15 Tips to Avoid Overpaying for Rental Cars

Renting a car allows you to explore or get where you need to go on your timetable. You’re not subject to someone else’s schedule when you have a rental car, and you won’t get stuck waiting around for a ride when you’re ready to go.

Unfortunately, renting a car can also be a confusing and frustrating experience. You can never be sure you’re getting a good deal with so many options and hidden fees. The good news is there are ways to ensure you’re not overpaying for a car rental.

Finding the cheapest way to rent a car requires some legwork, but the savings are worth it, whether you’re a frequent renter or need a vehicle for a short business trip or a weekend rental. Here are our best tips for renting a car cheap:

1. Shop Online to Find Cheap Car Rentals

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Start your search for the lowest price on a rental car by looking at sites like Cheapcarrental.com, Kayak, and Priceline. These sites aggregate prices from rental car companies and allow you to sort or filter based on your requirements.

2. Check Rental Car Company Websites

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If you’re looking at rental car rates on a price comparison site, make sure you also check the rental car company’s website. Look for any current deals or coupon codes they advertise on their site. An exclusive deal or special discount may only be available through the official site.

Using the “Pay Now” option on some car rental company websites can get you as much as a 30% discount. Read the terms, though, as pre-payments are usually non-refundable.

3. Check the Weekly and Daily Rates

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Rental rates are generally lower if you book for five or more days when weekly rates kick in. If you need a car for 3 or 4 days, booking a week and returning the vehicle early could be cheaper.

Review the rental agreement if you do the math and find the weekly rate is cheaper before you book. Make sure there are no fees for early returns. Don’t let on that you’ll be returning the car before the rental period ends, or they might stick you with the higher rate.

4. Find a Discount You Qualify For

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There are several ways to get a discount on rental cars through a membership program or your employment. If you belong to any organization, see if you’re eligible for a car rental discount through your membership. Most everyone knows AAA offers discounts, but the discounts between brands can vary. Costco Travel is another excellent resource offering waived fees and special deals.

Special discounts and rental deals are also available to government employees, active-duty military personnel, and veterans. Check with your employer, as you may be eligible for a corporate rate or an employee discount program.

5. Use Credit Card Perks and Frequent Flier Programs

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Frequent flyer programs and travel credit cards often have relationships with rental agencies. In addition to steep discounts, there might be additional perks like free upgrades, bonus points or airline miles, priority reservations, and more. Another reason to check with your credit card issuer is the damage waiver. Car damage waivers cover liability if you get in an accident or your rental car is stolen.

6. Rent Economy Cars

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Economy cars are usually the cheapest option with the major car rental companies. Since they have the lowest price, they often have the highest demand. If the economy vehicle you booked is unavailable when you arrive for pickup, you can usually get a free upgrade.

If an economy car is big enough for your needs, go with the economy class, and you’ll usually get the cheapest rates.

7. Try Discount Car Rental Brands

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You can almost always find a lower rate from one of the discount brands. Rates are low compared to premium brands for a reason, though. They might have a smaller selection of cars, inconvenient pickup locations, or higher fees for add-ons.

Brands include Alamo, Budget, Dollar, or Thrifty, and smaller discount brands like Advantage and Payless. Despite their flaws, the savings value brands offer can be significant. That makes them an alternative worth considering if you’re looking for the cheapest way to rent cars.

8. Rent a Car From Lyft

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Ridesharing service provider Lyft offers rental cars in several cities through its app. Most rentals are fulfilled through a partnership with Sixt, but Lyft operates its rental service in some places.

With Lyft, you get unlimited miles, no additional driver fees, and Lyft credits to get you to and from the pickup location. Prices range from average to much cheaper than traditional rental agencies, so the app is worth checking.

9. Try a p2p Car Rental Service

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Peer-to-peer rental services like Turo and Getaround have sprung up to disrupt the car rental business. Unlike traditional car rentals with a fleet of cars, you rent an individual’s personal vehicle. The P2P service acts as the middleman, similar to how Airbnb facilitates lodging rentals.

The booking process is straightforward, convenient, and often cheaper. You can book your rental through a smartphone app and then pick it up from the owner, or a willing owner might deliver their car for an additional fee based on availability. When you’re done, you return the vehicle to the owner.

10. Don’t Pick Up Your Rental Car at the Airport

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Picking up your rental car at the airport when you fly in is convenient, but convenience is expensive. Car rental companies pay a concession fee to the airport, which they pass on to their customers. You can expect to spend $30 or so to pick up your rental car at the airport.

You can avoid this fee by picking up your car at a different location. If the rental car company has an airport location, other rental locations could be nearby. A free shuttle service or public transportation might be available, but if you have to take an Uber or cab ride, price it out and determine if the savings are worth it.

11. Stick To One Driver if Possible

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Adding an extra driver might be necessary if you’re taking a long road trip or doing a long-term rental. Just know that an additional driver costs around $10 to $15 daily. If your additional driver is under 25, you can also expect an underage driver fee of $20 – $35 daily.

12. Skip the Extras

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Car rental agents typically earn commissions on sales of add-ons like rental insurance, vehicle upgrades, satellite radio, roadside assistance, etc. Even if the rental agent doesn’t make extra money for upsells, you can bet they are trained to offer them. Most add-ons will be overpriced or unnecessary.

13. Fill the Tank Yourself

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You must return the car with a full tank of gas or face outrageous fees, so the rental agency offers prepaid gas as a convenience. That might save time, but you will likely pay too much.

Use the GasBuddy website and compare local gas prices with the rate you’re getting from the rental car company. Unless you know you’ll be pushing the car back to the drop-off location with an empty gas tank, it’s probably not worth the cost.

14. Bring Your Insurance

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If you have a car, your auto insurance policy probably also covers you driving a rental car. Many credit cards include basic insurance when you pay for the rental with the card. You can save $25 to $30 a day by declining the insurance offered by the rental company.

15. Don’t Rent a Car

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The best way to save money on a rental car might be not renting one. Most major cities have public transportation options, walkable downtown areas, and are serviced by ridesharing apps. You might not need it, depending on where you’re going and for how long.

Before going through the car rental process, ask yourself:

  • Does your destination have a robust public transportation system?
  • Is the city walkable, or are there bike-sharing services available?
  • What sort of activities do you have planned that require driving?
  • How much time will you spend in the car?

You might find free shuttles, public transport, and rideshare services are all you need. If so, you’ll probably save a lot of money over renting a car, paying for parking, and topping off the gas tank.

18 Underrated U.S. Destinations Worth Exploring

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Every state in the United States has its unique charm and attractions. However, some states are often perceived as less exciting or engaging than others. This perception, which may not always reflect reality, could be based on various factors, from a state’s geography and culture to its lack of iconic landmarks or tourist hotspots. Here are 18 states that some Americans might dread visiting due to a perceived lack of exciting activities or attractions.

18 Underrated U.S. Destinations Worth Exploring

17 Items to Cut From Your Budget You Won’t Miss

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Are you feeling the pinch in your wallet? You’re not alone – many of us are looking for ways to save money without drastically changing our lifestyles. But what if we told you there are things you’re spending money on right now you wouldn’t even miss if they were gone? Yes, you read it right! This blog post is all about those sneaky budget items that are quietly draining your bank account. We’ve rounded up 17 items you can cut from your budget today. So, let’s dive right in and save more of your hard-earned money!

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14 Things People Are Ashamed They Have to Do to Save Money

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Explore 14 surprisingly embarrassing things individuals do to tighten their belts financially. Have you ever found yourself resorting to outlandish tactics to save money, which makes you cringe to admit it? A certain Reddit user was eager to uncover the depths of extreme frugality people have plunged into. Look below for a compilation of some of the most intriguing and noteworthy responses from the original post’s vibrant discussion.

14 Things People Are Ashamed They Have to Do to Save Money

Author: Jerry Graham

Title: Freelance Writer

Expertise: Personal finance, side hustler, and freelance web developer


Jerry is a personal finance enthusiast, side hustler, and freelance web developer who began his career in financial services. He co-founded a personal finance and frugal living blog that he recently sold. His insights have appeared on MSN, Newsweek.com, HerCampus.com, Mashed.com, and many others.