I recently did an interview on rental cars – airport taxes, prepaid rates, strategies for finding the best deal – and I lamented with the reporter that nobody cares about rental cars and they should, it’s part of the trip like air and hotels are.
Is part of the reason that the rental experience is so awful? And rental loyalty programs are so awful? The end of Silvercar at airports takes relief from Ford Tauruses and outrageous add-on charges off the table much of the time.
- Hertz used to be the business traveler’s go-to, but they don’t always honor reservations and sometimes have their renters arrested for stealing cars due to data errors.
- National is better with its Emerald Aisle, but when I had top status with them I never got anything better than a selection from the Executive Aisle – and mere ‘Executive’ status is freely available, and comes with Amex Platinum as well.
- Sixt will give everyone status, and supposedly has nice cars, but I’ve always had to wait in a line and they often don’t have the cars reserved (yet they don’t seem to want to upgrade when that happens).
But would you believe car rentals are about to get much more expensive?
- Car rental companies offloaded rental cars during the pandemic. Their inventory is low.
- As demand ramps up, prices are going to rise as more people want cars than companies have cars to rent.
- They won’t just add cars to their fleet for several reasons. Their balance sheets are hurting, they’ll be conservative about making capital investments, and because cars themselves are getting more expensive because of supply chain shortages, low interest rates, and stimmie checks.
There are several things you can do to offset the pain of the rental experience, and high prices.
- Join your rental company’s loyalty program. It usually means skipping the rental counter lines.
- Rent off-airport, even if you return your car to the airport, because you can save significantly on taxes and fees charged for airport rentals and targeted at out-of-towners.
- Plug your reservation into Autoslash.com which will track prices and find you a better deal.
- Rent a nicer car. Generally the car type you want isn’t even guaranteed. What is a luxury car? Who knows. It varies by rental outfit and the words “or similar” when you rent actually means “or something you don’t consider to be similar at all.” Still, if you’re going to spend much time in the car it may actually be worth the money – at least price it out.
- Hertz still gives a 4 hour grace period returning with the Amex Platinum CDP code. I always find I need a car for 27 hours not 24 hours or 50 hours not 48. This can save the cost of an extra rental day.
Here are 10 ways to save money on rental cars.