As with trains and planes, booking a car just before you travel can be more expensive. But these nine simple tips show how you can still find yourself a great deal on a rental car.
1) Book online before you go
Even if you’re travelling in an hour or two, it’s still worth booking ahead so you can compare prices and pick the right deal (with the right company) for you. If you leave it to chance and turn up at a counter, you’ll be limited to whatever cars that particular rental company has left – and you’ll pay a last-minute price.
2) Play with pick-up and drop-off times
Try changing your pick-up and drop-off times to see how it affects the price. Car hire companies rent their cars out in ‘chunks’ of 24 hours, which means a 25-hour rental costs as much as a two-day rental. So, if you can, try to drop your car off at the same time of day that you picked it up, or slightly earlier.
3) Look at rental counters a bit further away
At airports, rental companies with a counter in the terminal are usually more expensive. So think about hiring from companies that provide a free shuttle bus to the rental counter. And if you’re renting in a town or city, consider sites a little further out of the center.
4) Book now – change or cancel later
Prices can go up as the pick-up date gets closer. If you’re holding off booking because you’re not 100% sure about your trip yet, check the cancellation policy. If you can change or cancel for free, it’s usually worth booking straight away to lock in a lower price. Just find out whether there’s a time limit on that free cancellation…
5) Look for deals
Before you book, do a quick search for special deals. You might get a discount for creating an account or a special offer for signing up to emails. Or you might find a sale or some other kind of money-saving offer.
6) Decide what matters to you
Think about what really matters versus what you’re prepared to compromise on. You could cut your costs by taking a smaller car, trying a cheaper brand, or choosing a slightly less convenient location.
7) Minimize your extra costs
Check your fuel policy and make sure it’s ‘Full to Full’ to avoid extra fuel costs – and make sure you fill up the car before you take it back. To avoid additional charges, restrict yourself to one driver, use your phone rather than hiring a GPS/sat nav, and take your own child seat if you need one. Under-25s tend to be charged a Young Driver Fee, so if you can, have someone older do the driving.
8) Look online for insurance
If you feel more comfortable getting additional insurance for your rental, do a quick online search beforehand. Buying it at the counter leaves you stuck with what the hire car company offer, and it might be expensive.
9) Check the reviews
Sometimes, low prices can mean poorer service. So take the time to see what other people think. Saving a small amount of money might not feel so worthwhile if you queue for ages, or if you’re charged extra when you arrive. Checking out reviews means you’ll know what to expect.