Thursday, July 23, 2009

5 Creative Ideas to Saving on Car Rentals

By Mike Grasso

Sure we've heard the advice to use websites sites as Kayak which search multiple sites at once, enabling you to easily compare car rental prices. Great recommendation, but if you are a bargain shopper (and who doesn't love a great bargain?), it's only a start. Here are five creative tips to ensure you drive off the lot paying some of the lowest car rental rates available:

  • Once you locate the appropriate fare and car rental agency, do a web search for discounts that can be applied to your reservation. Literally hundreds of discount codes are available for use, it’s just a matter of finding the right codes. My favorite site for finding these discounts is Be mindful of the terms and conditions with discount codes. For example, if you are using a discount code which nets 25% off to Stanford Alumni, you should be prepared to show your credentials.
  • Book early and revisit later. Most car rental agencies in the United States do not require prepayment of rentals. So make your reservation early, then revisit as your rental date nears. This allows you to take advantage of any last minute car rental discounts, but also piece of mind knowing if, instead rates happen to spike up, you still have your original reservation.
  • Consider Priceline’s, “name your own price” bidding option. When companies have a surplus of cars on their lot, they turn to Priceline to unload these at discounted prices. I’ve easily saved 40% on identical car rental reservations by using this Priceline feature. Drawbacks: You don’t know which car rental agency you are matched with until your bid is accepted. Also, full prepayment is required, and changes are generally not permitted.
  • One more place! Check with – another favorite of mine. Like Priceline, they do not give you the choice of car rental agencies, but they are upfront about the price of the car rental – often heavily discounted. I’ve found $14.99/day rentals at SFO before.
  • Finally, just before you click that purchase button, review your itinerary. If you are flying to Seattle, make sure the quoted car rental is for the airport (assuming that’s where you want to pick up), and not a downtown location. Are your dates and pick-up times correct? Are the discount codes being properly applied to your reservation? Sometimes getting so caught up searching so many sites, it’s easy to overlook the small – yet most important details. Resolving issues early on will help ensure a smoother process when you pick up your car later.