void the ever-present upsell: Reduce human contact
Determine beforehand what kind of vehicle you are looking to rent. With a clear picture in mind and reservation in hand, you can resist the temptation of adamant upsells at the rental car counter. It’s fine to get the red Mustang if you really want it or need to impress your clients, but you need to think critically about the purchase. Most rental car employees that man the counter are paid based on commission, so they will try their very best to have you walk away with a load of upgrades and the insurance to match. If possible, try to join a membership program that lets you preselect your car and drive off the lot without having to go to the counter.
Surcharges and taxes add up quickly
Fees and taxes may misconstrue the price per day that most rental companies advertise as their going rate. So when you see those pay-per-click advertisements that boast $10 a day rates, be wary that the actual cost will most likely be beyond that due to fees and charges. This is where comparison sites can come in handy: oftentimes, they’ll include fees in the calculated price.
Look for rental locations near, not at, the airport
Airport car rentals often come with fees or higher rates that jack up the price. Look for rental car companies with other convenient downtown or suburban locations to avoid fees.
Don’t take the pre-fill: Fill up on your way back
Many rental car agencies have a pre-fill option, which assumes you’ll return the car on empty and pre-charges you for the tank of gas. Though the rates might seem low, competitive with local gas prices, you’ll be paying for a full tank no matter how much is left over. The only way you come out ahead is if you pull into the drop-off point running on fumes. On the other hand, if you bring the car back less than full, you’ll pay astronomical prices on the remainder. You’ll save quite a bit by filling up on your way to return the car instead of leaving it to the mercenary hands of the rental agency. When you do fill your tank of gas while traveling, use a gas credit card to maximize rewards savings.
Pro tip: Avoid filling up right next to the airport – they always jack up the gas prices.
Skip unnecessary insurance upgrades
You may have steeled resistance to a rental car salesperson’s pitch for upgrading to a luxury sedan, but the most ardent traveler can waver when the insurance pitch is made. The gory details of accidents, hefty fees, and fines make many customers buy into insurance packages even when they do not really need them. Oftentimes, your credit card will cover basic insurance; sometimes, this coverage is invalidated if you insure with the rental company. Figure out what your current car insurance and credit card contracts already cover in terms of rental car insurance before agreeing to any extra insurance.