Last Updated on January 16, 2021 by Elizabeth
Are you thinking about car rentals during the COVID-19 pandemic? Here’s what you need to know about booking a rental car during uncertain times.
Some rental locations are closed temporarily. Always check with the branch directly to make sure your pickup and drop-off locations are open.
Don’t Opt for the Prepaid Rate
One big change to car rentals during the COVID-19 pandemic is that more people are booking trips at the last minute. Opting for a prepaid rate to lock in a favorable price is a bad strategy for a car rental during the COVID-19 pandemic if you might have to cancel your trip.
A prepaid rate is non-cancellable. You pay up front in full when you make the reservation. In most cases, you get a better deal by booking a discounted “pay later” rate and watching for price drops. Booking the “pay later” rate is a zero-risk option, since you don’t pay up front.
Cancellation and No-Show Policies for Car Rentals
Always cancel a reservation through the platform where you booked your car. If you booked through AutoSlash, use the cancellation link in your email. Otherwise, cancel directly through the company where you booked your car.
Always choose the “pay later” rate, so you won’t be charged a cancellation fee and you are in the clear for no-show fees. If you booked with your credit card, or if your credit card is on file with the loyalty program, it’s always a good idea to cancel your reservation even if it’s at the last minute.
If you booked the prepaid rate, definitely cancel your reservation in advance. A no-show fee typically depends on how far in advance of the pickup time.
Plan to Skip the Counter
These days, most people are looking for ways to avoid contact with others. It’s easy to avoid the queue when you pick up a rental car at a major airport. You can skip the line or stand in a shorter queue if you join the company’s rewards program.
To take advantage of Alamo’s line-skipping program, you need to check in online. When you get to the airport location, go straight to your car. With most other companies, you need to sign up for the rewards program to take advantage of queue-skipping programs.
Cleanliness is at the forefront for car rentals during the covid-19 pandemic. Major car rental companies clean vehicles after each rental. If you’re concerned, consider bringing your own disinfecting wipes to go over the key fob, door handle, steering wheel, control buttons and other high-touch areas.
The Avis and Budget websites say “We are paying special attention to interior customer touch points such as seats, steering wheels, door handles and other hard surfaces. We are also cleaning our facilities frequently with recommended sanitizing products. In addition, we are taking steps to ensure the welfare of our employees.”
Bring Your Own Toll Transponder
It pays to use your own toll transponder because it’s less expensive than renting one from the rental car company. In these times, bringing your own transponder helps you avoid interacting with toll booth attendants.
Wherever you are driving, there’s a good chance you’ll hit at least one toll road. Three major toll agencies control much of the country, while a few states run their own toll programs. Whether you’re traveling in the Southeast, Texas or the Chicago area, it makes sense to buy a toll pass before you go.
E-ZPass is the largest toll consortium, which oversees tolls from Illinois to Virginia and up to Maine. That is the entire Northeast and much of the Great Lakes region. An E-ZPass transponder is a portable, plastic box that’s mounted to a windshield with velcro.
Coronavirus Policies at Major Car Rental Companies
All of the major companies have policies in place for car rentals during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Avis Budget Group COVID-19 Policies
Avis: Need to change a reservation? You can do it without incurring any change fees. Are you an Avis Preferred member? Avis will extend your Preferred Plus and above status for another year through January 15, 2022, regardless of your 2020 rental activity.
Budget: If you need to change a reservation, you can do so without incurring any change fees.
The Hertz Corporation COVID-19 Policies
Hertz: Customers who booked pre-paid rentals directly with Hertz prior to March 13th can cancel their reservation for no fee. You can transfer your balance toward a future booking within 24 months. Customers who booked through a third-party are encouraged to contact that party directly.
Dollar: Customers who booked pre-paid rentals directly with Dollar prior to March 13th can cancel for no fee and transfer their balance for use toward a future booking within 24 months. Customers who have booked through a third-party are encouraged to contact that party directly.
Thrifty: Customers who booked pre-paid rentals directly with Thrifty prior to March 13th can cancel their reservation for no fee. You can transfer the balance for a future booking to be used within 24 months. Customers who booked through a third-party are encouraged to contact that party directly.
Enterprise Holdings COVID-19 Policies
Enterprise: The company extended its existing no-fee cancellation policy to include customers who booked pre-paid rentals directly through Enterprise. Customers who booked a rental through a third-party are encouraged to contact that party directly.
National: The company has extended its existing no-fee cancellation policy to include customers who booked pre-paid rentals directly through National. Customers who booked a rental through a third-party are encouraged to contact that party directly.
Alamo: The company has extended its existing no-fee cancellation policy to include customers who booked pre-paid rentals directly through Alamo. Customers who booked a rental through a third-party are encouraged to contact that party directly.
Other Car Rental Company COVID-19 Policies
Sixt: If your rental pickup location is in a highly affected coronavirus area (e.g. Italy and specific areas in France) or in countries with travel restrictions (e.g. USA or Israel), you may rebook or cancel your prepaid reservation.