Rental Car Strategies

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By Lisa K. Berton

Finding a vehicle to rent for an upcoming vacation is easy. Finding a great deal on a rental car takes time, patience, and stamina. Here are some tips to help guide you through the process and afterward.

  • Car rental rates change more often than hotel prices and airfare. Keep checking your favorite agencies by plugging in discount codes from your membership(s) to AAA, Entertainment, AARP, as well as state and city tourism sites.


  • Sign up for loyalty programs, earn points, and receive discount codes via e-mail. Follow agencies on social media platforms for additional offers.


  • Last-minute trip? Try booking through an online bidding website. Prices go up the closer you get to your trip and walking up to an airport desk can cost more than you bargained for. Another option is asking your hotel if there's a rental agency nearby that would pick you up if the hotel shuttle isn't able to bring you over.


  • If your travels take you along toll roads, bring a transponder with you and put enough money on it to cover expenses and have some left over. You don't want to get hit with exorbitant fees from the rental company. Check which states accept E-ZPass. Florida uses Sunpass. Additional info and single state systems can be found here.


  • Choose to fill the gas tank before returning the car. Just remember to stop at a gas station within 20 miles from the car return center. You'll save money.


  • If you're going to want insurance, check with your credit card as it may offer coverage. You can also contact your car insurance agent and ask about purchasing rental insurance for your trip.


  • Looking for a free upgrade? Don't ask the desk agent, it's his/her job to upsell you. Ask the lot or garage attendant. Most of them are willing to help out and only they know what's actually available. Desk agents don't know how many cars or what types of cars are actually available when you arrive.  Example: The desk agent in Cleveland got snappy with me when I asked what was available (my rate had an option for free upgrades) and said they only had compact cars.  Once out on the lot, I found zero compact cars and zero mid-size cars. The attendant let me pick out anything except for a premium car.

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