Saving Money on Car Rentals

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I work from home most of the time, so we only have one vehicle. That means I rent when I need to drive to a business meeting a couple of hours away. This saves money and miles on our car. It’s also translates into about the same amount of money for my employer since they’d be reimbursing me 53 cents a mile if I drove our car.

I’m saying all this to establish my bona fides. I rent a lot of vehicles.

So I know how the scam works. Sure it’s a special deal of $24.99 a day to rent the car. But don’t you want to pre-pay the gas? That way you don’t have to fill it up before you drop it off.

Generally, no. You don’t want to pre-pay. Only if you know you’re going to use an entire tank of gas do you want to pre-pay. Otherwise, you want to put just enough gas in the car to make up for what you use. Prepaying often means you’re paying for gas you didn’t burn.

Do you want to take the insurance? That depends as well. There are two ways to handle this. First you check with your own auto insurance policy. Does it cover liability or damage to a rental car? Some cover liability but not collision/damage. Some cover both. Find out ahead of time and be prepared to show your insurance card.

Another way to skip the extra insurance is to use a credit card that will cover your costs in the event of damage to the rental car. Check with the credit card company first. If your card doesn’t, shop around for a credit card that does.

Don’t pay for an upgrade. Seriously no. You are purchasing transportation, not an ego boost. Some rental companies have sexy upscale vehicles for you to rent for a premium. A sizeable premium… in the rental fee and in the insurance. Don’t do it. I recently got a (free-ish) upgrade to a BMW for a day. It was a seriously underwhelming experience driving-wise, and even though the “upgrade” was free, I still got charged a couple extra dollars in concession fees, which are based on the value of the vehicle. *sigh*

And finally, watch the mileage costs. Find a rental company that will give you a hefty chunk of miles per day so you won’t be paying per mile for the overage. Better yet, look for the deals with unlimited miles.


So there you are. A few tips that can save you some serious cash. Any tips of your own? Put them in the comments and educate us all!

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Reformed road warrior with side interests in human rights, fuzzy creatures, great food, and a healthier planet.

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