Renting a car? Why are you paying full price when all you need is a code?


Are you a frequent rental car user?  Do you do your research BEFORE booking a vehicle?  Or do you just book the first car you see on the first website you search. 

What a costly mistake!  You could be throwing away hundreds of dollars.

Read on. . .

My husband and I like having a car.  We like to come and go as we please, especially when traveling.  And as long as we are traveling in North America, we see no reason not to have a rental car, unless we are in a big city like New York City with its awesome public transportation systems, and outrageous parking fees.  Then having a rental car – well, it’s just silly.

So, we spend a fair amount on rental vehicles in a year.  But we cut those costs whenever possible.  Here’s a practical and responsible way to spend your money on a rental vehicle:

  • 1) Check out a number of websites including sites like Expedia, Travelzoo, Travelocity, and at least 3 actual car rental sites like Hertz, Avis, Alamo, and Budget.
  • 2) Enter your travel particulars into 2 or 3 of the sites (without actually booking) to get sample vehicle rental rates. Be very specific and compare apples to apples, compact car to compact car, or your findings will be skewed.
  • 3) Now, open a new web page and browse to your frequent flyer membership/airline sites like Aeroplan, or United Airlines, or Airmiles. Search around and check out any promotions or “car deals” being offered.
  • 4) Find your loyalty card’s car rental promotional discounts that will work for you. Remember, there will be qualifications on the discount – like the level or type of vehicle included in the promotion, and whether it’s a weekend or a weekly rental; so, note that.
  • 5) Now, armed with your money-saving codes, go back to the car rental agency’s website, and book a car. (You might find a link directly on your loyalty’s card website.) Input the promotional codes into the rental car site’s appropriate boxes.  (Provide exactly what the car rental website wants – that could be two codes.)
  • 6) Use all the money you’ve saved for a really fancy dinner. Or a new bathing suit.

NOTE:  Are you always wondering if you should take the extra insurance offered by the car rental agency?  My rule of thumb is: When in doubt, spend the extra $20/day for this costly “walk away” insurance coverage. 

For me it has been worth it.  I blew out a tire on some rough roads outside of Boston, but because I took the coverage, the agency simply gave me another vehicle.  They didn’t charge me the $400 they said I owed for damaging the tire.  No fuss, no muss – I just walked away – well, I drove away.  And saved myself $300 on that instance, alone.

Sheree Zielke

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