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Tips for Negotiating Deals When Renting a Car

Many people do not know this but, rental car companies have quite a bit of flexibility on what kind of vehicle and rate to give you.  I travel a lot Car Rental Company Logosand rent cars wherever I go and I feel bad when I am standing in line at the rental counter I overhear customers being quoted prices of the rental cars they are picking up. $89 per day for an SUV? That’s over $600 per week without tax, insurance or any of the other fees added on – waaay too much to pay! I generally pay between $10-24 per day for the cars I rent and have rented everything from compact cars to mid-size sedans up to full-size SUVS and Ford Mustang convertibles. How do I get such good deals? I do my research on prices before making a reservation and I negotiate when picking up the vehicle.

First, always book your reservation online. The agents at the counter or over the phone will generally quote you the highest prices possible for Rental Car Counters at Airportavoid speaking with them first. Online you have two options for reserving a rental car: Book directly from the company’s website (such as Budget.Com) or book from a discount travel website (such as CarRentals.com). Compare the prices on both options before making a final reservation. I generally reserve directly through the rental agency’s website as it gives you more negotiating power at the counter, which I will explain later. Next, before you book your reservation look around the web from promo codes for the rental company you prefer. Also, if you are a member of AAA or Costco you are eligible for special members-only rates using codes they provide. You can try out the various promo codes you find while making your online reservation to see the price difference after the code has been applied, but be careful because some codes are not always the lowest. A great website for finding promo codes is Rental Car Momma. After you have found the best promo code that you are eligible to use, reserve a car in 1 or 2 car classes smaller than the size you need as rates will be much lower (you want to save money don’t you?). You’re safe doing this because you can always pay the difference at the counter to upgrade to a larger car if you cannot negotiate a free deal. Tip: Signup to the company’s loyalty program – They are free and you can earn free rentals, automatic upgrades and special offers. The counter agents generally also give preference to people who are members of their loyalty program.

Negotiating a deal at the Hertz rental car counter

Ok, so once you have your reservation confirmed and you go to the rental counter to pick up your car, be friendly with the rental agent. Tell them about the long journey you have been on prior to your arrival or about how much you enjoy renting from their company. Flattery can get you a long way if you do it correctly with the right person. If it is applicable, tell them it’s your spouse’s birthday or that you are visiting to celebrate a special occasion . . . something that sounds/feels good. Then once you start some small talk, ask the rental agent if there is anything they can do to give you a better vehicle. They cannot lower your rental price since you booked already online but they do have a lot of flexibility on what car to give you. Just because you reserved a compact car it does not mean you cannot drive away in a full-size car or SUV if you talk to the row-of-rental-cars-to-negotiate-onright agent and play your cards right. You may also get lucky if the car class you reserved is sold out since the agency will have no choice but to give you whatever they have left. I once rented a Hummer H3 for the price of a Toyota Yaris – $18 per day! But there are numerous reasons for rental car agents agent to upgrade you such as “*your state* resident”, birthday, coupons published in the newspaper, regional promotion or surplus of cars in a certain class. Often times there are many promotions that do not require coupons that you can get by simply asking.

The bottom line here when negotiating a rental car deal is to just ask
– “Is there any chance you can upgrade me today?”

Good luck and Drive Safe!

[note]EXTRA: Watch out for costly Add-Ons!
Rental Car Agencies will always offer you lots of add-ons “for your protection” but think twice before agreeing to accepting their costly insurance protection. Often times you can use your own personal car insurance (bring the papers with you for proof) or check with your credit card company to see if they provide rental car insurance coverage. – many do.  $25 a day extra for a GPS? No thank you, you can buy a brand-new Garmin nüvi 40LM GPS  for $99 and keep it after your trip is over.[/note]

Disclaimer: These tips generally apply only to major rental car companies such as Budget, Alamo, Hertz, Thrifty, Enterprise, Avis and Dollar in major US and Canadian cities. Experiences with smaller companies and in different countries man vary.

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