Rental Car Hacks that saved us more than $200!
Here are some rental car hacks that saved us a ton of money! We were traveling to Richmond Virginia to speak at a conference and to do a little vacationing with family and friends. There would be six of us traveling, plus luggage for one week and 24 cases of books.
Rental Car Hack #1 Shop Around and Save
We reserved a minivan for seven days with Budget using an Entertainment Book coupon for one free weekend day.
The Budget Rental Car discounted price was $654.
As a comparison, Annette’s dad, who was traveling with us reserved a full-sized SUV – Ford Expedition—through Costco without a coupon.
The Costco Price for the same seven-day rental was $485.77— savings $168 (25% off).
Rental Car Hack #2: Plan for the Walk-Up Rate
While making our reservation, a counter agent in Richmond, VA offered this tip.
Since Budget and Avis are now one company, make a reservation at Avis, but walk up to the Budget counter in the airport and ask for the Walk-Up Rate for the minivan or SUV. If this location had a surplus number of cars, they would be willing to rent them for a much lower rate. She quoted the same minivan that we reserved for $654, with a walk-up rate of $330. We tucked this information away, canceled our $654 reservation and went on our trip.
The Rental Car Walk up rate hack worked!
When we arrived at the Avis counter in Virginia, Steve asked for the walk-up rate for a large vehicle. They didn’t have any extra full-sized SUVs on the lot, but they did have a minivan. The rate, including insurance, was $250. We declined the insurance, but the agent had already started writing up the contract. By the time she canceled the contract and restarted, someone at the Budget counter rented the minivan to another visitor. Through an interesting series of events the counter agent, and then the manager, worked out for us to rent a 12 passenger van for seven days for $201 (this van ended up getting 16 mpg / a little less than the 20 mpg we were expecting from a minivan).
This turned out to be multiple blessings in one.
- The lower price: $201 versus $485.77 (saving $284) more than 50 percent.
- Another bonus: No Courier Service. We were going to hire a local courier service for $50 to move our books from a friend’s house to the convention center.
- Room for friends. We took a side trip to visit Walton’s Mountain Museum (the TV show The Waltons, was conceived in the small town of Schuyler, VA. near Earl Hamner’s home) and because of the size of the van, all nine of us (six in our family and three additional family friends) were all able to travel to the museum in one vehicle (saved gas).
The takeaway on the Walk up Rate
Make the best deal for a rental car before you travel, but always ask for the walk-up rate when you get to the counter. You may get a real bonus like we did!
If you have any more rental car hacks, please share them in the comments below. We are all about helping consumers get the best value for the lowest price – saving money is a great way to make frugal fun!
For more great vacation ideas, consider our first book, America’s Cheapest family Gets You Right on the Money, it has a whole chapter on vacation ideas! Also, the Money Saving Tips Vacation Page on our website!