How to Save on Car Rentals

Since our recession began a few years ago, the travel industry has weathered many storms.  Airlines have cut back on flights and routes, hotels have experienced a lot of empty rooms, and gas prices have forced many to just stay at home.  However, one particular business has not suffered nearly as much.  Car rental companies have successfully lowered their inventory and closed their struggling locations, which means rentals cost just as much as they ever did, if not more.   Airport locations are especially thriving, because when airport rental inventory is reduced, and demand stays the same, prices will rise.  This does present a challenge for the budget minded traveler.  However, there are ways to find an affordable car rental and these tips will help.

Make sure you book early so that you can have the best selection.  As travel dates get closer and more reservations come in, the most affordable and popular rentals are the first to go.  As the inventory drops, the prices will go up.  Your chance of getting the model and price you want increase with every day in advance that you book your car. On the other hand, if you procrastinate and forget to book your car, you can gamble and wait until the last-minute.  Often if the lot has too many vehicles unrented, you can rent very cheaply.  However, keep in mind that you won’t have a lot of choice and there’s always the chance that no vehicles will be available at all.  If you going to take the risk, make sure you have a backup plan.

Check as many places as you can and compare prices before you book. Car rental prices tend to vary greatly. Check the big name car rental companies, but also take a look at other sites, such as Expedia and Travelocity.  Remember that you can save time by just calling your local travel agent.  She/he will know the current promotions and can save a lot of your valuable time.  Your travel agent also has “inside” information that can help.  Did you know that renting a full size car is often cheaper than renting a compact, simply because people are looking for vehicles that have good gas mileage?  You may not know that a five-day rental can be very expensive, while a weekly rental with a five-day minimum can be lower priced.  You can also save money by tweaking your pick up and return times.  If your dates can qualify for a weekend rental, you can save a bundle.  A good agent will know all these things and can often get an even lower rate because of the travel agent’s volume discount.

If you’re not particular about the model of the car you rent, you can often get extreme discounts with the “Name Your Price” companies online.  If you know you will be renting from an airport counter and you can specify which class you prefer, you won’t find much difference in the vehicle you get.  Just look online at the car rental companies and find their best deal, then go to the auction site and use that as a guide for your bid. Believe it or not, I have seen these auction sites accept a bid as low as $15 a day.   You will be notified if your bid is too low and you can try again.  Typically, most of these sites will only allow you to bid three times.  After three unsuccessful attempts, you will have to wait 24 hours to bid again.  Always bid on the most affordable car, because the site will almost always give you an option to upgrade, sometimes for as little as $3-4 dollars a day.

Keep these tips in mind and you will be on the road in the car of your choice in no time!

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