car back, give the depot a call to let them know and ask for this grace period.
      • GPS units and baby seats can be costly
        Recently I hired a car in New Zealand for 15 days. To add a GPS unit to my rental would have cost me more than actually buying a new one from a shop! So that’s exactly what I did. I bought a GPS once I arrived in New Zealand, and then sold it once I got home for almost the full price! It saved me over $100. The same is true of baby seats. These can be costly to hire, so consider taking one with you. Many airlines will let you check baby seats in with your luggage for free or for a nominal fee. You could also buy a basic child seat once you get to your destination. Depending how long you need it, this may be a cheaper option. At the end of your trip, you can either sell or donate the car seat.
      • Consider $1 relocation deals
        It costs lots of money for suppliers to relocate cars from one location to another. Instead of spending $1000 to relocate a vehicle by truck, they’ll usually offer $1 relocation deals. This can be a great option if you’re looking to take a last minute road trip, and sometimes they’ll even cover fuel costs too! The negative is that you have to travel between certain dates, so I’d suggest booking a rental car the regular way to be safe and cancelling it at the last minute if you manage to get a relocation deal that suits your travel plans.
      • Don’t forget to use rewards points
        Not only can you use points to book a rental car, but most suppliers have agreements with one or more frequent flyer or other rewards programs. It’s probably not worth basing your choice of supplier on this, but it’s certainly worthwhile quoting your frequent flyer number when you book so that you don’t miss out on any points.
        bad experiences car rental desk
        • Check exclusions on where you can and can’t take the vehicle
          It’s worth reading the fine print to see where you can and can’t take your rental car. Most suppliers have exclusion areas, whether it’s off-road or taking it to certain islands, on ferries, etc. You may also notice some strange clauses like a “dusk to dawn” clause. This can mean you’re not covered by insurance if you have an accident at night outside the city limits (e.g. if you hit a deer).
        • Return to Point A
          It’s not always possible, but it’s almost always cheaper to drop the rental car back at the depot that you picked it up from. It costs money to relocate cars, so you’ll usually by stung with a hefty “one-way fee” or “relocation fee” if you choose to drop your car back at a different depot.
        • List all the drivers
          If you are sharing the driving with someone else, be sure that they are listed on your rental agreement. If an unlisted driver has an accident, the insurance will usually not cover the damage. Many suppliers don’t charge you any extra fees to list an additional driver, so it’s definitely worth doing even if you don’t think they’ll be driving much.
        • Consider using a local’s car!
          There are a few websites around now that allow people to rent out their own cars. There are some good deals available, especially for long term rentals, and the terms and conditions are mostly the same as you would find with a regular rental car (be sure to read all the fine print). There may be exclusions if you don’t hold a drivers licence in the same country, so be sure to check that, too.
        • Consider an older car
          Many of the smaller suppliers are able to offer cheaper cars because they don’t renew their fleet as often as the big boys. There are plenty of dodgy smaller suppliers, so check reviews before you book. If you’re going down this route, check that you’re covered by good roadside assistance plan.
        • Look out for toll roads
          Toll roads are unavoidable in most large cities, but there are often different options for how you get charged. Check with the supplier to see what they offer. Some suppliers offer an “all-you-can-eat” toll option where you pay a set fee and can use as many tolls as you like. Others will charge you an admin fee on top of any tolls, so be careful of the fine print. Another option may be to use your own toll transponder if you’re traveling interstate. Just check with your provider to see if their transponder will work in the state to which you’re traveling.
        • Wait a minute!
          Just before you leave (a day or two), check the prices again. There may be a last minute special available, and because you booked on a site with no cancellation fee (you did that, right?) you can cancel the previous booking without losing any money! Just be sure you get a confirmation of the new booking before you cancel the old one.

        So, let’s hear it! What are your car rental tips? Share them in the comments below.

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        And now that you’re a car rental expert, why not extend your knowledge to flights as well. Find out how to fly first class for free!

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        Last Updated on January 13, 2022

        10 Cheap And Amazing Honeymoon Ideas

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        10 Cheap And Amazing Honeymoon Ideas

        A honeymoon is important.  The wedding is over.  The months, or even years, of stress and planning are finally over.  It’s time for the two of you to relax, settle in, and start enjoying your time together as you embark on your first journey as a family.

        To make the most of this time for the least amount of money, it’s important to focus on what you want out of a honeymoon.  This isn’t your typical list of touristy honeymoon locations everyone goes to.  Rather, it’s a list of cheap honeymoon experiences a couple can enjoy together, regardless of where it’s at.

        1. Camping

        A week long camping trip is a fantastic way to see how you mesh together as a couple.  You’re put in a low impact “survival” situation where it’s just the 2 of you and nature.  You have a chance to see how your new spouse handles themselves when left with the basics of life.  There are amazing national parks all over the United States where you can camp for a week for $20-30, disconnect from technology, and enjoy some of the natural wonders our nation has to offer.

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        2. Staycation

        You don’t have to go anywhere for a honeymoon.  In fact, the tradition of taking a honeymoon vacation is a relatively new one.  Prior to the 19th century, a honeymoon involved staying home together for a month to get to know each other physically.  Think of how blissful it could be to take a full month off work, disconnect from the outside world, and focus entirely on projects together.  You may not be wowing your friends and family with pictures of some exotic location, but they’ll be envious of your escape from the rat race nonetheless.

        3. Island Getaway

        People tend to overspend on their honeymoon vacations to Hawaii, Tahiti, etc.  Going to these places doesn’t have to be expensive.  You don’t need to stay in a 5 star resort when you’re on a Best Western budget.  You’re there to be in the atmosphere of the island, not a hotel room. Book a cheap flight and sleep in a hotel alternative, on the beach or in your car.  It’s the view in paradise that really matters.

        4. Fancy Resort

        Book an expensive resort, spa, or retreat in the city you live in.  While this may seem counterintuitive as a cheap destination, when you consider your savings on airfare and other travel costs, you can afford to be treated like royalty within your own city limits.  If you book a honeymoon package, you’ll end up with a lot of free amenities and extra attention.  There’s no need to fly halfway across the world to live the good life.

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        5. Road Trip

        The journey is often more fulfilling than the actual destination.  If you fly out to some exotic locale, you’ll be stuck on a plane for 8-30 hours.  Rent a luxury car, pick a handful of places you each have always wanted to visit, and go on an adventure.  You can keep food costs down by packing your own snacks, but it’s always a good idea to sample the local delicacies wherever you go, even if it’s only a few states over.

        6. Charter a Boat

        If the ocean is your thing, a week-long cruise can cost you $1500-$3000 per person, depending on the destination.  You also have to factor in travel costs to and from the cruise, alcohol, souvenirs, and on-shore excursions.  You’ll also be surrounded by people.  For the same price (and often much cheaper), you can charter your own boat and enjoy the experience in private.

        7. Las Vegas/Atlantic City

        If gambling is your thing, these are the places to do it.  Which one you choose depends on your preference, budget, and proximity.  The way to make this vacation cheaper is to gamble smart.  Stay away from low odd tables (i.e craps, roulette) and read up on the MIT blackjack strategies to beat the house.  If you do it right, you can win enough for a free trip (and gain a valuable team skill in the process).

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        8. Themed Retreats

        There are weeklong retreats all over the world where you can fully immerse yourselves as a couple into a hobby you’re both passionate about.  Go on a yoga/meditation retreat, a ranch, a vineyard/farm, a backpacking adventure, treasure hunt, or whatever you’re into.

        9. Working Honeymoon

        Your honeymoon doesn’t have to be a vacation.  For a truly memorable experience, dedicate a week to a charity or volunteer organization.  You can drive out to a campground to help restore it in the offseason.  Maybe you’ve always wanted to volunteer to help out your local animal shelter, plant trees, help the homeless, etc.  Use the time to do something together as a couple that will fulfill you spiritually while contributing to the community.  Just because you’re on a honeymoon doesn’t mean you can’t be productive.

        10. Festivals, Fairs & Special Events

        Every city, state, and country has festivals, fairs, and special events.  Find one you’re interested in.  If you time your wedding right, your honeymoon can be a trip to one of these festivals.  Burning Man, SXSW, Bonnaroo, the Renaissance Fair, regional harvest festivals, Mardi Gras, New Years Eve in Times Square, a movie premiere, or whatever you’re into.  If you plan your honeymoon at the right time in the right place, the possibilities are endless.

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        Featured photo credit: Josue Michel via unsplash.com

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