Are you a foreigner or a local planning a trip to popular American destinations but are worried about how to save money when renting a car in America? If yes, then you have reached the right place.
Automobiles are a necessity that is not going anywhere anytime soon. We all are well aware of how we need a solid means of transportation whether we are in our home town, a new city or even a new country.
Sure, public transportation is available to everyone, but they are not always an ideal solution. You can be in a new city in America for any purpose. It can be for leisure or for business.
No matter what the reason is, a good mode of transportation is the only way through which you can enjoy your travel and exploration. Renting a car in America is no rocket science. It is one of the most common options that people go for when they are in a foreign land.
But sometimes, this popular option can be heavy on pockets, especially if you do not know the cheapest way to rent a car for a week, month, or year.
Renting a car in America cost different from state to state and city to city. You can make this an affordable option for yourself if you follow our guide on how to save money when renting a car in America. In this article, we will tell all the secrets that car renting companies do not want you to know.
Let us begin.
How To Save Money When Renting A Car In America? – Budget Car Rental
Car rental in the USA for foreigners as well as natives can become an expensive affair if you take it lightly. Renting a car requires proper research and planning for you to get a price acceptable per your finances. For smooth travel around the city, a personal vehicle is a must. You not only get the privacy but are able to explore the new place with utmost ease.
There are a lot of things that you have to take into consideration whether you wish to rent top European car brands or Japanese car brands. Below, we have twelve effortless ways that you can follow to save smartly the next time you rent a car in America.
1. Book In Advance
Just like there are best times to buy a car, similarly, there are best times to book a rental car. The first step that answers how to save money when renting a car in America is booking your rental car in advance.
As soon as you have finalized your travel plan, book the car rental immediately. You can explore top names like thrifty car rental, dollar car rental, and others and get everything set beforehand.
The truth is, the sooner you book your car, the cheaper it will be for you. The closer you rent a car to your travel date; the more price will be demanded by the car rental company.
It is purely business. Companies see the desperation in the customer and ask for high prices. And as you have no other option as your travel date is near, you end up paying more than what you had in your mind. Thus, you should look for a car rental near me and book weeks or months before your travel schedule.
2. Renting Location
It does not matter whether you are going to New York, Washington, Cincinnati, or any other exotic American city. There are several car rental companies available in different parts or locations within a single city.
To avoid the hassle of pick and drop, you should look for car rental companies nearest to the place you are staying. It is because choosing to rent a car from a company five miles away from your hotel will be cheaper compared to a company on the other end of the city.
3. Skip The Airport
Most travelers, especially first-timers, avoid booking a rental car in advance. They have the impression that they can get one at the airport and avoid any hassle for themselves.
While this is true, most people do not know that renting a car from the airport is way cheaper than any other place. Airports offer convenience. But this convenience is nothing but a premium affair that not everyone will be able to handle.
The busier the time, the more you will be charged. For example, if you visit an American city during peak tourist periods, renting a car at the airport can be out of your means. Also, there are airport surcharges that often come as fixed dollar figures. So, avoid renting vehicles at airports unless it is your only option.
4. Shop Around
One of the best things about living in current times is that we have internet for our convenience. With the help of the internet, look at popular American car rental companies like kayak car rental, hertz car rental, Costco car rental, and others.
Narrow down your choices and then explore the official websites of your top choices. Most car rental companies offer booking via their online platform and require you to pay in advance.
But before you go with one, check if the rentals they are offering are refundable or non-refundable. Generally, most car rentals in America are non-refundable. But if you look properly, you might end up with a refundable option.
5. Do Not Get Fooled By The Discount
Whether you explore Hertz USA, budget car rental, or enterprise car rental, you will see they all offer discounts to their customers. Most people, without taking a second, jump for the biggest discount they see. But this is not right.
Just because a car rental is offering a discount does not mean it is cheaper than the company not offering any. Please understand that discounts are not always the cheapest. Also, the bigger the discount, the more money you will save is a myth.
So, do not opt for renting a car in America simply by looking at discounts. Do proper price calculations, compare different company’s offers, and then see which one is the cheapest. You will be shocked to see that sometimes, companies offering discounts turn out to be more expensive than the companies offering little to no discounts.
6. Leverage Membership Programs
Another way you can save while renting a car in the USA is by leveraging membership programs. If you rent vehicles from time to time, and that too from a particular car rental company, then it is possible you are a member with perks.
If you have a membership in any of the top car rental companies, you are easily eligible for better deals, discounts, and bonuses compared to people with no such thing.
So, if you have such a membership program going on with a rental company, you should prefer to leverage it instead of going with a completely different company.
7. Go With Economy Cars
Driving in a luxury car does seem like a nice idea. However, it is an expensive one. The more premium ride you rent, the more price you will have to pay. So, if you want to save money when renting a car in America. Go for the economy cars. They are typically the cheapest.
A secret trick here is that economy cars are always in demand. So, if you ask your car rental company for one and they do not have it, there is a high chance you can get a free upgrade.
The only thing to remember while booking a car type is that it should be big enough for you and your luggage. Going for a smaller ride in order to save money will be no good if you end up getting all cramped up inside.
If you wish to have a spacious ride, go for a van. They are big and cost-effective. You can get one from 12 12-passenger van rental or the nearest van rental at your location.
8. Stick To One Driver
Driving in a new location is thrilling, but it can cost you. If only one person will be driving the rental car all the time, it is no issue. However, suppose you want your fellow traveler to drive. In that case, most rental car companies will charge a daily fee of around $12 to $15 from you to add an extra driver.
To avoid this fee, we recommend you stick with one drive through your entire trip. Some rental companies waive the additional fee if the extra driver is a spouse. But it is a rare occurrence.
9. Do Not Forget The Insurance
Everything is a bit easy when one has insurance. The same applies to the car rental industry. Having insurance not only helps to save on unbudgeted expenses but also helps avoid certain kinds of problems. Some car rental companies readily provide insurance to their customers.
Under the best-case scenario, always use your own best auto insurance. Most primary insurance can cover you when you rent a car. However, if you do not have car insurance, you will have to pay an insurance fee to your car rental company, thus increasing your rental fee.
In addition, many credit cards provide basic insurance coverage if you use them to pay for your rental. So, check if your credit card offers such a thing. If it does, you will save a lot on your booking.
10. Do Not Get Fooled By The Extras
To make more money, car rental companies offer their customers extra benefits like dash cam for security, roadside assistance, tires replacement, satellite radio, GPS navigation, and more. Say no to all these extras. You will be doing yourself a big favor by avoiding these temptations and saving a lot.
11. Inspect The Car
Before you take your car out of the rental company store and begin your exploration, inspect the vehicle they are providing. Check if the car shakes on acceleration, if the AC works well, does the car smells, tire condition, engine oil, oil filter, and engine’s condition.
If you avoid inspection and drive away with a defective car, you will have to pay for any damage that occurs during your rental period. It does not matter whether you did that damage or not. The company will argue that they provided you with a fully functional vehicle, and thus, you are liable.
To avoid such incidents, you should inspect the car in front of a company’s personnel. And if you encounter any issues, have the company change the ride ASAP.
12. Decide Whether Prepaid Or Postpaid Gas
Most car rental companies ask you to pay for the fuel before. Before you do that, use online platforms like GasBuddy to find all the nearby gas stations and current fuel prices in a particular city. Factor in your travel plan. Longer trips will ask for more fuel, while shorter trips will be okay on a single tank.
The Big Question: Ride Or Walk?
All the tips that we have mentioned above will help you greatly and are the best answer to how to save money when renting a car in America. However, despite doing all this, some of you might still find renting a car out of your desired budget.
In that case, you need to take a step back and think whether you actually need a car rental or not. You can explore most of the American cities on foot as they all have walkable downtowns and extensive public transportation networks.
Also, there are taxis and now modern ridesharing applications. So, decide if you can skip the car rental and opt for walking. Because if you can, you will be saving yourself a whole lot of money.
This guide covers the easiest and doable answers to how to save money when renting a car in America. Some car renting companies provide you with perks whether you are a new or old member, whereas others don’t.
All the methods mentioned above are sure ways to save money. However, if you want more, you can learn more here.