How to Save on Car Rentals This Year
We found ways to save on car rentals—both when you book and during your trip.
Car rentals, like flights, often charge hidden fees. We found the most common types of charges you might not expect on a car rental. Here's what to look for and how to avoid getting charged extra.
Commonly Overlooked Car Rental Fees:
- Booking fees
- Fuel refill charges
- Unpaid toll fees
- Overnight parking fees
How to Save on Booking Fees
The biggest fee is often the rental booking itself. But, don't think you always need to pay the advertised price. Car rental companies offer many types of discounts. You can save money with loyalty programs, credit cards, and even an AARP membership.
Here's how to save when you book car rentals:
- Credit card reward program
- Frequent flyer program
- AAA membership
- AARP membership
- USAA membership
- Store memberships (like Costco or Sam's Club)
- Senior and military discounts
Booking with any of the above methods could save you money. It just takes time to compare options. That's why some of us use AutoSlash. Once you enter information about your cards and memberships, they'll find the lowest possible rate.
How to Avoid Fuel Refill Fees
Drivers, especially those in a rush, tend to overlook the most common fees. Car rental companies charge for tank refills, and they don't price match the cheapest gas in town. The easiest way to avoid this fee: Fill your tank on the way back to the airport. As with most things, you'll save the most money with a little planning.
You can also save on gas with some store memberships. Places like Costco and Sam's Club sometimes have lower gas prices, so you can fill up at your club before you return the rental.
How to Avoid Unpaid Toll Fees
When you take toll roads in a rental car, unpaid fees get sent back to you. . . with a little extra tacked on as administration fees. Most rental companies offer toll payment programs, where they pay your tolls for you, for an extra fee. It's worth determining whether a daily fee from your rental company is worth it though.
If you have your own toll transponder, one you can move from car to car, you might be able to take it with you. Better yet, avoid toll roads when you choose your routes on Google Maps.
How to Avoid Parking Fees
Many resorts tack on overnight parking fees or mandatory valet parking fees. Mark Jackson, our resident travel expert, advises looking into your hotel's reward program to avoid these fees. Some reward programs waive resort fees (and parking fees) when you have a high-enough loyalty level and book your vacation as a reward stay.
For most other situations, you'll need to scout the area ahead of time. Check for free parking near where you're staying, or opt for a third-party parking option near your hotel—one with lower fees.