How I Saved Myself Money With Rental Cars (And You Can Too)

My Money Blog Homepage

During a recent extended weekend vacation, I had the pleasure of reading another masterful financial literary work by David Bach. The book was titled, Fight For Your Money.

The book is great because it is nicely divided in to chapters, based on different financial “hurdles” that a person can, and probably will face in life. Examples of the topics are shown below:

• Cars
• Banking
• Credit
• Family
• Health
• Home
• Retirement
• Shopping
• Taxes
• TV and Phones
• Travel

For each of these topics, David then proceeds to discuss potential ways that people (you included) have or could be ripped off.

One of the most compelling sections of this book is about ways to save money on rental cars. I liked the content so much that I wanted to share combined advice from David’s book, and my personal experiences in an effort so everyone can benefit.

For the sake of analysis in this post, I am going to assume two scenarios of renting a car – Scenario 1) Renting a full-size car for 2 days during the workweek – June 29 through July 1st, 2010, in Richmond, VA, Scenario 2) Renting a full-size car for 2 days during the weekend – July 10-12, 2010, in Richmond, VA.

Tip # 1 – Shopping Around

The first bit of advice that Bach offers is that prices can vary greatly between the different rental car companies.

My favorite website for doing this comparison is At this site, you can type in exactly what type of car you want, and it automatically not only gives you results from Kayak’s search engine, but also pops up search results for,,, and Amazing right!? Another great place to compare rates online for different rental carriers is

Another tip that David presents to us is the idea of making sure not to overlook the smaller, regional rental car companies. Names of these companies are listed below.

  • ACE
  • Advantage
  • Fox
  • Triangle
  • U-haul 

Often, these companies will be able to match, or beat, the rental rates of the national chains.

The rental rates for Scenario 1 for several different companies are listed below.

Scenario 1
Enterprise – $105
Budget – $110
Hertz – $113
Ace – $118

As you can see, there is a slight difference in rental rates. Clearly, this difference wouldn’t make that much of a difference for just two days, but if you were to rent for longer, the price differential would be even greater (because the rental rates are per day).

Enterprise is the cheapest, followed by Budget. It is interesting to note that in this instance, the smaller rental company was actually much more expensive. Interesting!

Tip #2 – Negotiating and Asking for Discounts

Another great piece of advice that David instills in us while reading his book is the power of simply remembering to 1) find and 2) ask for a discount.

Finding Discounts
For example, many of the most company organizations that we belong to today (AARP, Sam’s Club, AAA, Costco, gyms, and even certain companies) offer discounts on many different types of service. Usually, rental cars are included! So, be sure to ask about what discounts you can get. This goes for hotel rooms as well!

In addition to these discount offers, rental cars publish discount coupons on consumer discount websites such as Rental Codes and Rental Car Momma

Asking for Discounts
In addition to the already published offers discussed above, you should always remember to ask “are you all having any specials currently?” After all, the worst they can say is “no” right?

Another trick to use here is that after you have used a site like to find the cheapest rental car rate, you should call the actual rental car store where you will rent from and ask, “can you give me a better rate than the website?” Many times, they will!

Tip #3 – Renting on the Weekend

Since a large majority of the business that rental car companies get is from business travelers, they can generally charge a higher price during the week vs. the weekend. As individuals, we need to take advantage of this price differential by making every possible effort to rent on the weekend.

Listed below are the rental rates from several different companies in Scenario 2. As you can see, the rates are ~50% cheaper. Awesome!

Scenario 2
Budget – $57 (a 45% price reduction from renting during the week)
Hertz – $60
Ace – $118

This is consistent with what I have experienced as well. In a recent trip, the rental rates from Enterprise for a full size rental car were $25/day on the weekend and $59/day during the week.

Tip # 4 – Avoid Renting at the Airport

Similarly, since demand for rental cars is higher at airports, the rental car companies charge more if you rent from these locations.

Because of this, you should always do a cost analysis to compare how much more you will pay for the convenience of renting directly from the airport. Many times (if you will be renting for more than 2 days), it will be a lot cheaper to rent from a nearby location, and then simply take a taxi to the airport.

If we perform the exact same rental car search on from Scenario 2 above, except that we change the rental location to the airport, the results become as follows:

Scenario 2 @ the airport
Dollar – $68 (~20% increase in price from renting at a neighborhood location)
Alamo – $73
Hertz – $107

Tip #5 – Avoid Dropping Off at a Different Location Than You Rented From

The privilege of being able to drop off the rental car at a location different from where you rented comes at a high cost.

Let’s take a look at what happens to the rental rates in Scenario 2 if we rent the car in Richmond, VA and drop it off in Baltimore, MD. The results are shown below.

Clearly, the prices vary significantly in this case, depending on which rental company you choose.

Scenario 2 w/ dropping off at a different location
Alamo – $212 (272% price increase from original Scenario 2 rate – crazy!)
National – $302

These prices are even higher than what I have experienced. In a recent trip where I rented from Enterprise, they were charging a flat $75 car drop off charge for returning the car to a location different from where it was rented.

Tip # 6 – Avoid Buying the Insurance Coverage They Offer

This topic is extensive, and will be covered in a future post.

However, the short answer, is that most people DO NOT need to buy the coverage offered.

Tip # 7 – Fill Up With Gas Before Returning the Car, gas 2.60 – they offer 3.90

A very easy way to get ripped off when renting a car is to forget to fill up the car’s tank with gas before returning it.

For example, when I recently rented a car from Enterprise, the going rate for gas at gas stations was $2.60/gal. However, the rate being charged for Enterprise to fill up the tank was $3.90/gal (a 50% increase in price).

In plain English, for a 16 gallon gas tank, this would mean that you would pay Enterprise $63 to fill up the tank, but you could do it yourself for just $42.

I hope these tips will be useful and you can bring a printout of this post with you next time you go to rent a car. I know I will!

Keep on learning!


To receive updates on topics such as this one as soon as they are published, click on the link below to subscribe to My Money Blog:

Subscribe to My Money Blog via Email

Speak Your Mind


CommentLuv badge