Last Updated on February 13, 2024 by Kristin

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Looking for ways to save money on your rental car? Here are 10 tips to slash your rental car price and get the best deal.

1. Book as early as possible

Haven’t locked down your travel dates yet? Make a no-risk reservation anyway. One of the easiest ways to get the best price on a rental car is simply to book early using the “pay later” option at checkout and then monitor the reservation for price drops. Waiting until the last minute to book at popular rental locations carries the risk of affordable car options selling out. Booking early allows maximum flexibility, as rental companies generally do not charge a cancellation fee when customers use the “pay later” option. While prepaid rates can be cheaper than the pay later option, they offer less flexibility and come with hefty no-show fees. So, lock in the rental reservation now and you’ll have plenty of time to decide if you want to make any changes later.

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2. Track your rental for price drops

One advantage to making a rental reservation as early as possible is that you can monitor for price drops. With no cancellation fees, there is no downside to making a rental reservation and then checking back later to see if prices have changed. If you find a cheaper rate later, you can simply cancel your existing reservation and rebook without any extra fees. Don’t have time to do the legwork? Let AutoSlash do it for you. To ensure you’re getting the best price, request a free quote and we’ll email you if we find a better price so that you can rebook at the better rate.

3. Take into account additional drivers

Will you be sharing time behind the wheel? One of the easiest ways to save money is to avoid paying additional driver fees, which cover the cost of an extra driver. Several brands waive this fee for spouses, domestic partners or business partners. If you plan to trade off driving with your spouse, consider booking with a brand like Avis, Budget, Enterprise, Alamo, or National to avoid this fee. Hertz also waives this fee for Gold Plus Rewards loyalty program members.

4. Take into account car rental insurance needs

Rental car prices can seem cheap until you factor in what you may have to pay for insurance. To get the best deal on a car rental, it’s crucial to understand how rental car insurance works and whether you need to buy the rental company’s collision damage waiver (CDW). If you own a car, your personal auto policy is likely to provide enough coverage. However, there may be exceptions to this rule if you rent an electric vehicle or luxury car.

5. Leverage memberships and discounts

You may be eligible for special discounts if you belong to organizations such as the American Automobile Association (AAA) or members-only stores like Costco. These discounts can shave hundreds of dollars off of your rental bills over the course of a year. When you ask Autoslash for a free quote, we’ll factor in all of your membership details to find the best rate.

6. Try searching different times and pickup dates

Did you know rental car prices can change greatly depending on the date and times you plan to pick up the vehicle? The “half-hour” hack works like this: Let’s say you plan to pick up a rental car at 10 a.m. Try sliding the pickup and return time by a half hour earlier (9:30 a.m.) or later (10:30 a.m.). In our experience, that trick can find savings of over $100 on certain rentals. Since it’s always free to ask AutoSlash for a quote, there’s no harm in asking us to price out different pickup and dropoff times to see which combination provides the lowest price.

7. Fill up the tank yourself

When you rent a car, the agent will ask if you prefer to fill up the tank on your own or prepay for gas in advance. While the latter option can be convenient, pre-paying for gas is generally a rip-off that will cost you more in the long run. That’s because paying for gas on your own is often cheaper than the rate the rental car company will charge, especially if you get fuel points from a gas station or grocery store rewards program. Plus, you’d have to return the car with a completely empty tank to get your full money’s worth. Be sure to keep the receipt from your last gas fillup, just in case the rental car company tries to pull a fast one.

8. Take photos of the rental car

Rental car companies can tack on surprise charges by claiming vehicle damage. One of the best ways to rebut such penalties is to take pictures of the rental car before you drive away and after returning the vehicle. When the rental agent asks you to do a walkaround, use this time to take photos of both the car’s interior and exterior to document even the slightest dent, rip or scratch. No imperfection is too small. Repeat this process before handing in the keys, and keep the photos until after you’ve received the final rental bill. You can use these as proof of the car’s condition in the event that you have to dispute a damage claim.

9. Check both airport and non-airport rental locations

Another way to slash your rental car price is to consider where you’ll pick up the car. Prices for car rentals can vary widely depending on which location you pick up the vehicle. Airport rental locations tend to carry a load of extra fees that significantly push up the reservation price, so it’s worth taking a look at whether any neighborhood rental locations offer better rates. Heading to another rental location may not be as convenient as just walking up to the airport rental counter, but the savings can be great, even if you factor in a taxi or Uber ride.

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10. Pay with the right credit card

Some premium credit cards offer primary insurance coverage for rental cars. Most credit cards offer secondary insurance, meaning that coverage kicks in after tapping your personal auto policy. If you pay with a card that provides primary insurance and there is damage to the rental vehicle, you won’t have to file a claim using your personal car insurance policy. Cards with primary rental coverage tend to have high annual fees, but they can be a great option for frequent renters who want to avoid buying the over-the-counter collision damage waiver (CDW) and keep a clean sheet on their personal insurance.