Best Rental Car Deals: How To Shop (And When)

Enterprise Rent-A-Car

Whether it’s a weekend trip out of town, a family road-trip vacation, trying out a different vehicle prior to making a new purchase or securing transportation during a business trip, finding the best deal on a rental car takes a little planning.

Knowing how to shop as well as when can make all the difference between the best rental car deals and some that are only so-so. The worst thing is to find out you’ve missed a great deal because you were in a hurry. To give yourself an advantage, here are some tips on the best rental car deals: how to shop and when.

Online shopping is great – but know the particular advantages of different rental car companies. With the number of car rental companies in business, you might think that they’re all the same. They’re not. Knowing the difference between them can influence your choice of one over another at certain times when you choose or need to rent a car.

  • For example, National Car Rental and Budget allow one-way rental, while other rental car companies require you to return the car where you picked it up.
  • Enterprise is famous for offering to pick you up. This service is very convenient if you want or need to leave your own car at home or don’t have someone to drive it back for you as well as if you don’t own a car and are renting one for a specific trip or reason.
  • Price, of course, is a significant determining factor between car rental companies.
  • Model selection is another consideration when choosing a car rental company. You may want to rent a luxury car instead of a mid-size or economy car. If the rental car company doesn’t typically offer luxury cars, or charges a higher premium for them than another car rental company, even if you usually do business with this car rental company, it may be a better choice to go with one that has many in stock and specializes in renting this type of vehicle. Hertz offers the Tesla S for rent at the San Francisco and Los Angeles airports.

Where to shop online makes a difference. The big travel sites online are a good starting point when it comes to comparison shopping car rental prices and deals. These include Expedia, Travelauto, Orbitz, and Kayak, among others. What makes these travel sites a good choice is that they negotiate with car rental companies to be able to offer competitive rates and they are always competing for your business. This means that you can often get much better deals online than in person or by phone.

  • Orbitz is known for allowing you to input discount codes to your car rental so that you wind up with an even better price.
  • Expedia touts its Best Price Guarantee.
  • Using a meta-search engine such as Kayak helps you figure out which rental car company offers the best deal in a one-step process.
  • Travelauto has worldwide car rental deals at attractive rates and discounts.

When to shop is also important. As with securing airline reservations at the best possible price, the key strategy is to shop as early as possible. Waiting until the last minute puts you in jeopardy of limited or no product available and/or having to pay a higher price than you would if you’d shopped and reserved your car early.

Join the club. It’s easy and inexpensive (or free) to join car rental clubs or rental car loyalty programs. These include Avis Preferred, National’s Emerald Club, the Quicksilver Club at Alamo, Dollar’s Rapid Rental Program, among others. Being a loyalty program member allows you access to discounts and deals you might not otherwise have available. While program perks vary, they may include free days, or points or miles. The idea behind joining a car rental company’s club or loyalty program is that you’ll likely use that company every time you rent, as you get more discounts the more you rent from them.

Don’t forget discount codes available elsewhere. If you are a member of AAA, AARP, credit card services or certain other organizations, you have access to discount codes, points or miles. Some credit card companies, such as American Express and Bank of America Platinum Visa, cover the insurance on your car rental, saving you the optional insurance cost each time you rent. Check out to search one site for a number of the best of these kinds of discounts and deals.

With a little advance planning, you should be able to secure rental car deals that save you money and peace of mind.


Follow The Car Connection on FacebookTwitter and Google+.



The Car Connection Daily Headlines
I agree to receive emails from The Car Connection. I understand that I can unsubscribe at any time. Privacy Policy.
Thank you! Please check your email for confirmation.