Best Rental Car Rates

“Service is the rent we pay for being. It is the very purpose of life, and not something you do in your spare time.”–Marian Wright Edelman

Knowing how to get the best car rental rate is a handy skill to have, because vacationing has never been more important. The hectic pace of modern life has never been more stressful. Work, childcare, commuting, and chores can all add up. When it comes to putting a stop to stress, nothing beats a great vacation.

But nothing would be more frustrating than getting to your destination, whether it’s a dream vacation to Paris or a quick weekend getaway to Vegas, and to have to rely on a public transportation system you’re unfamiliar with or to blow all your spending money on cab fare.  So naturally, you’ll want to be renting a car.

In today’s tough economic times, money is tighter than ever. You need to make sure to stretch every dollar to it’s fullest, even when renting a car for your vacation. Not to worry. Just follow these simple steps on how to get the best car rental rate and you’ll be in business.

1. Join the club

One easy way to get the best car rental rate is to join one (or more) of the various rental car loyalty programs made available by rental companies. Both National’s Emerald Club and Alamo’s Quicksilver Club allow members to earn free days, miles, or points redeemable for different rewards. These programs also often offer discounts unavailable anywhere else. Both of these clubs are free to join, and easy to register for on the companies’ websites.

For example, to register for National’s Emerald Club, just go to National Car and click the link reading “enroll now.”  Do keep in mind, however, that registering for clubs such as these will probably cause an increase in “junk mail” type advertisements you receive.

Also, most credit card companies will have similar discount clubs that will offer not only discounts on rental rates, but other services that will allow you to avoid hidden fees and charges appearing on your final bill. For instance, if you’re paying with an American Express card, you won’t need to buy collision damage waiver insurance from the rental car company. Amex cardholders are automatically covered, so only take the liability coverage.

How to Get the Best Car Rental Rate

How to Get the Best Car Rental Rate

2. Do some research

Make sure you are choosing the car company that suits your needs so that you’re not wasting money on services that are not right for you. For instance, if you do not have a car but always wanted to take that good old, all-American “road trip,” consider Enterprise, which will pick you up at your home and drop you back off after you return the car.

Or, consider either National or Budget, which unlike most other car rental companies allow you to rent one way and return the car in a different location from where you picked it up. This can be a great option if you’ve always wanted to, for instance, take a scenic drive up the California coastline You could fly into San Diego, rent a car, drive up to San Francisco, and fly home from there.

You’ll also want to check online travel agencies such as Orbitz or Expedia. These websites are fast and easy to use and allow you to compare more than one company’s rates at once. Moreover, these agencies often negotiate special rates with car companies allowing you to get a better deal.

3. Be (a little) inconvenienced

Sometimes making small changes in your plans can make a huge difference in the amount of money you need to spend. Things that sound like a big convenience may not, in the long run, be worth the extra cash.

For instance, while it may sound like it’s worth it to pick that car up right at the airport, realize that airport-based locations usually have the highest rates. It might be cheaper to take a cab into town and rent a car from there.

Likewise, if you’re planning to rent a vehicle for about a month, make sure and double check the difference between the company’s rate at 28 days and at 39-31 days. Cutting your trip short by one day probably won’t make a huge difference in the quality of your trip, but it might make a significant difference in the price you pay! ‘

You’ll also want to carefully check for weekend rates. Most companies offer discounted rates for the weekend rentals, but may not start those rates until noon.  You’ll pay a lot more if you pick your car up at eleven, so while it may seem annoying to stand around an airport terminal for an hour it might be worth financially in the end.

Now that you know how to get the best car rental rate, get searching. Car rentals are like airline tickets in that the earlier you book them, the more money you’ll save. So when you find that perfect rate, reserve it right away, guilt-free, knowing that you’ve been smart with your money. You deserve the perfect getaway, and as part of that getaway, you’ll be needing the perfect rental car.

Note: If your credit rating is in poor shape you may consider using a service that offers car rentals without credit cards.

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