Road trips are an integral part of the American ethos. Some even consider them a rite of passage, and now more than ever renting a car to get away for a few days can be the ultimate luxury. Renting a car is a practical safe alternative to traveling on crowded planes or using busy public transit systems. But if you’re not well versed in the dos and don’ts of car rental the prospect can feel intimidating.
Where do you start? Can you reserve ahead of time? How do you know that you got the best price? We know these questions and many more can make renting a car feel frustrating, and no one wants to start a fun relaxing trip off with a painful car rental experience — or sit with the gnawing feeling that you overpaid for a rental you could have gotten for less.
That’s why we’ve put together these four easy tricks to make car rental a piece of cake. So pack your bags, buckle up, and get ready for a joy ride.
Don’t just go with the name you know. There are tons of car rental companies out there and comparing rates can lead to big savings. It can be helpful to check travel booking sites that aggregate offers from around the internet and then compare them against the prices listed directly on a companies website.
Don’t forget to check discount car rental companies. These companies often have a smaller footprint so they may not be available in all areas, but if there’s a discount rental company in your area it’s likely going to be the best deal around.
Compare Pick-Up Locations
Just like you shouldn’t go with the first company you find without comparing it to others, don’t just go with the closest pick-up location. Check local and airport pick-up locations and compare their prices. Prices can be vastly different by location even when using the same company.
It may be worth schlepping it to the airport to pick-up your weekend ride if it means saving on your daily rate. Conversely, if you’re flying in somewhere don’t assume the airport rentals are going to be the best deal. It’s always worth it to shop around.
Book Your Car In Advance
If you can, book your car in advance. Most companies don’t charge a fee to reserve a car, and booking one well in advance will often secure the best rate. If there is a reservation fee be sure it’s refundable in the event of a cancellation.
Document The Cars Condition
When you’re checking out your car take your phone out and snap a few pictures. Be sure to document any dings, dents, or scratches inside and out. It may even be helpful to record a walk around of the car as you go through it with the attendant. This extra documentation will be extremely useful if you need to prove you aren’t responsible, but you should also make the employee helping you aware of any damage you see before leaving the lot.
Always Refill The Tank Yourself
Most car rental companies will give you the option of returning your car with the same amount of gas in the tank as you received it — or paying the company to fill up the tank upon your return. It is almost always cheaper to take the ten minutes to fill up the car at a local gas station before returning it. Some companies use inflated gas prices and others tack on convenience fees, either way, it’s worth it to filler up yourself.
Follow these quick easy tips and car rental will feel like a breeze. If you take the time to do some research, book in advance, document the vehicle and fill the tank up before returning you can be sure you’re getting the best price for your needs. With peace of mind like that, you can focus on enjoying the wide-open road.