All About Car Rental Tips

Need wheels on your next trip? Renting a car can give you freedom and flexibility when you’re traveling, and in some parts of the world it’s the only feasible way to get around. But a rental car can also add complications to your trip — like trying to find the best deal or sorting out exactly which insurance options you need. Read on for our practical tips on saving money, understanding your rental agreement and avoiding problems with your car rental.

Choosing a Vehicle

Think carefully about what kind of vehicle you’ll need. If you’re traveling with children or with a lot of gear, you may want a large sedan or SUV. If you’re simply looking to save money on rental rates and gas, you’ll want to reserve the smallest available model.

But size isn’t the only factor. Looking for something environmentally friendly? Many car rental companies now offer hybrid vehicles. Can’t drive a stick shift? Be sure to reserve a car with automatic transmission. (In many countries, a manual transmission is the norm — so read the fine print before booking. Learn more with our International Car Rental Tips.) Also, be sure that the company from which you’re renting offers any extras you might need or want, such as a ski rack, car seat or GPS system.

Booking Your Car

You’ll find major international car rental agencies all over the world — think Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Sixt and Thrifty. But depending on where you’re traveling, locally owned companies could offer lower rates; before booking, read reviews to be sure their companies are up to the standards of the majors.

Always shop around. Check the major booking engines and aggregator sites (such as Expedia, Priceline and Kayak) to get an idea of what rates are available, but you should also visit the car rental companies’ websites as well — they often offer exclusive discounts.

To lower your rate, ask about discounts for any major national organizations, frequent flier programs and credit card programs to which you may belong. They’ll frequently offer deals on car rentals. (Those offered through AAA can be very good.) If you’re employed by a company that frequently rents cars, they may have a negotiated rate. Make sure to check.

Before you book online, do an Internet search for coupon or promotion codes to put into the booking engine of your car rental company’s site. Just type the name of the company followed by “coupon code” into the search field and you’ll often find special promotion codes that could save you anywhere from 5 to 20 percent off the cost of your rental.