Between car shortages and increased travel, renting a car has become more difficult and expensive. If you are renting a car, try some of these cost-saving tips.
The minute you think you might need a rental car, book it. With low inventory and high prices, booking a car early will ensure vehicle availability at the typically lowest price. Most rental car companies provide reasonable cancellation and refund policies but make sure you read the terms and conditions before completing your reservation. Then, leading up to your trip, check car rental rates regularly to confirm you are still getting the best deal.
Websites like AutoSlash will notify you if your current reservation can be booked for a lower rate with the same agency.
Airport Convenience Can Cost More
If you are flying to your destination, grabbing your suitcase and walking to the airport rental car agency is convenient. But that convenience can come at a cost. Check if renting a car at a nearby neighborhood location is less. You could find that taking a taxi or car service to the off-airport car rental location will save significant money on your daily rate. Most of the time, there is no surcharge for returning the car to the airport location.
Membership Has Its Privileges
Many warehouse clubs like Costco and Sam’s offer special rates or perks, such as a free additional driver for their members. The same goes for other organizations like AAA, AARP, USAA, or some credit card companies. So it makes sense to check with individual car rental agencies and your other membership affiliations to get the best rate and perks.
Spotlight on Rental Car Insurance
Have you ever felt the spotlight was shining directly on you when the rental car employee offered you collision damage waiver (CDW) and loss damage waiver (LDW) insurance? You start to get nervous because you don’t know if you should purchase this protection that significantly adds to your rental car expense?!!
The CDW covers you in the event of a collision, while the LDW covers any loss to the rental company. Both coverages are necessary, but not if you are duplicating coverage that is provided in your personal insurance policy.
- Most insurance policies offer liability coverage if you injure someone in an accident and cover rental car damage via comprehensive and collision coverage. Check your policy or call your insurance agent to verify coverage before signing up for additional insurance.
- If you are renting the car with a credit card, your card provider may pay for vehicle damages associated with an accident. Check with your card company ahead of time to make sure.
- Also, confirm that your personal auto insurance or credit card covers “loss of use.” The rental car company charges this fee to cover lost income when the vehicle is out of service, becoming more prominent in this tight rental car market. This is a classic case of “know before you go.”
Rental Car Condition
Depending on the car rental location, the employee may walk around the car with you and note any spots or damages to the car. Whether there is an employee present or not, be sure to take a video or several photos of any damage to the vehicle, so you don’t get charged for vehicle damage that you did not cause.
Fill It Up
Rental car companies often discount the cost of gas with an upfront purchase. But this is rarely a good deal for you. Are you sure you want to drive around in a strange town with 1/8 of a tank of gas to save a few dollars? I didn’t think so. You are better off filling up the gas tank yourself. Yes, gas stations are more expensive around the airport, but you can fill your car up the day before and then top it off closer to the airport.
Use apps like GasBuddy to find the best gas prices near you. Whatever you do, don’t show up with an empty gas tank if it’s supposed to be full. The price of a gallon of gas-charged by the rental car company on the return is very expensive.
If you plan to hit the open road soon, use some of these clever rental car-saving tips. Reserve now, check prices frequently, leverage your memberships, know your insurance coverage before you go, and fill up your gas tank. Safe travels and happy returns!
Meredith Carbrey, CFP, is a Senior Wealth Advisor with Bedel Financial Consulting, Inc., a wealth management firm located in Indianapolis. For more information, visit their website at www.bedelfinancial.com or email Meredith at firstname.lastname@example.org