How to find the cheapest car insurance?
No matter where you’re traveling, how old you are or how outlandish your rental requirements, you can always save money on car rentals. From little-known tricks to snazzy startups, we’ll break down the best ways to save money on ground transportation.
Do you really need a rental car?
For many travelers, a car may seem like a necessity just based on their daily routine. However, if you are traveling to a big city, public transportation is usually a cheaper and more accessible option than renting and parking a car. The independence of having a car can seem freeing initially, but if you plan on driving that car into a major city center expect high stress, gridlock, and parking nightmares. If you know you’ll need a car for at least part of the trip, jot down a quick cost benefit analysis comparing the total cost of renting a car (including parking fees) versus catching a cab, shuttle, or train.
6 tips to save on rental cars
1. Get big savings by avoiding big names
Consider renting from a company you’ve never heard of. FlightCar lets outbound travelers rent their cars to inbound ones at discounted rates; RelayRides is a car-sharing company that’s less air travel-specific.
2. Waive the 24-and-under surcharge
There’s a lot to recommend being over 25, such as the ability to legally serve in the House of Representatives and to rent a car hassle-free. Though some companies will lend to the pre-quarter-life-crisis crowd, they often levy a hefty surcharge. Here are a few ways to avoid the fee, which can run up to $25 a day. Be warned, though, that those under 21 are probably stuck with the young invincible surcharge.
- Search for discounts.
- Consider Zipcar or similar offers. Short-term car rental services may have an affiliation program with your university that’ll get you lower rates.
- Look for affiliation discounts. The USAA, for example, lets members 21 and up avoid the surcharge; military personnel are also exempt.
3. Find rewards and discounts
No matter where you book or how, you’re sure to find discounts with a savvy combination of credit cards and coupons. Here are some good sources to earn money back or get a deal on rentals:
- Credit cards that give bonus rewards on travel or car rentals. Look for one that’ll give rewards on any rental, without tying you to a specific set of dealers. Be careful, though – some only give rewards if you book directly with the rental agency, instead of Kayak or a similar agency.
- Coupon aggregator websites. They’ll tell you which companies are offering promotions like 20% off or one day free. One such is Zalyn, which aggregates rental car deals and lets you filter by location and date, rather than the (more limiting) rental company.
- Rewards malls and cashback websites. NerdWallet’s discount tool can help you find coupons as well as tell you which sites will give you 5% or more back on your rental.
- Affiliation discounts. AAA, the AARP and other organizations offer cut-rate rentals for their members.