There are many costs that go along with just about any vacation. You’ll likely have to shell out for airline tickets, lodgings, food, and entertainment. And if you want to see the sights in and around your destination, you’ll probably want a rental car (which will end up being far less expensive than cab fare and more convenient than mass transit). But before you sign on the dotted line, there are a few things you should know about borrowing a car. Whether it’s your first time using a rental agency or you’ve done it in the past, here are some tips that could help you find a deal (and the right vehicle) when you rent a car for your vacation.
- Book early. This is generally the best way to save a few bucks and ensure that you’ll get a vehicle to suit your travel needs. Although prices fluctuate frequently, you’ll find that they tend to go up the closer you get to the rental date. On the other hand, if you start looking early enough, you may well benefit from seasonal sales. Giving yourself the time needed to hold out for a better price is never a bad idea, and many websites will even allow you to sign up for email notifications when the price drops on the item you’re looking for.
- Use discounts. If you have AAA, some car companies will give you a 10% discount on the price of the rental. But there are other ways to secure discounts on car rentals. You can check travel sites, which regularly offer the best prices on multiple bookings (airline, hotel, and car together) and call the rental agencies directly to find out how to get targeted discounts (sales, special deals, etc.). And of course, you can visit coupons sites or sign up for deal-of-the-day sites (like Groupon) to see what turns up.
- Join the club. If you prefer a particular rental company, then it would behoove you to join their club (most of them have one) in order to rack up miles for purchases and take advantage of special offers. Some companies are also affiliated with other travel organizations, like hotel chains, so that you can increase your rewards when you travel by using the purchase of both lodgings and transportation to earn more points. These clubs are usually free, so even if you don’t travel frequently there’s no reason you shouldn’t sign up.
- Get insured. If you don’t have full coverage insurance that will protect you on any car you drive, then you should always buy the additional coverage offered by the rental car company. Although it will tack $10-20 per day onto your cost, it’s a lot better than having to pay out of pocket for damages that occur while the car is in your possession.
- Choose the right car. In the first place, you should choose the car that fits your needs. For example, a convertible can be fun, but not when you’re in a tropical climate during the rainy season. And while a compact car might be cheap, it won’t do you any good if you can’t fit all of your passengers and luggage, or if you want to do some off-roading on your trip. Secondly, you need to check out the car that’s assigned to you before you leave the lot in order to make sure that all the damage has been accounted for so you don’t get blamed for it upon return.