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Renting a car - tips and tricks - READ FIRST POST FOR CUMULATIVE TIPS

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Nov 18, 2005
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Renting a car - tips and tricks - READ FIRST POST FOR CUMULATIVE TIPS

I learned a new tip last weekend and thought it might be fun to hear others' tips as well as share my own.

Please share your tips/tricks. I'll add the best to this post to have a consolidated list.

TO KEEP THIS THREAD AS CONCISE AND USEFUL AS POSSIBLE, PLEASE DON'T ASK FOR ADVICE ON A SPECIFIC RENTAL. READ THE TIPS AND APPLY THEM. IF YOU NEED ADVICE ON A PARTICULAR SITUATION. PLEASE START A NEW THREAD. THANK YOU FOR YOUR CO-OPERATION.

PRICE SHOPPING TIPS
  • If you are renting from an airport, use Orbitz to find which rental agencies are at terminal and off terminal (I use Orbitz because Consumer Reports said it gave the best rates but that was a while ago). Note that off terminal rates are usually cheaper so decide whether you want convenient or cheaper. Or maybe you can get both! You may be able to get the cheaper rate by renting off-terminal but actually return it to the terminal without any additional cost.
  • After you've done some initial looking and find a rate that could be acceptable and can be cancelled, book it. Then go shopping until you find a rate you're really happy with. You can book something new and cancel your previous booking as often as you like. Just make sure you don't book a rate that can't be cancelled.
  • Register your rental at www.autoslash.com. It will automatically monitor your rental and look for lower rentals. golfer 29 also advises that when you get an email that a lower cost rental is available, go to the rental companies website to see if something even lower is available. Thanks to golfer29
  • Check out the websites of rental agencies directly. They OFTEN have rates that are better than you will see on the Expedia's and Orbitz type of websites.
  • Try out discount codes. There are a few threads in Hot Deals that have discount codes that can get you great deals.
  • Check out rates on Hotwire. Not sure if you can guarantee a rental in terminal, but you can be sure it will be a quality rental agency.
  • Consider Name your own price on Priceline. But first go to BetterBidding.com to find out the rates others have won. You can be very surprised at how cheap rates get. Often cheaper than you would consider bidding.
  • Look for discount codes on Fatwallet. Oftentimes, they have links to Mastercard/Visa coupons that have saves us at least 50%. Thanks to jacksorbetta
  • Keep those pesky credit card inserts with rental car coupons. Usually have long expiry dates, and can be stacked with current promos. Thanks to jacksorbetta
  • Book early. 30 advance booking can have substantial savings, no deposit required, and upgrades or free nights. Thanks to jacksorbetta
  • kramerz80 recommends http://www.carrentalsavers.com/
CAR RENTAL INSURANCE TIPS
You should make sure you're covered for liability AND collision/damage insurance.
  • Note that CDW (Collision Damage Waiver) and LDW (Loss Damage Waiver) are the same thing: they cover damage the the car but not liability
  • Usually liability can/will be covered through your home auto insurance policy. Make sure it is.
  • Collision can be covered by your credit card. Make sure it is. If you are relying on this make sure you understand all the terms of YOUR card BEFORE you rent. Terms do vary by credit card. For example, my card requires a police report if your damage is over $1,000 (which isn't much) and you have to report it within 48 hours.
  • If collision isn't covered by your credit card, goodzyk says you may be able to add it to your home auto insurance policy for an annual fee of about $50
  • If you are relying on your credit card insurance and/or your home auto insurance make sure it applies in the country you are travelling to. They may only apply to certain countries or exclude certain countries.
  • Here is a link to car rental insurance jargon
Here are tips I learned last weekend:

Rental companies monitor the arrival/departure time of cars very closely. This means that if you are looking for a car at 2pm and there aren't many cars available, you may see a high price. But if more cars are coming in at 3pm the price may be much lower. So you may want to vary your pickup time when you are doing searches.

It is always a good idea to include your air travel information for two reasons:
  1. If your flight is scheduled to arrive near their closing time and arrives late they will wait for you.
  2. If you don't pick up your car at the time you said you would, they could cancel your reservation. Then when you do show up they will book a new rental for you at horribly high rates. If you have your air travel info entered this won't happen. This actually happened to the guy I was talking to and his new rate was $180/day. Fortunately he noticed and they fixed it back to his booked rate.
    • Hotwire rentals are apparently held for 24 hours (thanks shann)
For travel from Canada to the US use Avis or Hertz, they both provide unlimited km and have no problem with US travel. Others may not allow or charge an additional premium for taking it to the US (thanks lexani)

NEVER TRIED THIS ONE BUT I recall reading it in another RFD thread to get a larger car/minivan rental cheaper: Rent a small car via Priceline. Call a local office for that rental car company and say you'd like to upgrade your rental. They will/may only charge you the differential between the rates. You can always do this at the point of pickup (you know how they often ask you if you'd like to upgrade for just $X a day) but if you aren't a risk taker you might be able to do it before you go.

Some car rental threads in Hot Deals:
HERTZ Car Rental Discount Code & Coupons(50% OFF/Free #1 Gold/$40 off)
Avis SUV rental: Intermediate: $159/week, $22/weekend day. Standard: $169/$25
Budget rental: Car (as low as)$17/weekend day, $119/week. SUV (as low as)$22/$139
118 replies
Sr. Member
Mar 22, 2006
902 posts
102 upvotes
Great post.

Another very useful site is www.autoslash.com

If the price drops, they will automatically rebook you at the lower rate. This way you don't need to keep monitoring to see if prices drop. If/when I receive an email, I start looking at Orbitz and Costco to see if the rates are even cheaper if booking with the company directly.

I am not affiliated with this site in any way but I use it all the time and it has saved me a lot of money
Sr. Member
Aug 24, 2011
787 posts
220 upvotes
Montreal
Also very important - if you are driving to the U.S find out if there are daily charges ($7.95 ~), or mileage limits (often it's 200KM/Day), States where you can and can not take the car. The last point is crucial in case of an accident or issue with the car.


I've learnt all this while planning my trip to NYC/Atlantic City on March 9 - 14.
I chose Alamo (double upgrade promo for inside members).

You need to register first.

ID CORP : 7015135
Coupon Code: AU2852SDA

Tax in = $140 for a Standard Size


OT: if anyone has a better deal than this, please share!
Deal Addict
Apr 4, 2007
2133 posts
115 upvotes
GTA
I rent about 3-4 days out of the week for business and here's a couple tricks I learned in the last few years.

1) With any of the big agencies (Hertz/Avis and now National) if you opt for additional services (usually they're $5 or so) you'll most likely get placed in a SUV or larger car - even if you book one of the midsize and/or compact sedans. Ex. I've received Jeep Grand Cherokees when reserved full size because I took the neverlost system.

2) In addition to the first point, for anyone who travels frequently, you should consider enrolling into specialty programs. I use National now regularly and I pay midsize/full size rates and get loaded up with luxury cars/SUV's.

3) Watching the times helps as other posters have indicated.

4) Shop around flyertalk.com for discount codes/coupons.

5) Sometimes it just pays to talk to the agents at the booth, if you book a midsize or below, just ask them if there's anything else, 90% of the time, especially at busier locations, they'll upgrade you. (Ex. Corolla --> BMW 328i, Impala --> Nissan Maxima, Malibu --> Lincoln MKS), those are just to name a few.
Deal Addict
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Jan 11, 2004
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Victoria
A lot of rental car lots don't even have economy cars so if you are ok with being possibly stuck with one book economy and you'll get mid or full.
Jr. Member
May 25, 2009
158 posts
5 upvotes
if you dont have a credit card that has a collision insurance feature(fee based card) it is a lot cheaper to add this option onto your car insurance policy for use of rental vehicles..my cost is $50 for the year and covers up to $100,000 damage
[OP]
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Nov 18, 2005
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Kingston
goodzyk wrote:
Mar 3rd, 2012 12:18 pm
if you dont have a credit card that has a collision insurance feature(fee based card) it is a lot cheaper to add this option onto your car insurance policy for use of rental vehicles..my cost is $50 for the year and covers up to $100,000 damage

I didn't know you could get collision insurance on rentals that way. Note that there are no-fee credit cards that have collision protection.
Deal Fanatic
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Feb 20, 2006
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Canada
I recently booked a car rental through Hotwire.

Just a quick note, Hotwire car rentals are held for 24 hours, so as long as you aren't more than 24 hours late, you'll get a car.
Here is the link with that information btw:
http://www.hotwire.com/helpcenter/cars/ ... flight.jsp

Also, JWL, I think you posted this in the Capital One Aspire thread in the Personal Finance section (so thanks), but just a reminder that everyone should check their auto insurance policies if booked through credit card. CO requires a police report if the damage is >$1000 IIRC.

BTW, thanks for the thread, it will be a great resource for many.
He died for me, I live for him.
[OP]
Deal Guru
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Nov 18, 2005
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Kingston
shannn wrote:
Mar 3rd, 2012 2:27 pm
I recently booked a car rental through Hotwire.

Just a quick note, Hotwire car rentals are held for 24 hours, so as long as you aren't more than 24 hours late, you'll get a car.

Also, JWL, I think you posted this in the Capital One Aspire thread in the Personal Finance section (so thanks), but just a reminder that everyone should check their auto insurance policies if booked through credit card. CO requires a police report if the damage is >$1000 IIRC.

Thanks. Added to Op.
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Sep 6, 2002
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golfer29 wrote:
Mar 2nd, 2012 11:12 pm
Great post.

Another very useful site is www.autoslash.com

If the price drops, they will automatically rebook you at the lower rate. This way you don't need to keep monitoring to see if prices drop. If/when I receive an email, I start looking at Orbitz and Costco to see if the rates are even cheaper if booking with the company directly.

I am not affiliated with this site in any way but I use it all the time and it has saved me a lot of money
+1 I tried out the site for a trip I have coming up in 5 months. I've already gotten the rate reduced 3 times.

Really a great site, I wrote a question to the sites admin over some confusion with which car I was getting, and the guy who runs the website quickly responded and provided some awesome info. Very knowledgable.

Great site, I recommend everyone try it. You have to provide an e-mail so they can send you updates, but no registration / e-mail verification hassels.

As for a tip, I always insist that whoever inspects the vehicle on return writes in big letters "NO NEW DAMAGE" or something similar with their handwritten printed name and signature. Unless its an emergency I also refuse to use any sort of night drop box for keys, you are still responsible for any damage that might happen to the car overnight.
Did I post something that interests you? Feel free to PM further questions.
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Aug 16, 2007
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Toronto
Check out some off-airport locations by googling car rental in city xyz. For example, in Fort Lauderdale I'm getting a car for $11/day by having an off-airport company come pick me up rather then $$$ @ the big chains.
Deal Addict
Apr 4, 2007
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matdwyer wrote:
Mar 4th, 2012 1:17 am
Check out some off-airport locations by googling car rental in city xyz. For example, in Fort Lauderdale I'm getting a car for $11/day by having an off-airport company come pick me up rather then $$$ @ the big chains.

These smaller locations that are off-site are cheap, for sure. However, since post '09 I've noticed many of them are high mileage worn out vehicles. I tried one during a personal trip and I'll never do it again. Arrived on the lot and you could tell these cars took a beating. They gave me a Impala with well over 45,xxx miles. No upgrades, nothing. It's cheap but you get what you pay for.

From my experience (around 96-100 rental contracts yearly) - stick with the major chains and use coupons or membership programs.

If you do one rental a year, then do your due diligence.
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Jun 28, 2003
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Ottawa
Great thread! Just a couple of thoughts on my end.

1. Invest in a stand-alone GPS unit. The price for those has gone down significantly over the years and it will pay for itself many times over. There is no need to *rent* one from the car rental places and unless you want to pay exorbitant roaming fees when you travel in the States or anywhere else outside Canada, I would refrain from using your smartphones as GPS devices while traveling abroad. I understand there are ways/apps to get around that but I much prefer having a dedicated GPS unit in areas I am not familiar with.

2. Spend a bit more and get at least an intermediate or full-sized sedan as opposed to an economy or compact one. You and your companions will be thankful, especially for a long trip. We went to Philly last year with a Malibu, it was a solid 8-hour drive each way from Ottawa and it was a breeze for me. With sites like hotwire, priceline mentioned earlier, you should not have to pay much more for a bigger car.

3. When flying in to another city, I prefer to rent cars at the airport locations for a couple of reasons. One is there are more choices and availability, as mentioned by another poster and another is I don't want to return the car at a location far from the airport then get onto the local transit or pay a cab to get to the airport. There could be shuttle buses or courtesy rides but I want to minimize the costs and more importantly *surprises* by having more control over my scheduling.

Happy road-tripping! With the prices of gas expected to go higher this summer, it will be interesting to see what us RFDers will do to save another buck while continuing to enjoy what our great planet has to offer :-)
Please contact for $-saving tips prior to purchasing Mattamy/Monarch homes in Ottawa.
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Jan 18, 2010
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Anyone have any reccomandations on how to get best prices from renting a car in Canada for US travel, most charge extra $10-$20 day for this and cap out KM's once you leave province.
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Apr 4, 2007
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ddp wrote:
Mar 4th, 2012 12:54 pm
Anyone have any reccomandations on how to get best prices from renting a car in Canada for US travel, most charge extra $10-$20 day for this and cap out KM's once you leave province.

Use avis or hertz, they both provide unlimited km and have no problem with US travel. Discount car and truck rental is pretty good top, their 2012 fleet is up there.

I think enterprise is the only one with the 'go to US surcharge'
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