After you turn 21-years-old, the novelty of notable birthdays seems to slip away. From then on, it's just the decades that matter, right? But wait, don't forget the all important 25th birthday! The year when you can officially rent a car. While this probably isn't something you'll be waking up at the crack of dawn to go do, it's an important milestone that can make your travels much easier. Here are our 12 tips to make your car rental experience as blissful as blowing out your birthday candles:
1. Know Before You Go. The old stigma that you have to be 25 to rent a car is actually false. Many rental car agencies like Avis will rent to people under 25 -- but it'll cost you. Most up-charges range between an extra $15-$25 per day, depending on the car company and state in which you rent. Make sure to call or check online when renting the car to confirm you can rent underage and to find out what your fee will be.
2. Price Compare! We say this again and again, and it seems like obvious advice, but you'd be surprised how much money it can save you. Check sites like Kayak or Expedia that aggregate many companies into one search engine, saving you time and making comparisons a cinch. Sites like Hotwire.com and Priceline.com are also great options if you don't care which company you go through.
3. Beware of taxes and fees. Think you found an awesome deal? Make sure it's really as great as it looks by checking out the company's most likely hidden taxes and fees. That $15 per day rental could end up looking more like $25 per day come checkout.
4. Book your car ahead of time. Besides avoiding the headache of not having a car when you arrive at your destination, many car companies offer a discounted rate when booking online and paying up front. This is also a sneaky way to snag free upgrades. If you booked a compact car beforehand and they are out of compact cars that day, you'll be entitled to an upgrade to the next car level for the lower price you paid!
5. Take advantage of coupons! There is almost always a coupon out there for car rentals. Especially if you're picking one up in a major city with many options to choose from, taking a look at who's got the best coupon on the market well worth your time. Check out these car rental coupons going on now:
6. Do you need that extra? Sure a GPS and satellite radio sounds good on your computer screen, but is it going to feel good when it empties an extra $20+ dollars per day from your pocket? Borrow a GPS from someone at home, use your smart phone, or try good old fashioned maps (just not while you're driving, we care about you)! It'll help give you that good old fashioned that road-trip feel. Many new cars also come with a USB port where you can simply plug your iPod in with the same cord you use at home.
7. Check in ahead of time. Most rental companies allow you to check in online to make your pick-up even faster. Once you confirm your reservation, you can simply head to a kiosk, swipe your credit card and drivers license and be on your way!
8. To Insure or Not to Insure. Do you already have auto insurance or use a major credit card? You're probably already covered. Review your auto policy or call your insurance company to make sure before you reserve your rental. Same goes with credit cards. Many automatically insure your car rental when you pay with the card. Again, make sure to review your policy or call. And remember, though your American Express or Visa card may cover your car rental insurance, it won't cover that Ford Mustang you decided to get at the last minute. Credit card companies don't usually cover luxury cars.
9. Ask for discounts! The first question you ask before handing over your credit card should be -- Do you offer any discounts? Military, AAA, corporate, airline...tons of associations get price breaks, and all you have to do is ask!
10. Avoid the airport when you can. Sometimes convenience can definitely outweigh price, but it definitely pays not to pick up your car at the airport. If you can get an airport or hotel shuttle or take public transportation to your destination and then pick up your car at the city center instead of the airport, you will save what is often referred to as an "airport fee." Most times you can even return the car at the airport without the fee!
11. Fill up on gas. Prepaid gas plans are almost never cheaper, so fill up on your way back to the drop-off location. But, never fill your tank at the gas station closest to the return spot. Gas stations closer to the airport and near car rental places are generally more expensive because there is a greater demand. There are also lots of great Apps you can download and websites you can visit to find the cheapest gas in the area like GasBuddy and GasPriceWatch.com.
12. Be safe when renting a car. This may not sound like a money saving tip, but it is. Lock your car and don't leave valuables out. Especially in large cities, car thieves and burglars look for that GPS left on the dashboard or the duffel bag in the backseat as a reason to break in. The last thing you want to pay for is broken windows.
Happy renting BradsDealers! Have a great strategy on saving money while renting a car? Let us know in the comments below!
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