How do you book your rental car? Do you wait until you arrive at the airport and then take your chances your favorite agency will have the car you want for the right price? Or do you book it in advance, or in conjunction with your flights?
A number of years ago my friend Janna told me her trick, and I’ve been doing it ever since.
When I book a trip, I automatically look at the rental car situation. We always rent a mini-van. I know, what a horrid thought, I refuse to own a mini-van, but with kids and luggage, they are so practical, especially for road-trips. Next to luxury cars mini-vans are one of the most expensive vehicles to rent. My rule of thumb is, never pay more than $500/week all in for the mini-van, preferably less.
Janna says, book your rental car, and then regularly check back to see if you can find a better deal. If you do, book that and cancel the old booking (naturally this only works if you aren’t pre-paying). You would be surprised to see how much rental car rates fluctuate.
I am currently looking to book a mini-van for an upcoming trip. I like to start my search by checking Kayak.com. I rarely book through them, but they give me an overall feel for where the prices are at. Then I will go directly to the rental agencies and check their prices. This gives me the opportunity to enter coupon codes. Another place I will look is Costco.com. If you are a Costco member, check with them – at the very top of their website is a TRAVEL link. For our past few trips Costco has always had the best rates. Additionally the spouse drives free (always a perk).
When I first started looking at rentals for our up-coming trip, minivans were pricing at $720/week. Yikes. One early Saturday morning I happened to check, and I found one at $520/week – and booked it (though I hope the price will come down yet)! The next day the price had jumped back up to $740. This morning I’ve found one for $693 directly with Advantage. Enterprise is showing $926 for the same week. Avis wants $973. I am hoping the price will drop yet. Closer to the actual travel date I may check Hotwire.com. Their deals seem to get better the closer to your trip you get.
The one thing I haven’t figured out yet is what to do about that rental car insurance. Our car insurance for home will cover rental cars in the US and in Canada (if you stay within 70 miles of the US border). But what about if you are traveling elsewhere? What do you do? I do hate shelling out the exorbitant insurance fees at the rental counter. I’d love to hear your ideas on this.