10 money-saving car rental secrets you don’t want to know

As Americans begin to travel more, rental cars are becoming a desirable item for vacations or other trips that you may have put off for the last two years. But there are things that the rental company might not want you to know about when renting a car.

For example, a car in an off-airport car park may incur less charges than a car obtained from the airport counter. And there may be things like insurance or gas that you might want to defer paying for if you’re on a budget.

Here are a few things to look out for next time you rent a car.

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1. Look at rental insurance

One of the first things you might be wondering is if the rental car insurance they offer you is a waste of money. Car rental companies may try to add insurance as part of your package, but you may not need it.

Before you let an over-the-counter salesman talk you into buying car rental insurance, check with your own car insurance company to see if your policy covers rentals. Some of the best auto insurance companies may already include this coverage, meaning you may be wasting money on coverages you don’t need.

2. Don’t buy gas in advance

Buying fuel in advance is an option offered by most rental agencies, but you may not want to take it. When you purchase fuel in advance, you pay for a full tank without having to fill up the tank before returning the vehicle.

That may sound convenient, but it also means you’re paying for a full tank and the rental company won’t give you a refund if you don’t use all of the gas. So unless you plan to drive to the rental car spot with a few drops in the tank, it’s better to just fill up the car before returning it.

And an app like GasBuddy will show you the lowest gas price and location so you don’t have to search in an unfamiliar city. For more great money-saving tools, check out this list of the best travel apps.

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3. Discount codes can reduce costs

Like other retailers, car rental companies may have some discount codes floating around that you can use to your advantage.

When making a reservation or picking up a car, check online if there are any discount codes that you can apply to your rental. Check sites like Retail Me Not or Coupons.com to see what kind of discount codes might work for your rental.

You may also want to browse Groupon for deals to use on your next rental. And don’t forget possible member discounts if you belong to an organization like AAA, USAA or AARP.

4. Make reservations through Costco

One of the many benefits of being a Costco member that you may not know about is renting a car through Costco Travel. If you reserve your rental car through Costco, you may be able to add an additional driver at no cost.

If you rent through Costco, you may also be able to skip cancellation fees if you decide to change or cancel your reservation. And if you’re a Costco Executive Member, you can earn a 2% bonus on your rental.

6 Genius Hacks Every Costco Shopper Should Know

5. Airports have additional fees

Airports are a great place to pick up a rental car if you’re flying in from somewhere else. But airport car rental locations may include other airport or transportation fees.

Instead, try renting from a car rental company that is close to the airport, but not that close. A short trip with a ride-hailing company may cost a little more, but it can still be lower than the fees charged for renting a car at the airport.

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Do your research ahead of time and see if you can save money by going off-site and if the hassle of not being at the airport is worth the difference in price.

6. Check vehicle for damage

It may take a little more time, but you should make sure you walk around the vehicle with someone from the rental company to ensure any damage has been accounted for before exiting the car park.

If you don’t do this, any dents or issues that you may have overlooked will be charged to your account when you return the vehicle. Remember to check the interior of the car as well as the exterior for any problems.

7. You can get a reasonable upgrade

Depending on what’s available, you might be able to negotiate an upgrade at a reasonable price when you get to the rental desk to receive your car. Don’t be afraid to ask the person behind the front desk how much a vehicle upgrade costs or if there are any extras they might be able to add to your rental agreement.

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Pro tip: some of the best travel credit cards may be able to get you an upgrade or discounted rental before you actually pick up your car. Check with your credit card provider to see what kind of deals they can offer you.

8. Join a membership program

Some rental companies have member rewards programs that are free to join and that can give you immediate benefits. For example, Hertz has the Hertz Gold Plus Rewards program, which allows you to check out faster or redeem points for free rental days.

Enterprise Plus also allows you to earn points that can be exchanged for free rental days or rental upgrades depending on how often you rent a car. And since these programs are free, you don’t have to pay anything to get benefits.

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9. Time can save you money

Depending on when you travel during the year, when you rent a car you can save money.

For example, if you can wait until after a vacation, you may be able to get a car at a discounted rate. Rental car companies don’t want extra cars in their lot after a vacation. Or they may need to rebalance inventory and will happily give you a lower price to get a car from the lot. A rental car parked in the parking lot does not bring the company any money.

10. Shop around

Your first instinct might be to go straight to the car rental website and book directly through them. But the websites you can use to find the best deals on airline tickets might also find the best deals on car rentals. Sites like Kayak, Trivago, and Expedia can compare rental costs from different providers to help you find the best deal.

Earn rewards and travel more while spending less with these premium travel credit cards.

And once you’ve booked your rental car, you might want to occasionally check to see if prices have changed. You may be able to rebook your car at a lower rate.

bottom line

There are many wonderful places for your next business trip or vacation. Before you book your rental car, make sure you know what to look out for. And keep an eye on the upgrades and extra fees a car rental company might want to charge. To get the best deal, you need to be prepared before you get to the rental desk.

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This article 10 Money-Saving Car Rental Secrets You Don’t Want to Know was originally posted on FinanceBuzz.

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