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Travel Tip: Save Money on Rental Cars

Save Money on Rental Cars

My idea of fun is not to drive 17 hours straight to arrive at my travel destination, only to turn around at the end of seven days and reverse the trip. If I’m driving without stopping for more than eight hours, I’d much rather fly. That was my intention on my recent family trip to Florida. I was going to fly. My family was happy to fly with me. My mother-in-law was not. She was sure should would die on the plane and my husband didn’t want that on his conscience.

The vehicle we normally drive for trips only seats five, so we decided to rent a car. The only problem is six people can not fit comfortably in a car. We needed a minivan which would comfortably accommodate my family and get good gas mileage.

But minivans are expensive to rent. When I began getting quotes on prices, I was surprised by how expensive it was. The least expensive option I found was over $600 for nine days. Since prices vary by car rental company, the rates rose to nearly $800! The cost, when factored with gas usage was cheaper than six plane tickets, but the way I looked at it, if I was going to be uncomfortable after the first five hours of the drive, I should be able to score a much better deal. So I set out to do just that.

I searched for deals online, asked for recommendations on my Facebook page and received some great tips from websites and bloggers like In a Cents. I checked prices at Costco, Hotwire, Priceline and Orbitz. I tried pricing with various coupon codes, the Entertainment Book discounts and AAA rates.

I discovered rentals were cheaper an hour away at an airport location and that Costco beat those prices by $40. Prices were still higher than what I wanted to pay. So as the date for our departure pressed closer, I decided to name my price using Priceline.com’s Negotiator.

I bid $28 a day for a minivan and it was accepted! That’s less than the price of a full-size car. I was thrilled with my deal.

Priceline Negotiator

Did you notice the total savings? I saved 45%! Now that is the deal I was looking for. In this instance the Negotiator absolutely worked for me but there are a couple things to keep in mind.

The Negotiator is only available on airport rentals. This was fine for us since our two teen boys were actually flying back from a mission trip and we’d planned to meet them at the airport. An airport location may not be as convenient for everyone.

Keep in mind, airport rentals often come with more fees attached. We paid a a hefty $121.44 in taxes and fees. I knew that in advance so my bid reflected the added costs. I wanted to keep total cost around $400.

Unless you are picking up your rental vehicle and driving home to drop off your own car, you’ll also need to pay parking fees to store your car. Rates will depend on the airport, level of security and proximity to the terminal. We live an hour away from the airport so we opted to park in one of the long term parking lots, adding $4 a day to our costs.

If only I could find the same deals locally.

What steps do you take to save money on rental cars?

This post is linked to Travel Tips Tuesday with Walking on Travels and Suitcases and Sippycups.

Danielle

Tuesday 18th of December 2012

I've never heard of the negotiator - don't think it works here in Australia unfortunately. Your post reminded me I have to book a car for our Christmas trip on the weekend and I am sure the price is going to be cumbersome.

Cheryl @ Kids On A Plane

Tuesday 11th of December 2012

We don't rent vehicles often when we travel (mainly because we are going to Disney or driving our own car) but when we have we have used Priceline and we saved a bit. My husband's employer also has some codes for some car rental companies so we have used those too. Next time I'll be looking into Costco as we are members but never thought of looking there (the Canadian site doesn't have a Travel link on it so I always forget that Costco.com has one!)

Kate

Tuesday 11th of December 2012

Wow, what a deal! That's great. I've never tried Priceline either, but will keep that in mind. My husband is a master at wheeling and dealing with rental cars---I tried to summarize his method here: http://wildtalesof.com/2012/08/07/travel-tips-saving-on-the-rental-car/ It takes some patience, but the savings is worth it!

Jessica

Tuesday 11th of December 2012

Good job finding that deal! I've never used Priceline, but I am tempted to try it. Maybe someday... I love the new look of your site., BTW.

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