Car Rental 101 – Do I Really Need A Car And Is There A Cheaper Way?

There was a time when renting a car on a trip was an automatic “requirement.” With the gas prices we have come to loathe continuing its upward spiral, deciding on whether to rent a car or pay for a cab is becoming more and more muddled. And do we really need a car in some of those cities anyway?

Cities like Las Vegas, San Francisco, New York, Paris, London and many others have fantastic public transportation systems that are often traveled by tourists to get around. Not only that, these same cities often are difficult to drive in and the parking is expensive, thus municipalities have invested in public transportation for the common folk to get around in this environment. To accentuate the point, lets discuss Waikiki, Hawaii.

Granted, cars are the last thing on your mind when your in the sunshine and surf, but it should be. Parking a Car in Waikiki is starting to edge close to 20 dollars a day just to guarantee a spot for your car to hide when your not driving around at $3.50 per gallon gas rates. tour junkets and bus rides can get you pretty much anywhere on the island for under 20 bucks a day, so you really only need a car for one or two days for when you go out exploring on your own. If you vacation for a week, cutting down your rental needs from seven to two days can save you as much as 500 dollars in parking, gas, rental, and insurance.

So is it necessary to rent a car? That decision is up to you. Sure, I could tell you that you NEED to rent a car on your trip, but its not always that clear cut. After examining your needs, and you realize you indeed need a car rental, there are several basic rules of things you need to consider to keep your costs down.

So now you know what and for how long, now less work on the price. These steps are essential to consider for any affordable car rental episode:

1. Agencies vs. Airports. Car rental agencies must pay a fee for operating at the airport. This fee is allowed by law to be passed onto the renter. Renting away from the airport will often yield rates (and tariffs) savings as much as the car rental itself. Often there are car rental agencies near or in your hotel in many of the major tourist areas, so consider finding alternate transportation to and from the airport and rent from an agency.

2. Choose a car that fits your needs, not your eyes.The most common rental class nationwide is the intermediate. Often a compact car will save you 3-5 dollars per day and gets 5-6 miles per gallon more than an intermediate, yet they often seat the same number of people. Also, the cost in buying a compact vs. an intermediate is often nearly the same, so some rental agencies overstock in the mid size, knowing that they will upgrade you for free into the mid size car.

3. Consider small market companies. Some smaller companies that operate on and off airport grounds are cheaper and have the same cars as the larger nationwide brethren. Take a peek at that company you’ve never heard of. You may find a gem.

4. Shop around for car rental discount coupons. This is a whole discussion on its own. Many Car rental agencies have discount codes they give to businesses and groups to promote business with that rental agency. Call and ask each rental company if your employer has a discount code. also ask your favorite club shopping company, entertainment book, Wholesale shopping club, Co-op or insurance company. Often they all have some sort of deal that they can share.

5. Prepaid Gas vs. filling up on your own. Car rental companies often try and get you to buy a full tank of gas at the beginning so you can return it empty. Ever try and empty a car tank? not the easiest thing. The only sure bet is to fill it up yourself. Decline.

6. Rent only when you NEED a car. Self explanatory. If you are going to a conference, you don’t need a car for the first three days when you are spending every single daylight hour in the event.

7. Car Rental Insurance. Another “whole class on its own.” The best thing to know is that your credit card or your own personal car insurance will likely cover you in case of an incident. Check with both before you go to decide if you need to purchase additional coverage.

8. Remember, the agents work on commission. Although they may seem they have your best interests in mind, do NOT blindly follow their recommendations for add on services. Do your homework and decide in advance before you arrive at the rental counter.

Follow these rules, do your homework, and your car rental costs can be limited greatly to what you really need, instead of what you think you need.

 

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