7 Tips to Save Money on a Car Rental for Your Summer Vacation

by Natasha Gabrielle | Updated Aug. 17, 2021 - First published on June 21, 2021

Many or all of the products here are from our partners that pay us a commission. It’s how we make money. But our editorial integrity ensures our experts’ opinions aren’t influenced by compensation. Terms may apply to offers listed on this page.
A man and woman standing in the open doors of their car parked on the side of a forest road.

Image source: Getty Images

You may be able to save on the cost of your next car rental. Follow these tips!

By now, you may have heard about the high costs of car rentals. In 2020, many companies sold off their vehicles due to lack of demand because of the pandemic. Now that more people are vaccinated, more people are taking trips. This increased demand has led to sky-high prices for rental vehicles.

If you're taking a summer trip and need to rent a car, there are some steps you can take to avoid draining your bank account. Keep reading to see some of our favorite money-saving car rental tips.

1. Book your car right away

If you know you'll need a car for a future trip, now is the time to book. As the trip date gets closer, it's more likely that inventory will be low and prices will be higher. You can secure a lower rate by booking your car rental in advance.

2. Use a car-sharing service

If you're not happy with the rental prices you're seeing, you may want to consider using a car-sharing service to rent a car. Companies like Turo allow car owners to rent their vehicles to people. Prices vary, but this can be a good way to save on the expense of a car rental. It can also ensure that you have a car for your trip -- as many traditional rental companies are running out of vehicles to rent.

3. Don't forget discount codes

Discount codes and coupon codes can save you a lot. Before making a reservation, don't forget to ask about any discounts that the company offers. Here are some examples that may be available:

  1. AARP
  2. AAA
  3. Costco members
  4. Military discounts
  5. Union member discounts

4. Consider a non-airport rental location

Many car rental companies have locations set up at airports. While this can offer convenience, these locations usually charge more for their services. If you want to lower your next rental rate, look at rental locations away from the airport. You can do the math and figure out how much an Uber or Lyft ride would cost you to get to and from the airport. It may still be a lot cheaper to rent your car this way.

5. Book multiple reservations with free cancellation

Another way to save money is to make multiple bookings. Start by making a reservation as soon as you know that you're taking a trip. Take a look around at other car rental companies and see what they have to offer for the same dates. You can then make a different booking. When your trip date gets closer, cancel the bookings you no longer need and keep the lowest-priced booking. To avoid unwanted extra fees, make sure that you book reservations that offer free cancellations.

6. Use a travel credit card with included car rental insurance

Another way to save is by using a travel credit card to book your rental. If you use a credit card that includes rental car insurance, you can decline the rental company's insurance without worry about accidents, saving you from that added expense.

When you're deciding which credit card to use, consider the type of coverage that is offered. Many credit cards offer secondary car rental insurance, which means the insurance will be available once you max out the coverage provided by your regular car insurance company. If you use a card with primary car insurance coverage, this coverage will kick in right away. You'll want to be aware of the differences so you know how to handle any potential accidents or issues during your trip.

When using a credit card to book your reservation, you can also earn points on your purchase. You can later redeem these points for travel or cash back. Doing this is a smart and easy way to save now and in the future.

7. Rent from a car dealership

Did you know that you can rent cars from car dealerships? If any of the above suggestions don't work out, you may want to contact car dealerships at your destination of choice. Call around and see what the prices are like for your dates. You may get a great deal.

Ready to book a trip? Don't overpay when making your car rental reservation. Follow the above tips so you can save money when booking a car for your upcoming vacation plans.

Top credit card wipes out interest until 2024

If you have credit card debt, transferring it to this top balance transfer card secures you a 0% intro APR for up to 21 months! Plus, you'll pay no annual fee. Those are just a few reasons why our experts rate this card as a top pick to help get control of your debt. Read our full review for free and apply in just 2 minutes.

About the Author