Best Car Rental Hacks: 8 Unusual Ways to Save on Renting a Vehicle

These Rental Car Hacks will save you hundreds of dollars on your vacation!

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Want to save money on your next rental car? You’re going to love these 12 cheap and clever car rental hacks. We’ve tried most of these and they really work to cut the cost of your trip.

First, we’ll tell you a story about our BIGGEST savings. Then we’ll give you 11 other tips!

How these Rental Car Hacks saved us $200+! 

We were traveling to Richmond, Virginia to speak at a conference and to spend a few days vacationing with family and friends.

There were six of us traveling, plus luggage for one week … and 24 cases of our books.

Keep reading to see what happened at the Airport.

1. Compare Prices

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 of $168 (25% cheaper).

The bottom line is to check out several car rental agencies to get the best price. But for our money and time, we always check Costco and Budget first.

1a. Use to compare

There are lots of travel price comparison sites like Expedia, Hotwire, Travelocity, and They search most of the other branded Airlines, Hotels, and Rental Car companies and share the results with you.

But for some reason when we use AutoSlash we consistently find prices that the others don’t show – and we see savings that are 20 to 30 percent.

RELATED ARTICLE: Vacations on a Shoestring Budget

2. Major Hack: Ask For The “Walk-Up Rate”

While making our reservation over the phone, several weeks before the trip, a counter agent in Richmond, VA offered this tip.

Light bulb great idea.

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 surplus, 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, someone at the Budget counter rented the minivan to another customer.

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.

  1. The lower price: $201 versus $485.77 (saving $284) more than 50 percent.
  2. 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.
  3. 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 Walkup 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 as we did!

Great Money Saving Idea

Quoting your Auto Insurance is a fast way to save money. We use GABI Insurance to get fast and easy comparison pricing.
Just connect your current policy with their quote tool and you’ll be on your way to saving money.



3. Rent Off-Airport – Return to The Airport

Light bulb great idea.

Most cities tack on huge amounts of taxes and fees to airport rentals.

If you’re staying at a hotel that offers an airport shuttle use it to get away from the airport. Or take an Uber. Then set up your car rental with a city-based rental location.

You’ll save 20 to 30 percent.

For that amount of money, it might be worth paying for an Uber from the airport to the nearest “off-airport” rental car location.

Return the Car to the Airport

Usually, there is no extra charge if you choose to return the car to the airport when you’re done with your rental.

4. Fill Your Own Tank

Most car rental locations will offer to let you return your car with the gas tank empty. But there is a price to be paid for that convenience. They usually tack on between 20 and 30 cents per gallon to the going price of gas.

We always fill up our tank about 10 miles from the airport. We’ve found that gas stations close to an airport are usually more expensive, but going to a station 10 miles away saves money. If you really want to ensure that you get the best price on gas, use to check all stations in your area.

5. Video for Damage

Whenever we rent a car, Steve pulls out his cell phone and takes a video while he slowly walks around the car.

This can serve as excellent proof of the condition of the car if there is ever a claim by the rental company that there was a problem.

He deletes the video about 2 weeks later if there has been no communication from the rental car company.

6. Decline Insurance

We rented a car in Chicago and had a minor accident. Our insurance covered the damages minus our deductible. The rental car rep said that they would try to charge for loss of use for the vehicle, but that most insurance companies won’t pay for it.

Check Your Credit Card Benefits

Many credit cards offer certain types of rental car insurance as long as you pay for your rental with that card. It’s worth calling your credit card company or digging into your card’s terms and conditions to see what coverage you already have. Y

Bottom-line: Rental Car companies charge $15 to $40 per day for insurance coverage. If you have a full coverage insurance policy with good limits, and you’re a safe driver, let your insurance cover you.

Great Money Saving Idea

Quoting your Auto Insurance is a fast way to save money. We use GABI Insurance to get fast and easy comparison pricing.
Just connect your current policy with their quote tool and you’ll be on your way to saving money.



7. Drive One-Way for Free

When Steve was in college he drove a Cadillac from Arizona to Chicago through a company called AutoDriveAway.

He was allowed to relocate the car for a wealthy family who chose to fly home rather than drive.

There are a couple of companies that still offer this one-way driving service.

1. Transfercar lists vehicles that need to be moved from one destination to another; if you’re willing to do the driving, you can snag a car or camper for ultra-cheap—or even free.

2. AutoDriveAway is another option. They are looking for drivers for 3 different sizes of vehicles, with and without commercial driver’s licenses. See the AutoDriveAway application here.

8. Join a Rental Car Loyalty Program

Level up your car rental game by joining the loyalty program of your favorite car rental company. You’ll usually get VIP treatment with perks like skipping rental counters and exclusive member offers, no matter how often you rent.

Plus, they’ll send you emails notifying you of steep discounts for future rentals. And you’ll earn points that can be redeemed for flights or hotel stays through partnerships with airlines and hotels.

9. Get a Group Membership Discount

Membership has its privileges! If you’re part of AAA, AARP, Costco, BJ’s, or USAA, you’re likely entitled to exclusive car rental discounts.

AARP hooks you up with partnerships including Avis, Budget, Payless, and Zipcar, all listed in their member benefits. AAA members, on the other hand, enjoy sweet deals from Hertz, and even get the youth driver fee waived for ages 20 to 24. Costco, BJ’s, and USAA offer convenient search engines to scout rental deals with their trusted partners.

Remember, group memberships are just one way to save, but sometimes there are even more generous offers out there. Since you usually can’t combine discounts, choose wisely and don’t settle for less!

10. Rent from a Peer-to-Peer Car Rental App

Unlock incredible savings by renting a car through Peer-to-Peer Car Rental Apps like Turo, Getaround, or Zipcar. They’re considered the Airbnb of the car rental world.

Compared to mainstream car rental companies, you could potentially save up to 30% or more on your rental expenses. Experience the convenience of renting directly from car owners and enjoy unique vehicle options tailored to your preferences.

With Peer-to-Peer Car Rental Apps, you not only save money but also gain access to a diverse fleet of vehicles, making your journey even more exciting and cost-effective.

11. Pay in Advance

Prepaying for your car rental offers several advantages, including potential cost savings. Major car rental companies often provide discounted rates ranging from 10% to 25% when you choose to prepay. This upfront payment allows you to secure a lower price compared to paying at the counter.

However, there is a downside to consider. Prepaying locks you into a final price, potentially preventing you from taking advantage of last-minute discounts or walk-up rates. If there are any sudden promotions or special offers available closer to your rental date, you may miss out on the opportunity to save even more money.

While prepayment can provide initial savings, it’s important to weigh the potential loss of flexibility against the discounted rates offered. Consider your travel plans and the likelihood of any unforeseen changes before deciding to prepay for your rental.

12. Rent a Car As Part of a Travel Package

Unleash significant savings by bundling your car rental with your flight and/or hotel as part of a travel package deal. This clever strategy can lead to substantial cost reductions.

As an example, we researched a weeklong trip from Phoenix to New York City. When we explored options on Expedia, we discovered that booking the flight separately would cost $500 per person, while a standalone car rental would amount to $270, or $133.50 per person.

The total cost for separate bookings would be $630 per person.

However, when we checked the price for a flight and car package, the total cost dropped to just $460 per person, which is even less than the flight cost alone.

Take advantage of these bundled deals to maximize your savings and create a hassle-free travel experience.

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!

These Rental Car Hacks will save you hundreds of dollars on your vacation!

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4 thoughts on “Best Car Rental Hacks: 8 Unusual Ways to Save on Renting a Vehicle

  1. Nina

    If you are a US citizen you probably have memberships like Costco or AAA that you are already paying for, you can use them to get a great deal on a rental car. You should always make sure to check your credit card benefits before buying the insurance, make sure you do not overpay for gas. Lastly, make sure to check the car for damages and take pictures before driving out the lot

  2. Blu K

    Thank you for sharing, as we usually travel with a large group as well, but the cost of large rentals has scared us away for the most part. I have a question, when you left on your trip, and then arrived in VA where you received the passenger van. Did you have to cancel the SUV rental, and if so, were there any penalties for doing so? Thanks again for sharing this great travel hack, I look forward to trying this out for my family.

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