A Travel Expert Tells Us Their Top Tips For Saving On Rental Cars

Car rentals, once a minor aspect of travel budgets, have undergone a seismic shift due to the pandemic. According to experts, companies had to give up much of their fleet during its peak, a move that proved difficult to reverse when demand returned. What's more, they have since been making a killing with the inflated prices, so rates continue to be unreasonably high. Even in 2023, travelers are still reeling from the overwhelming hike in rental prices.

As car rental fees remain stubbornly high, the wise move is to pull all the stops to try and cut costs however you can. Victoria Fricke, a travel agent with Vic's Vacations, recommends going deep into research mode on the rental companies you're considering. Research is your best friend, especially when it comes to insurance policies, which are usually the primary culprit behind prohibitively high car rental rates. "Knowing prior to arriving if you're going to get insurance/what is actually covered is helpful!" she exclusively told Explore, adding that it's also worth checking with your credit card provider to find out the coverage they offer.

Another tip? Double-check your workplace perks. Corporations are often affiliated with rental agencies, offering their employees discounts that lead to wallet-friendly rates. "Checking for the best rate is often as simple as talking to your HR department at work," Fricke advised. "Many companies get access to discount codes that save clients quite a bit of money."

Bundling isn't always the best way to save

Bundles are rampant in the travel space. Many companies offer enticing discounts on packages, encouraging travelers to purchase their flights, hotels, and rental cars in one fell swoop. These bundles are often advertised as a great way to significantly bring down the costs of your overall trip. Then again, when rental cars are involved, the promise of savings can be misleading. There are cases when the cost of the rental vehicle within a package exceeds the price of booking it separately.

Since some travel companies can be deceptive when it comes to bundles, Fricke cautions against impulsively buying these all-inclusive deals. As always, research is your ally, so it's best to dissect the bundle offered and double-check whether or not it'll actually score you savings. While this approach might seem to counter the very convenience of bundling, it's a small price to pay if it means you get to reap financial benefits. "Should you bundle? I would compare with and without bundled pricing," Fricke noted. "Re-price the trip without the car and with it — then compare pricing had you gotten the car on your own. Yes it's more work, but could be the best financial move."

Make it a habit to book early

It's the golden rule of trip planning: book as early as reasonably possible. The early bird almost always enjoys substantial savings, and that rings true even with renting a car. Per Fricke, it's in your best interest to book vehicles far in advance, especially if you're traveling during a holiday or peak season. Delaying your booking not only limits your options, but also heightens your risk of being forced to relent to exorbitant prices.

"I'd say if you're going during a high travel time (Christmas/Spring Break) time is always your friend," she said. "After all, there are only so many cars to rent." For those hesitant to book early for fear of missing out on later deals, Fricke says that it shouldn't be a cause for concern. Rental companies are often lenient with their policies, and more often than not, travelers are afforded the leeway to cancel, make changes, or rebook in the days closer to their trip. "Many car companies have flexible policies, and payment isn't due until you get the vehicle so the smartest move would be to secure the car you want in advance, and modify or cancel/rebook should the price drop," she advised.

With this in mind, book your rental car ahead of time. If you come across a better deal later on, you still have the option to make modifications to your reservation or rebook completely to capitalize on better rates.