The recent 29-days California adventure was made possible by finding an inexpensive rental car. I was worried because there are often last-minute extra fees I need to pay when picking up the car. But in the end, I paid a total of $416.99 to rent a 2015 Jeep Cherokee Limited for 29 days. Read on so you can rent cars cheaply too.
If you read any car rental reviews, you will find that most experiences are negative. Most dissatisfaction comes from extra fees that people have to pay when picking up the car. Unfortunately, this is how car rental makes most of their money. Fortunately, you can definitely avoid most, if not all of them. The trick is, you have to be confident about what you don’t need. The rental agents will do everything they can to make you feel uncertain to sell insurances.
1. Say No to Loss and Collision Damage Waiver
These waivers simply waive the renter’s rights to charge for the damage or loss of the rental car. In many cases (depending on the states and renters), these waivers are included in the rate. So if you have an option to exclude them, do so. Buy only if you want the feeling of being insured. Chances are your credit card already provides these waivers when you pay the rent with the card. Check with your card before making the decision. Be sure to read the fine print carefully.
If you don’t use a credit card, check if you have an insurance policy that covers loss or damage for a car. Be very specific and check if this extends to a rental car. Understand how much the insurance will pay should you need it. It’s easiest to simply call them and ask these questions.
I used Chase Sapphire for rental. If I didn’t have the waivers from the credit card, I would have paid about $500 for them.
2. Say No to Liability Insurance
Every driver in the US must have this insurance. If you already have one, chances are your existing liability insurance also covers your rental car, even in a different state. Confirm with your provider. I’m not sure about international travelers, but it doesn’t hurt to ask your insurance about this. If you don’t have any existing insurance, you will need to pay for this. Most credit cards do not offer liability insurance.
My liability insurance from Texas also covered me in California. I would have to pay about $500 extra if it didn’t.
Note that even if you have an existing liability insurance or damage waivers, they may or may not cover “loss-of-use” damage should you get into an accident. Car rental can ask you for loss-of-use damage based on the amount of time it takes to get the car into renting again.
3. Call for Support
If for whatever reason the car rental agent refuses to rent without insurance or damage waivers, call your insurance and credit card companies to confirm the details. Do this in front of the agent if you have to. You will show him that you’ve done your research. I called my credit card to confirm the damage waivers policy with them in front of the agent. After the call, he did not try to convince me to buy the waivers again.
4. Select “Full to Full” Gas Option
This is the cheapest option. For my car, I was offered an option to return the car without a full tank for $50. The funny thing is, that car I rent can only hold about $40 worth of gas (as of March 2016 in California) at full tank. I don’t have such confidence to return the car with the tank emptied to take advantage of this option.
5. Confirm Unlimited Mileage
Most car rental offers unlimited mileage. If not, make sure you understand how much you’ll be paying.
6. Go with SUV
Check SUVs for the lowest rate. Rent for a compact SUV can be cheaper than a compact sedan. This is due to the fuel economy and market demand for sedans. I think the comfort of an SUV is worth the fuel price for a long travel.
When I made the reservation, a compact sedan costs $700 while a compact SUV costs about $400.
7. Research the Car
Some renter lets you pick your own specific car. I used Dollar Car Rental. I didn’t know which one to pick so I researched the car as I was in the parking lot. Luckily, someone just returned Jeep Cherokee Limited. It has leather seats, seat warmers, voice assistant and many premium features other SUVs in the same lot don’t have. You can get a nicer car if you know what to look for.
8. Ignore Negative Reviews
All car rental has negative reviews. But keep in mind that you only deal with them probably only when you pick up the car. Just be positive and do your homework. You just need to show them that you know exactly what you need and don’t need. Pick the car rental that offers the best price.
9. Be Flexible
Like all other travel expenses, you can save a lot of money by being flexible on travel dates. Avoid renting on high season. Shop around on many websites to find the best deals.
I hope you feel less anxious about a car rental. If you are a regular renter, I’d like to know your methods as well. Please note that this is about car rental in the US only.