These Money-Saving Tips Will Help Make Renting A Car This Holiday Season Even Easier

Renting a car can give you a lot of freedom during your holiday vacation, but it can also put a big dent in your budget. After flights and accommodations, car rentals over the holiday season are usually one of the biggest expenses. AutoSlash reports that while prices for renting a car drop after Labor Day, they rocket up again just in time for the holidays. So how can you pay less for your car rental?

The number one tip is to book as early as you can. AAA states that rates are usually lower if you book in advance, and begin to rise the closer to the date of travel that you get. Plus, booking earlier means you'll have a wider choice of cars, so a family with three teenage kids won't end up in a mini-sized rental. There's a bit of conflicting advice about whether to pre-pay or choose to pay onsite. AAA recommends pre-paying if there's a discount for that. AutoSlash argues for paying on the day to give you maximum flexibility (but they're also trying to sell you their product, so do your research.)

Be flexible and check for discounts

One big thing most sites, including AAA, recommend is being flexible when choosing where to pick up your rental car. There's usually not a lot of difference if you pick one day earlier or later to rent your car over holiday periods, but pickup locations can change the amount you spend. Check off-airport locations while you're searching for the best deals. Airport locations are likely going to be very busy over the holidays, but their nearby locations might not be. Some companies also offer free pickup.

There are also lots of discounts available on rental cars. Experian says that signing up for car rental company newsletters can often bag you a discount, as can your age or the fact that you're a student or member of the military. AutoSlash also suggests signing up for free car rental loyalty programs, more as a way to avoid the long lines at the counter, as you can often skip this step altogether if you're a member.

Share your flight details and be careful with add-ons

Another tip from AAA is to share your flight details and your estimated pickup time with the rental car company. That way, if you experience a flight delay, your reservation will be safe. Finally, you'll want to be careful with add-ons. Rental Cars proposes being choosy about who will drive. Any additional drivers often cost more, and this is especially true if the driver is under the age of 25. Many companies have free additional driver policies for spouses and domestic partners, or in certain other cases. According to Car Rental Savers, some states also have laws that certain people can be added for free. Always check before you go.

Other add-ons you might be sold are a GPS, baby seats, or even a tank of gas. Let's work backward. AutoSlash states that pre-paid tanks of gas are almost always more expensive than just filling up yourself, so avoid pre-paying if you can. Most airlines allow you to take some baby equipment for free, and this can be much cheaper than renting a seat by the day. Lastly, download online maps to your phone and leave the expensive GPS behind.