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Money-Saving Tips: Renting a Car

car, romance

Are you hitting the road this weekend for a romantic 3-day vacay? If you’re planning to rent a car, use these tips so you can spend more on the B&B honeymoon suite and less on the hidden car-rental fees!

  • Consider Zipcar If you’re only planning a day-trip (apple-picking or wine-tasting, anyone?), companies like Zipcar, which rent vehicles by the hour, are usually the more affordable option. If you’re going away for more than a day, though, the per-hour cost will be more than the rental cost of another company, like Enterprise.
  • Avoid airports Car rental places at airports are usually more expensive -- supply and demand at work! Try to rent a car as far away from major transportation hubs as possible.
  • Plan for Sunday closures If your trip ends on a Sunday, you may be forced to pay for an extra rental day because many car rental places are closed. Ask about this when renting.
  • Reserve online Not only can you shop around for deals (Google “rental car discounts” and thank us later!), you can usually talk them into an upgrade when you arrive to pick up your car. Try these bargain sites for starters: Independent Traveler, Rental Car Momma, and Hotwire’s Hotrates
  • Fill the tank! We’re sure you’ve heard this one before, but be sure to fill the tank before you return your car. Car rental companies make loads of money each year by charging customers to top-off unfilled gas tanks of returned cars. Don’t let this be your money!
  • Avoid one-way rentals If you’re planning to drive your rental car somewhere, make sure you ask about drop-off fees. They can be exorbitant! Also, make sure the rental company you use has enough locations to avoid these fees.
  • Look for package deals Try to find online reservation opportunities that include a lower-cost car rental as part of a package with your flight and hotel room.
  • Ask about discounts To lower your rate, ask about discounts for members of national organizations like AAA, frequent-flier programs, and even your college alumni association -- hey, you never know!
  • Size does matter The smallest cars are the cheapest to rent and cost the least to fill up at the pump. If you’re going camping, however, make sure you get a car that will hold all your gear.
  • Join a loyalty program If you are going to rent cars fairly often, join your preferred rental company’s loyalty program. Your information will be kept on file so you’ll be able to simply jump in the car you want whenever you show up to rent!

And my own personal car rental horror story: Be wary of the model! My family rented a Ford Taurus while on vacation in San Francisco about 10 years ago. The Taurus was built with a safety mechanism that would make the car shut off if all the gas was on one side of the tank for too long. This happened while my father was slowly looking for a parking spot on one of the steepest hills. Yep, the car shut down right in the middle of some trolley tracks. True, it was a safety mechanism that caused the shut-down, but it also wasn’t very safe to be stuck in the middle of trolley tracks…

Have a great long weekend!

-- Lauren Le Vine

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