Car Rental Discounts – Everything You Need to Know

As rental cars become more complex and harder to find, daily rates are soaring in popular travel destinations. But there are still some great deals to be found.

Corporate codes, university codes, and AARP discounts can save travelers significant money on car rentals. But be sure to consider all the options before booking.

Discounts for members of loyalty programs

On purchases of automobile rentals, several credit cards provide points, miles, or cash back. Some also partner with car rental companies to provide special discounts and upgrades for cardholders. Some, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, include primary rental car insurance. However, the terms and conditions of these partnerships are essential to understand. In addition, some credit card programs offer status matches that can give you elite benefits for a trip or even a lifetime.

Most rental car loyalty programs are free to join and offer fast, easy sign-up. Some, like National’s Emerald Club, allow members to bypass the counter and choose any vehicle in the Emerald Aisle. In contrast, others include complimentary additional drivers, discounts on GPS rentals and prepaid fuel, and class upgrades at some locations.

Other programs, such as AARP’s membership-based Discount Program, search for member-only rates when generating quotes and may provide discounted vehicles unavailable at the car rental company’s counter. While AARP and Discount Program membership costs range from $16 to $30 per year, these programs can save travelers a lot on their next road trip.

Another tip to remember is that most of these programs will waive the additional driver fee for spouses, domestic partners, and immediate family members. However, this benefit is only valid on the base rate, not taxes, fees, and surcharges.

Prepaying for your rental

A car rental is a great way to get around a new city or vacation destination without the hassle of owning a vehicle. However, there are many things to consider when booking a rental. One option that can help save money is prepaying for your rental. It will usually offer a discount of 5-15%. It also allows you to reserve a specific vehicle type and avoid surprises at the rental counter.

When deciding whether to prepay for your rental, you should also consider the terms and conditions that come with it. For example, most prepaid rental rates are subject to $25 cancellation fees if the reservation is canceled more than 24 hours in advance or $50 if you cancel less than that. In addition, if you do not show up to pick up your rental, you will forfeit the total amount.

You can reserve your rental car at a prepaid rate on a few third-party booking sites, such as Expedia. These transactions, however, could be more transparent. It indicates that once you have made a payment, the name of the car rental firm will be displayed to you. The company will then be incentivized to sell you additional products and services aggressively. In addition, these deals typically do not honor loyalty program benefits. In the end, a prepaid reservation is often not worth it.

Checking with third-party sites

If you’re a wholesale club member or an organization like AAA or AARP, you can save money on car rental prices using third-party sites. These services allow members to search for rental cars at discounted rates, with free upgrades and waivers of additional driver fees and credit card fee coverage. In addition, these programs provide exclusive car rental deals for their members.

When searching for a car rental, compare the pricing on aggregator websites against the price on the rental car provider’s website. Many of the “best deals” reported on aggregators don’t include taxes and other fees and may be nonrefundable or subject to a cancellation fee, which can add up quickly. You can also use a service that scans for discounts based on your membership status and other information, such as your home address.

Another thing to remember is that your car insurance may cover rentals. Check with your car insurance company to determine if this is the case. If not, consider buying supplemental coverage from the rental car company. However, beware of sales pitches from pushy rental car companies that will try to sell you expensive insurance. In most cases, your car insurance or a credit card will offer adequate protection for a rental.

Booking early

While waiting and booking a car at the last minute may feel tempting, this is often one of the worst moves. As the rental company approaches your trip, fewer models will be available, and their daily rates will increase if you can book as soon as you know your dates.

Membership discounts and coupons can also save you a lot of money. For example, Costco and AAA members typically get very cheap car rentals, and membership in these programs is well worth the annual fee. Other membership organizations offer inexpensive car rental rates. Airline frequent flyer programs also have partnerships with car rental companies that can result in substantial discounts.

Another way to save on a car rental is to avoid unnecessary add-ons. These extra fees can add up quickly, especially if you rent for an extended time. 

Make sure you are fully aware of the terms and conditions of the rental agreement before committing to it. Michaels advises checking the fine print, which sometimes has geographical restrictions and rules about bringing pets or smoking in the car. He also recommends confirming that the pickup and drop-off times are correct.