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Saving on Car Rentals
Renting a car can take a big chunk out of your travel budget. But there are some things you can to do cut your costs and leave you with more money to spend on the more enjoyable parts of your trip.
Start by looking for a deal on the Internet. It’s worth taking some time to check the sites of all the major rental agencies, as well as independent travel sites such as Priceline or Hotwire. Many car rental agencies give you a better rate if you rent online.
You also usually get a better rate using a discount such as AAA or AARP, or by booking a car through your airline’s website.
If you are flying into a major city and staying in the city center, consider not renting a car at the airport. Most airport rentals charge very high taxes and fees that you might not have to pay elsewhere. It could be less expensive for you to take a cab into the city and rent a car there. Many hotels have car rental outlets at the hotel. And you might be able to return the car to the airport without paying extra.
Just as with airline tickets, you often can save on car rentals at a smaller airport. For example, if you fly to Oakland instead of San Francisco or Providence instead of Boston, you could end up paying less for your car. And it probably will be a lot faster and less hassle to get through the paperwork and on the road at a smaller airport, too.
If you are staying at a nice hotel in a big city, look at the price of renting a car by the day, compared with renting for several days and paying to park your car at the hotel overnight. It might be worth your while to rent by the day, especially if you can pick up a car at or near your hotel.
Don’t automatically buy the insurance waivers that the car rental companies offer you. You probably have those coverages through your homeowners and auto insurance policies. Check with your agent before you go, and bring proof of your personal auto insurance with you, just in case. You also might get additional coverage through the credit card you use to rent the car.
And don’t jump right on the prepaid gas offer. Most rental car agencies offer to let you pay for a tank of gas when you rent the car. That way, you don’t have to worry about filling up when you return the car, which is definitely a convenience. Often the per-gallon price is comparable to or even less than the price at the pump.
However, you have to pay for a whole tank, regardless of how much you use. If, for example, you return the car with a half-full tank, you are in effect paying twice as much per gallon.
Finally, beware of extras. For example, most car rental agencies will be happy to rent you a GPS system or a car seat—for a fee. If you can bring your own from home, you can save money. Plus, you will be working with equipment you know how to use.