Want to keep your car rental costs down? Scoring a great deal on a rental car is only half the battle. There are myriad ways to sabotage your sweet deal at the rental car counter.
Got small kids? You may need a car seat or two for your rental car. Unfamiliar with the local area? The rental car agent might suggest a GPS navigation system. Like in-car entertainment? Satellite radio is an option. The problem with these add-ons is that they will drive your rental car costs way up—sometimes even surpassing the rental rate itself.
Here are easy ways to avoid or minimize costly add-on charges:
How to Get a Free Car Seat in a Rental Car
All the major rental companies offer child seats. It’s a great source of revenue, since they can rent a $60 child seat hundreds of times for $10-$15 per day. You don’t need to be a math whiz to figure out that this is a huge money maker.
Want to avoid the charge? Join the AAA for as little as $60 a year. One of the many membership perks is that AAA members who rent from Hertz get one free car seat. On a one-week rental, this can add up to over $100 in savings. Even if the Hertz rate is slightly higher than that of other companies—and the AAA discount code can bring the cost down significantly—savings on the car seat alone can more than make up the difference.
The other strategy is to bring your car seat with you. While it can be a pain to lug a car seat through an airport, you will ultimately save big bucks on your rental car.
How to Get a Free GPS Navigation System in a Rental Car
Paper maps have become a thing of the past for many people. The convenience and efficiency of GPS-based navigation systems make them a compelling add-on when traveling in unfamiliar areas, and rental companies are more than happy to cater to their customer base by offering portable units for rental for up to $15 per day.
How to Get Free In-Car Entertainment in a Rental Car
Got a long trip and want to spend your drive listening to the big game or a particular radio station? Instead of opting for pricey satellite radio, consider the free TuneIn Radio app, which offers hundreds of sports, news, music and podcast options.
How to Minimize the Cost of Rental Car Add-Ons
Even if you absolutely need a car rental add-on, you can also sometimes negotiate at the counter for a discounted rate or to waive the fee entirely. Your chances of succeeding go up considerably if you’re taking another add-on anyway. Before you agree to rental car insurance, ask if they’ll throw in the GPS for free or give you a discount. Rental agents work on commission, so they’re often willing to sweeten the deal if you’ll take one or more add-on items. If you don’t ask, you don’t get.
The key to getting a good deal is to think strategically. Calculate the total cost with options when comparing rates across companies. If you save $20 on the base rental cost with Company A, but end up paying $50 in options, you’ve actually lost money. You don’t want to be penny wise and pound foolish.