It is possible to rent a car cheaply – you just have to know where to look.
Renting a car can give you tremendous freedom and flexibility on your next holiday. But, it can also limit the rest of your spending if you don’t understand how to cut corners on those rental costs.
To help you out, here are our top recommendations and professional tips on how to rent a car as cheaply as possible anywhere in the world. Following these tips will allow you to save money on your car rental expenses, giving you plenty of extra money for your petrol, snacks and souvenirs.
Use The Best Car Rental Search Engines
One of the biggest mistakes many travelers make when it comes to renting a car is to limit the number of websites they use. They unknowingly rent their vehicle from one of the major car rental chains without even considering the fact that there may be cheaper deals available.
Don’t limit yourself to expensive rentals which can put a real dampener on your travel budget. There are a vast number of car rental sites available that make comparison shopping easier than ever. Have a browse through our top 4 car rental search engines and see if you can find a deal which is perfect for your next holiday.
Believe or not, when you start to search, you’d better clear your cookies or open a new window in incognito mode to keep your searches secret.
Rentalcars.com is a car broker based in the UK.
They are a comparison site with a difference, helping you throughout the entire process and arranging the car rental on your behalf.
In 2010, the company joined the Priceline Group making them bigger and better than ever. Today they service 163 countries and offer ample benefits including free cancellation on most bookings and no hidden charges. With 24/7 support and a price match guarantee, it is no wonder they were awarded UK’s Best Car Hire Website in 2016 by World Travel Awards and rated 8.1 out of 10 by TrustPilot.
Renowned for their excellent customer service, Rentalcars aims to make hiring a car as simple as possible with no hidden credit card fees. They offer a wide range of vehicles to choose from, and their web interface is very simple to use. Just show up at the car rental location with your booking voucher, credit card, driver’s license and passport to pick up your vehicle.
- 24×7 call support
- Price match guarantee
- No hidden credit card fees
- Free Booking Amendments
Auto Europe has been in the car rental industry for over 60 years, and they have garnered a quality reputation during that time.
They are experts when it comes to renting cars in Europe and around the world, offering a low guaranteed rate and over 20,000 convenient rental pickup locations.
Auto Europe has partnered with some of the best names in the industry to help you find the best prices possible including Hertz, Avis, National, Enterprise and more.
Their website will compare rates from leading car companies and come up with the best deal for you. They offer 24 hours a day, 7 days a week customer service and will assist you from the beginning of the car rental process right through until the end. Auto Europe can even assist with luxury car rentals and specialty vehicle rentals such as motorhomes, motorbikes and van rentals. They can also help with long-term vehicle hire and one-way car rentals and offer guaranteed reservations with no cancellation fees.
- Guaranteed reservation
- No cancellation fees
- Low rate guarantee
Accessed via their app or through their website, Holiday Autos provides peace of mind for those travelers looking to hire a car.
Rated 9.3/10 on TrustPilot and 8.7/10 on Review Centre, Holiday Autos has 30,000 pickup centre in over 170 countries worldwide.
From Cyprus to Australia to anywhere, Holiday Autos can assist your travel related queries and help you rent a car any time, day or night.
Their website will quickly compare brands such as Europcar, Thrifty, Alamo and Avis and present you with the best price possible with no surprise fees. If you require a car or other vehicle to be returned to an alternate location or need optional extras such as a GPS, a booster seat or a roof rack, Holiday Autos are only too happy to assist. If you cancel your car rental booking up to 24 hours before you are due to pick up your vehicle, you will be refunded the cost in full.
- No credit card fees
- Free cancellation
- 24×7 customer care and assistance
CarRentals.com falls under the umbrella of the Hotwire Group which owns Expedia, Hotels and Expedia Affiliate Network.
The CarRentals portal accesses their suppliers’ inventory to find special deals all around the world through their fast booking service. They have partnered with over 30 rental car companies both locally and internationally to pass on the best prices to their customers.
CarRentals.com assists their customers with both standard and premium rental vehicles including passenger vans, SUVs, recreational vehicles and pickup trucks. They choose to work in partnership with both big multinational global brands and small local specialists to source the best deals. Their website is easy to use, and they regularly promote exclusive coupons and offers, with no hidden fees. One-way rentals can also be arranged directly through their website. Whether you are traveling in New Zealand, America or France, you can book a car online from the convenience of your home or workplace.
- No hidden credit card or booking fees
- Fast booking service
- Website is simple to navigate
- Easy to cancel or amend bookings
Compare With Independent Car Rental Companies
Once you have determined the best rate from the car rental search engines, it is important to compare it against their preferred independent car rental company.
If, as an example, CarRentals shows that renting an economy car from Hertz is the cheapest deal you can find, compare it directly with the economy cars on Hertz’s website to see if this is indeed the case. It is a competitive market and taking this extra step may save you even more money.
Below are 9 main car rental companies providing services worldwide:
In 1918, a young man named Walter Jacobs decided to rent out a selection of Ford motor cars. He sold the company to John Hertz in 1923, and the rest is history. Hertz is an extremely reputable brand with franchises in America, Europe, Latin America, Asia, Australia, Africa, the Middle East and New Zealand. Hertz is committed to the speed and convenience of renting a car and offers all kinds of vehicles from luxury to economic models to suit your budget and travel requirements.
Avis was founded in 1946 and was the first car rental company to operate from an airport. “We try harder” has been their consistent motto since 1963, and today, the company has offices in over 165 countries. Avis has a customer loyalty company called Avis Preferred as well as an accessibility program for travelers with disabilities called Avis Access.
Owned by The Group, Europcar operates in over 130 countries and territories. It originated in France in 1949 and rents out passenger cars and light commercial vehicles all over the world through their rental agencies and franchises. In 2016, Europcar was named the leading car company in Africa, Australasia, Europe and the Middle East by World Travel Awards.
Alamo began in Florida with just four car rental locations in 1974. Fast forward to today – they currently have offices all over the US, as well as Canada, Mexico, Latin America and Asia. Owned by Enterprise Holdings, Alamo is the official car company of choice by Walt Disney World Resort and Disneyland Resort. They are committed to excellence in customer service.
Established in 1958, Budget has over 3,000 locations to assist you with your car rental requirements. Owned by Avis Group, they are clearly an industry leader in the budget-conscious car rental industry. They are transparent in their corporate aims, seeking to provide travelers with a valued and well-priced service. Budget has received many industry awards including Best Rental Company for Business Travelers in Spain (2016) and Leading Business Car Rental Company for Mexico and Central America (2016).
Named after the USS Enterprise, an aircraft carrier that founder Jack Taylor served on, Enterprise has been a household name in car rental since 1957. What started out as a fleet of 7 cars has grown into a thriving business in over 85 countries and over 7,500 locations. Enterprise believes in customer service and community above all else. To meet the changing needs of their customers, they have created Enterprise CarShare for sustainable travel options.
Operating in over 1,000 locations in 77 countries, Thrifty car rentals is a well-known brand in the budget car rental industry. They are owned by Hertz Global Holdings and tend to focus more on the leisure traveller. Thrifty is driven by the Hertz corporate vision and offers a large selection of cars from the economy to the premium range, including full-size vans and standard convertibles.
Sixt was introduced in Germany in 1912 before they even had an established road network. Today Sixt has franchises in over 100 countries and counting. They offer tailored services and travel solutions through their premium rental range. Sixt even provides an affordable and professional chauffeur service for their travelers.
Dollar was founded in Los Angeles in 1965. In 1990, Dollar was purchased by Chrysler and then acquired by Hertz Global Holdings who also own Hertz and Thrifty. Dollar is found in over 570 locations with approximately 260 sites in Canada and the United States. They are based in over 60 countries and continue to be a strong brand in the car rental market.
12 Pro Tips To Rent a Car Cheaply
Over and above the comparison shopping on the car rental search engines and the independent car companies, here are 12 professional tips which can help you lower the car rental rate even more. Read them and memorize if necessary, as they could reduce your bill by hundreds of dollars depending on the length of your rental contract.
#1 Check Rental Prices Frequently
Knowing your rental dates in advance allows you to be more selective with your choice of rental car company. It gives you plenty of time to shop around and compare the top rental car portals to source the best deal. You don’t have to take the first price you see. Check prices regularly and do your research to ensure you are getting the most bang for your buck. Last minute offers may often appear with higher rates, so check prices frequently and lock in the cheapest deal at your earliest opportunity.
#2 Search For Rental Car Coupons Online
Never book a rental car without at least checking to see if there are valid coupons available online. Even many of the big brands offer percentage discounts or cash off the base rate price. It always pays to see if you can combine coupons and discount codes to double the deal. Discounts can often be combined with frequent flyer points, as an example. Virtual discounts can often save you quite a bit of money. Search online and read everything thoroughly before you lock in the price.
#3 Try To Book an Economy Rental Car
An economy car is always the cheapest vehicle available from the rental companies. Upgrading to a larger sized car means paying higher prices and possibly even higher mileage costs. As economy cars are the most cost-effective vehicles on the lot, they are also the most popular. You may find that the company will offer you a larger vehicle at the same price due to their popularity. Remember, however, never book a car that is too small for your requirements in case an upgrade is not offered.
#4 Avoid Renting a Car Directly at Airport
While renting from the airport is extremely convenient, you will soon find you are paying extra fees for the privilege. Hiring cars at off-airport rental locations is undoubtedly cheaper due to airport surcharges which are added on top of the price. Compare the airport costs with other rental locations and do the math. Once you have added in your travel expenses either by bus, taxi or train, you will be able to work out the savings.
#5 Forget Extra Add-ons
Add-ons can hike up the price of your hire car by a great deal of money. A GPS may be all well and good in the vehicle, but unless you are willing to pay the hefty add-on fee, then forget it. If you can bring your own GPS from home or can get to your destination without one, then do it. Always double check the fine print, as you don’t want to be paying for extras like satellite radio systems if you have no intention of even using them.
#6 Skip Insurance From Car Rental Companies
Rental agencies will try to up-sell insurance over and above the cost of the car rental – that is, after all, their job. As a customer, it is well within your rights to decline the right to purchase insurance from car rental companies. Many credit cards offer insurance coverage on rental cars. Check the fine print before you rent. You may also find that your regular car insurance has you covered. Never feel pressured into buying insurance from a car rental company.
#7 Don’t Prepay For Gas
Prepaying for gas generally comes at a higher expense. Again, if you are uncertain, do your research on current fuel prices and compare with the rate offered by the rental company. It is probably in your best interests to just fuel up as necessary on your journey. That way you can source the best gas price rates on the day. If you have arranged to return the car with a full fuel tank, make a note to do it – otherwise, you are at risk of being charged exorbitant fuel prices.
#8 Rent As Long As Possible
As ridiculous as it may sound, renting a car for a short period of 1-2 days can be more expensive than renting for a week. Even if you don’t necessarily need the car for a week, it always pays to compare the prices for longer and shorter rental periods. If you do intend to return the car early, don’t forget to check to see whether any early return fees will be charged. Making the most of weekend rates and other special deals is particularly useful.
#9 Bring Your Own Baby Seat To Save Money
If you are traveling with babies or young children, then car seats are necessary to abide by the local laws. Check the cost of hiring a car seat as it may be cheaper to bring your own, especially when you are looking at renting a car for an extended period. Portable car seats are sold at a relatively low-cost these days, and you may find you are best picking one up upon arrival to save you money.
#10 Avoid One-way Car Rentals
Avoid one-way car rentals if you are looking to get the best price possible. Plan your trip so you can pick up and drop off your car at the same location to avoid having to pay large penalties. On some occasions, it may not be possible due to complicated travel itineraries. However, it is worth skipping one-way rentals where you can, to take advantage of the best prices. Going a few miles out of your way to return the car can reap big monetary rewards.
#11 Take Photos Or Videos Of Your Car Before You Drive
Unless you want to be blamed for any possible damage to the car, take a few moments to photograph or video your car upon pickup. Take particular note of any dents, marks or scratches on the bodywork, glass and tyres which may pose problems in the future as well as any marks, stains, scratches or other issues with the vehicle interior. Your visual documentation will then protect you against any claims by the rental company which infer you may have damaged the car in some way.
#12 List All Possible Drivers To Be Covered
If there is going to be more than one driver, then make sure they are listed on the rental agreement. Looking at it from a worst-case scenario, imagine if you are pulled over by a police officer for speeding, or even worse, involved in an accident. The insurance will not cover an additional driver if they are not noted on the rental contract. Many rental car companies waive the additional fee for extra drivers anyhow. For little or no additional cost you get a great deal of peace of mind and protection when you need it the most.
As you can see, there are many ways to achieve cost-effective rental rates. It is a modern myth that rental cars need to cost you a fortune, particularly when there are so many websites and special offers vying for your attention. Unless your place of employment is willing to foot the bill for high car rental prices, then a dollar saved is definitely a dollar earned. Do your homework, check the online prices regularly and don’t be afraid to negotiate for better deals or bargains. You may just be able to halve your initial bill by shopping around and paying attention to seasonal rates.
If you are just looking for our opinion, the best sites to rent your car on the market today are: