Five ways to save on car rentals

Are you heading off for a holiday that requires a car rental? It pays to know the ropes when it comes to hiring a car, and our five tips could save you a bundle.

Look out for hidden charges
Check the fine print of your rental agreement for hidden fees that may make your $50-per-day rental end up being more like $60. Sales tax, airport fees and extra costs for travelling over an allotted amount of kilometres all add up – so check the deal you think you have made against the terms and conditions to make sure you won’t get stung by hidden extras.

It’s also best to make sure you fill the fuel tank prior to returning your vehicle, because if the hire company has to do it, you can be assured of astronomical fuel costs that will take a big bite out of your credit card.

Convenience versus cost
It may be convenient to rent a car straight from the airport, but if you have a choice of hiring from a place nearby, it may be less expensive for you to do so. Airport rental agencies are usually more expensive than their suburban and metro counterparts, so do your homework before you arrive, and weigh up the price of paying for a cab to get to a cheaper rental firm over paying for the convenience of an airport rental.

Another good idea is to see if your hotel can organise a shuttle from the airport, then use that to stop at a car hire outlet and hire your vehicle at a lower price.

Review the insurance agreement
Check the details of the insurance to ensure it really is value for money. If you have travel insurance you should have a provision for excess cover, so there is no point paying an additional fee for this.

Always rent a small car
It’s a fairly well known theory amongst car rental companies that people don’t like hiring compact cars, so they’ll usually have a lot more mid- and full-size cars available for hire. So why book a small car for rental? Because rental agencies will have less small cars available and,so if you’ve booked one andthey don’t have one available for you, they are obliged to upgrade you at no additional cost.

Look out for weekly deals
If you are hiring a car for three days over a long weekend you will usually pay a premium rate per day because it is considered a peak hire period. Sometimes it pays to add a day to your hire, say, picking it up the night before you need it because the overall rate will be reduced. It may even pay to hire your vehicle for an extra day, even if you don’t need it, as the overall price you pay could still be less than if you only hire it for the weekend days. Picking a car up on a Thursday will more often than not guarantee you a cheaper overall rental rate.

It also pays to check online deal brokers or to book your car online rather than over the phone or in person. Online rates are mostly always cheaper than rates that require human interaction.

Do you have any tips for cheaper car rental? Why not share them with our members?

Written by Leon Della Bosca

Leon Della Bosca has worked in publishing and media in one form or another for around 25 years. He's a voracious reader, word spinner and art, writing, design, painting, drawing, travel and photography enthusiast. You'll often find him roaming through galleries or exploring the streets of his beloved Melbourne and surrounding suburbs, sketchpad or notebook in hand, smiling.
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