How to Get Discounts on Car Rentals

Figuring out how to get discounts on car rentals means comparison shopping and looking for perks you may already have. Car rental discounts are available to people who are members of Costco, AAA, and other organizations. You can also reduce the cost of your car rental by using credit card benefits and using your own insurance rather than buying coverage.

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Rachel Bodine graduated from college with a BA in English. She has since worked as a Feature Writer in the insurance industry and gained a deep knowledge of state and countrywide insurance laws and rates. Her research and writing focus on helping readers understand their insurance coverage and how to find savings. Her expert advice on insurance has been featured on sites like PhotoEnforced, All...

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Leslie Kasperowicz holds a BA in Social Sciences from the University of Winnipeg. She spent several years as a Farmers Insurance CSR, gaining a solid understanding of insurance products including home, life, auto, and commercial and working directly with insurance customers to understand their needs. She has since used that knowledge in her more than ten years as a writer, largely in the insurance...

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Reviewed by Leslie Kasperowicz
Farmers CSR for 4 Years

UPDATED: Jan 12, 2022

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What You Should Know

  • Pay for your rental car upfront and you will receive an exclusive discount 
  • Avoid any upsell features and extra fees when it comes to reserving your car
  • Credit cards tend to offer supplementary coverage that will pay for rental car repairs

If you make frequent travel plans, you may have noticed that car rental prices have skyrocketed. This is an unfortunate symptom of the first fundamental law of economics: With more people starting to travel again, the demand is outweighing the supply. But, reserving a rental doesn’t have to be expensive if you know where to look.

Wondering how to get discounts on car rentals? 

Start by shopping online and taking advantage of any memberships you have. These options offer the most benefits for the least amount of time. But that’s not all. You can also save on things like rental auto insurance if you have the right coverage.

Keep reading to learn all the tips and tricks for finding a good discount on a car rental. While you’re saving money, enter your ZIP code for free quotes on auto insurance to find a better price.

How can you get discounts on car rentals?

Fortunately, like most things, you can save money on a car rental if you put in a little time and effort. Take a look at the following options for cheap rental car rates.

Shop for Rental Cars Online

Start your hunt for good rental deals with online discount websites. 

Aggregator websites compile information from tons of sites to help customers find specific deals. Then, there are online travel agencies (OTAs) that let customers research and book different travel service options from the companies. An example of a few are: 

  • Kayak
  • Priceline
  • Orbitz
  • Expedia
  • Groupon

These sites can help narrow down your search and find rental companies within your budget that best fits your travel plans. 

Check the Rental Company’s Website

Rental companies often put promotional offers right on their website. Sometimes, these offers aren’t advertised elsewhere so it pays to check their sites as well. Common offers include:

  • Pay upfront and get an exclusive discount
  • Loyalty program rewards
  • Promotional weekend rates

It’s easier to find the best rental car deals when you know what’s out there. So, after shopping around on different sites, compare those rates to the rates the car rental company offers. From there, you can see which deal will save you the most money prior to booking.

Take Advantage of Membership Benefits for Rental Cars

When you’re looking for ways to rent a car at an affordable price, you may already have exclusive deals through your memberships.

When you pay to become a member at an association, it can offer deals on everything from flying to renting cars. Even a membership at Costco can get you a good deal on car rentals. Here is a short list of associations and the deals they offer:

  • AAA – An AAA membership includes many benefits such as car insurance and an exclusive Visa credit card that can provide additional coverage on rental cars. They also waive the underage driver fee for you and give a discount on Hertz rentals.
  • AARP – Having an AARP membership offers savings at Avis and Budget up to 30% and up to 5% at Payless. 
  • Costco – Being a Costco member lets you access Costco Travel where you can check car rental prices and find exclusive deals.
  • National Education Association – As an NEA member, you receive no fee for additional drivers, unlimited mileage, and up to 25% savings.  
  • USAA – This membership offers discounts at Enterprise, Avis, Hertz, and Budget at up to 25% off.

Alumni and employee benefits may also include discounts on car rentals. If you aren’t sure you can always ask the rental company to help you explore your options.

Look for a Military Discount 

If you are in the military or working for the government, rental car companies may offer you a special discount as a show of gratitude.

To name a few places that offer this:

  • Budget
  • Avis
  • Alamo
  • Hertz
  • Enterprise

You could save up to 25% at some of these companies. So it may be beneficial to contact them and ask if they offer any military or government discounts. 

Avoid the Upsells and Extra Fees on Rental Cars When Unnecessary

When it comes time to reserve your rental car, rental companies may try to upsell you different features or charge you additional fees. Avoiding these extra charges can help to lower the final price of your rental: 

  • Additional driver fees – With long drives, having another driver to take over can be a big help, but this can also lead to an added fee. Certain companies like Silvercar don’t charge for additional drivers while other companies waive the fee for spouses or partners.
  • Underage fee – While the required age to rent a car is 21 in most states, younger drivers may be charged a young renter fee. If you have a membership with AAA or USAA, this fee can be waived for you as an added benefit. 
  • Loss damage waiver – Your auto insurance for your personal car extends to your rental car. If your auto insurance covers you for liability and collision coverage, then you’re more than protected. So, skip the waiver.
  • GPS device – Do you have a working smartphone? Then, you won’t need to pay extra for a GPS in your car if you don’t want it. A smartphone with a maps feature can get you where you need to be and back. 
  • Fill the tank – Don’t return a car empty. Then, they could charge you an extra fee for doing so. Certain companies have gas policies and may even offer a deal, but it’s all unnecessary if you pay attention to where your tank is at. 

Rent from a Low-Cost Rental Car Company

While the bigger rental car companies have a wider network, they can be a bit expensive even with all their promotions and rental deals. If you’re wondering “what is the cheapest car rental company” try a cheap rental car company like:

  • Alamo
  • Thrifty
  • Payless

Note that the selection of cars may be smaller, and they may not have the network for out-of-state trips. Still, it can be an inexpensive alternative that saves you more money in the long run. 

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Saving on Rental Car Insurance

Instead of paying $10 to $30 per day for a rental company’s loss damage waiver, use your own insurance to save money. When you already have auto insurance, that coverage will extend to your rental. Plus if you’re missing key coverage like collision, paying for your rental car with your credit card can provide that. 

Credit cards cover rental auto insurance with supplementary coverage that can help pay for repairs. They include other benefits such as loyalty program rewards and upgrades. Keep in mind while you’re shopping around that different banks have different offers. For example:

  • The American Express Platinum card provides secondary coverage for up to $75,000 as well as extra benefits like expedited service and car upgrades.
  • The Chase Sapphire Reserve card offers primary, worldwide coverage of up to $75,000 and an upgrade to elite status with National Car Rental, Avis, and Silvercar. 

If you’re traveling within the United States or Canada and fully covered through your insurance or credit card, then it might be worth it to use your own. That way you don’t end up paying double for coverage. 

Renting Without a Credit Card

Don’t have a credit card? Luckily, we can walk you through how to rent a car without a credit card. Many car rental companies have the option for you to use other forms of payment. You may have to bring additional identification and other forms though.

If you have an AAA membership, you are eligible for their AAA Visa Signature credit card. It includes benefits like:

  • Car rental discounts
  • Supplementary collision coverage
  • No annual fees

While you don’t need a credit card to rent a car, you may be able to get one through a membership or program. 

Consider Alternatives to Renting a Car

Due to the high number of people demanding rentals and the car supply shortage, it’s more expensive than ever to get a decent, inexpensive rental car. This doesn’t mean you are without options though. 

  • Ridesharing options like Uber, Lyft, and taxi companies can be affordable if you’re looking to stay local. Keep in mind that the pricing can be unpredictable and you’re subject to what’s available at the time. 
  • Public transportation is a timeless alternative because it is inexpensive and available to the public. The GPS function on your smartphone can be used to find your way around the city using public transportation options. 
  • Car sharing companies like Turo and Get Around are the most commonly used. Through the company, “hosts” list their cars for other drivers to rent. The companies will often check your insurance and validate your information.

With a little flexibility and support, there are always affordable options and discounts available to help you arrive at your destination.

How to Get Discounts on Car Rentals: The Bottom Line

Finding the best discounts and deals is easy when you have support and know where to start. There are several ways to get discounts on a car rental, including using comparison shopping sites.

One of the best ways to pay less for a car rental is to save on the insurance. Instead of buying the insurance offered at the rental counter, compare rates for auto insurance policies that include rental car coverage. Enter your ZIP code now for free quotes from top car insurance companies.

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