The Priciest Destination To Avoid Renting A Car From While You're On Vacation

To most travelers, having access to a car while on vacation can make the difference between a relatively seamless trip and a much more stressful one. After all, being able to drive yourself typically means you'll have more opportunities to explore a destination, travel at your own pace, or even save on transportation costs. Ultimately, whether you're thinking about renting a car in Europe or you simply don't want to bring your own vehicle on a stateside vacation, one thing's for sure: Rental cars can end up enhancing your travel experience.

However, all that freedom and convenience can quickly turn to frustration when you make it to the front desk and the agent whips out a surprisingly high quote — especially if you're at the airport. Why does location make a difference? Put simply, most airports charge rental car companies a fee for operating out of their facilities — and these fees are then passed on to the customer. This, in turn, means that airport car rentals are sometimes as much as 26% more expensive than if you'd picked up your car somewhere else, according to a recent study by NerdWallet.

What you can do instead of renting at the airport

Even though renting a car directly from the airport might feel convenient, there are a couple of drawbacks that could potentially dissuade you from choosing that route. For starters, there's the aforementioned airport fee that rental car companies are motivated to add to their pricing. In fact, according to the NerdWallet study, the price for a weekly car rental from a company's downtown location was an average of $126 cheaper than a weekly rental at the airport.

Beyond that, renting directly from the airport also has its own set of hassles. Some of these include everything from dealing with extra long lines at the counter — especially if a lot of flights have just landed — as well as higher wait times if you have to travel to the car pick-up site by shuttle bus. Renting a car at an airport could also result in fewer opportunities to make the most of discounts, bundles, and potential price-down negotiations.

That said, if you're still toying with the idea of renting a car during your vacation and want to get around renting a car from the airport, your best bet is to research the different options available at your destination and then hail a cab or take local transport to a downtown location. Sure, making the trip there might be a little bit of a hassle — especially if you're carrying your luggage — but it could help you save some pretty pennies.

Other tips for renting a car while on vacation

Along with renting off-site and away from the airport, there are plenty of other top tips for saving on rental cars. For starters, there's the question of whether to reserve your car way in advance or wait until the last minute to secure your booking. According to the NerdWallet study mentioned above, reservations made seven days in advance were 13% cheaper than those made 90+ days before the trip. And while this might give some travelers anxiety — especially when you start to consider availability and selection — trusting the process can sometimes pay off (literally).

Aside from that, other handy car rental tips to help you save include reading the contract closely to check for any unnecessary fees, choosing a designated driver to avoid additional driver fees that could spike the price of the insurance, and checking with your airline loyalty program to catch any promotions that might be running at the time. Finally, using sites like AutoSlash — an online car rental tool that compares agencies and rates for you — can also help you save some big bucks while letting someone else take care of the research and pricing comparison for you.

Traveling to Europe and renting a car? Travel expert Rick Steves has his own set of tips for choosing the right rental car for your European vacation — especially when it comes to finding reputable agencies and choosing the right vehicle for the trip.