With airlines cutting back or cutting out service to smaller towns across the US, it’s increasingly likely that business travelers will be picking up rental cars at major airports, and then driving to small town destinations. While rental car prices are expected to remain relatively flat in the coming year due to increased competition, it’s still smart to shop around for the best rate. Here are some tips on how to do that:
>First, get a handle on the “going rate” for the type of car you want by checking online comparison sites such as rentalcars.com and be sure to compare rates at both on- and off-airport locations.
>Car rental prices vary from city to city, and if there is a large event in town or if you are traveling during a long holiday weekend, you might pay close to $100 per day for a car that would rent for $25 on slower days.
>Although there’s little you can do about them, local taxes and fees on rental cars can be excessive, so be sure they are included in the rates you are comparing.
>Rental car companies often list deals and specials on their websites, like big discounts if you are willing to pre-pay and forego any refunds. Discounts may also be available through your affiliations with organizations such as the American or Canadian Automobile Associations.
>A helpful new car rental search site called autoslash.com will continue to scour the internet for coupons and other discounts after you reserve you car on its site — and then automatically re-book you at the lower rate.
>If you are travelling in less than a week, check to see if there is any unsold inventory posted on Hotwire.com or Travelzoo, two sites that specialize in last-minute car rental deals. Keep in mind that the least expensive cars may not always be the smallest ones, since last-minute rates are based on unsold inventory, which is often made up of full-sized cars, trucks or vans.
>Additional auto insurance is not always necessary and can sometimes add 20% to 40% to the total cost of your rental. If you have personal automobile insurance, it most likely extends to rentals. Check with your insurance company to be certain you are covered for both collision and liability.
>If you don’t have personal insurance, the credit card you use to pay for the rental might offer coverage, but again, you should check before you depart. Homeowners or renters insurance usually covers theft of personal property from the rental car, so you may be able to decline that too without losing coverage.
>When picking up your car, be sure to inspect the exterior for any damage, no matter how minute and note it on your contract to avoid any extra charges.
>Finally, it is always less expensive to fill up the car at a local gas station before you return it, so decline the money-losing offer to pre-pay for a full tank and bring the car back empty.
And stay at Best Western—where parking is usually included in the rate!