Car hire tips: How to get the cheapest car hire

Sometimes, you just need to rent a car, but why pay an arm and a leg for your rental vehicle? Below are awesome hacks to get the best deal on your next car hire reservation, whether you’re going on a quick trip or a cross-country voyage.

Book as early as possible

This is one of the best ways to get a good deal when renting a car. Car hire costs fluctuate, depending on demand, so you can save cash by booking in advance. You are also more likely to get your preferred vehicle.

Many companies allow you to book a car without having to prepay, as well as cancel your reservation for free, as long as you do so at least 48 hours before pick-up. With this, you can continue to check out other deals even after you have reserved a car.

Look for discounts

When comparing prices, Google the rental firm’s name + coupon code. You can also search sites such as SlickDeals and RetailMeNot. Some companies also post coupon codes on their own Web site, so don’t forget to look there.

For companies that have multiple Web sites, check the rates on their different sites (e.g. the .uk and .com versions). There might be a significant difference in prices.

If your schedule is flexible, you can also play around with the pick-up time and drop-off time to see if there is a better deal.

A nifty free service is Autoslash, which searches a database of car rental coupons for the best one. If you have already made a reservation, it can also track the price of your reservation and notify you when it finds a cheaper rate.

Be smart when it comes to excess insurance

What is included in the rental rate varies widely depending on the country and the service provider. Sometimes, excess insurance — which limits the amount you have to pay if the vehicle gets damaged while in your custody — is not included.

When you pick up the rental car, someone from the company might entice you to get an excess insurance policy. Getting one is a good idea and can give you peace of mind, but getting it from the rental company is not cost-effective. It is better to buy a stand-alone car hire excess waiver policy from a third party, which is typically much cheaper.

If the car gets damaged while in your possession, the rental company will charge you the excess but you can get the money back when you file a claim from the insurer.

Skip inclusions and add-ons you don’t need

Some car hire establishments include things you don’t really need or can get cheaper alternatives to. Some examples:

  • Injury cover (typically covered by your travel insurance)
  • Toll transponder
  • GPS (just use a smartphone app or a paper map)
  • Child/baby car seat (just bring your own)

Pick up the car at an off-airport location

Sure, securing your rental car at the airport is convenient, but not always ideal when it comes to price. Renting at the airport is usually more expensive due to additional taxes and airport fees.

Take note of the fuel policy

Rental cars usually come with a full tank of fuel and you are expected to return the vehicle with a full tank as well. If not, you will be charged a premium price for the fuel.

To save money, fill up the tank before returning the car. Gas stations in or near airports are usually expensive, though, so choose a station that is a few miles away. You can also use apps such as GasBuddy to locate the cheapest fuel station near the rental office.

Stick to a single driver

Most of the time, there is an extra charge for each additional driver so just stick to one driver, if possible.

Inspect the car for damages

Before driving off with your rental vehicle, thoroughly inspect it for any damages. Take pictures or videos of the car from all sides, including the interior. If any of the damages does not appear on the company’s form listing the vehicle’s known issues, report it to the staff. Documenting existing damage can protect you later on from being charged for bumps, scratches or dents you did not cause.

Final thought

Renting a vehicle does not have to be an expensive affair. With a bit of research and effort, you can get a hire car without breaking the bank.

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