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This 5-Minute Car Rental Hack Saved Me $169

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Are you taking a vacation soon? Planning to rent a car? Try this easy 5-minute car rental hack!

Hi there! It’s Bryn, Collin’s sister and sidekick.

My family was headed out on a vacation recently, and we needed to rent a car. As many of you know, a family vacation adds up very quickly once you factor in lodging, airfare, and food, so I’m always looking for ways to save.


This rental car tip was suggested to me by my father-in-law. And even better – the tip worked like a charm!

1. Find a discounted rental car company or program.

Get the most bang for your buck by signing up for a Car Rental Rewards Program like Hertz Gold Plus Rewards or Avis Preferred. OR find out if a company you belong to offers special rental car discounts like Costco, USAA, Triple AAA, or AARP.


2. Book your initial reservation.

Sign in with your chosen rental car partner company site and search for your car – I’m a Costco member so I headed to Costco.com to search for my car.

Choose the preferred car size at the lowest price available and book your initial reservation. You should not be required to enter any sort of payment information to hold the reservation. Also be sure to read the terms to make sure you can cancel at any time – this is important!


3. Make a calendar reminder to search every day.

Every day, log back into the site where you initially made your car rental reservation and perform the same search. You will notice the price will fluctuate either up or down.

If you notice the price drops, book the new reservation at the lower price and then cancel your older reservation at the higher price. Do this every day and you may suddenly see a significant drop in cost! See my screenshots below as an example:

1st Search on March 8th = $393.95


4th Search on March 11th = $390.28


8th Search on March 15th = $384.09


12th Search on March 19th = $224.12 😱💃🏼🎉


My car rental reservation dropped from $393.95 to $224.12! That’s a savings of $169 for the same car during the same time frame!

It literally took me under 60 seconds each day to log into Costco.com and search for the rental car, and it totally paid off! Now my family can use the $169 savings to splurge on something else fun on our trip!


Some other great ways to save on your car rental:

Check your credit card rewards.

Hip2Save readers have said they’ve been able to score discounted car rentals using Chase Ultimate Rewards or other rewards program through their credit card providers!


Make sure you fill the tank before returning.

If you bring back a car that needs gas, you might get hit with 2x the normal price for gas and additional fees.


Compare equipment rental fees to the purchase price.

Sometimes the rental cost of GPS units or baby seats can cost MORE than the price of just purchasing these items yourself, depending on the length of your rental. You can sell these items on eBay if you don’t need them after your trip.


Play around with different rental time frames.

If your schedule is a little flexible, change the length of your rental time. Sometimes keeping the car a day or two longer will trigger a deal for a specific number of days, resulting in a lower overall price!


Document any initial damage inside and outside the car.

Give the car a full inspection before and after getting in, and be sure to take photos and mention any damage to the rental car employees. Repair fees can get outrageous if the damage is blamed on your use!


Do you have any other rental car savings tips to share?
Join The Discussion

Comments 66

  1. Mary

    I use the same method but go threw this site: Kayak.com

    • Mary

      I use the same method but go *through this site: Kayak.com

  2. Jennifer Huynh

    Also call your car insurance agency before adding insurance to your rental. Most insurance companies cover your rental car as well which saves you from having to purchase it from the rental company. On one vacation we hit a deer and rather than paying well over $1000 towards the repairs it was completely covered through Geico. I did not even have to pay the deductible.

    • Maggie

      Be careful about “loss of use” charges that rental companies impose after an accident (to cover the lost rental fees). Most regular car insurance won’t cover those. It can add up to a lot of money, as repairs can take many days. Cars booked through USAA.com never have loss of use fees, if there’s an accident, because their contract forbids it. I don’t know what other contracts forbid them, but it’s worth checking out, so that you’ll know your own insurance has you 100% covered.

      • Angela

        I believe that they waive loss of use if you book through USAA directly . Been awhile since I’ve read the fine print though so might have changed.

  3. lhsydc@hotmail.com

    I Had the same experience on Costco,com. I booked a one week rental suv in Denver and it went down $100 in the week or two before the reservation when I searched again. I cancelled the original and made the new reservation no problem!

    • Lu

      I had similar experience too!

    • Wren

      Wow! That is just crazy about the price drop. I will definitely watch for that next time we rent a car.

  4. liesl

    We used TURO on our recent trip to Hawaii. It’s like airbnb or VBRO but for cars. The cost was one third what rental companies were and we had a great experience. We will use TURO again in the future when traveling to major cities.

  5. Dkp91576

    I create alerts on all car rental spots because they like to send coupons via email if you don’t reserve. So I first reserve the best I can find and then start create email accounts, updating my contact info. And wait for coupons to come in which I can apply to my original reservation or cancel and make a new one. Another way to save is to reserve the smallest size possible but ask for a bigger model when you get to the location. This usually works better at off site local places. Nobody likes to rent SUV because of gas prices so they are just sitting on the lot un-rented. Always check Ebates or CouponCabin for cash back and also use a credit card with points. No reason to pay full for anything haha.

  6. Nicole

    How about saving on RV rentals?

    • Janna

      Good question. We’d love to rent an RV but wouldn’t even know how to got about it.

      • Lu

        We had great experience with Cruise America last summer. We were totally new at using an RV, but it turned out to be really easy (watch all their videos ahead of time, it will help know what to expect and save you time when you are there). Sign up for their emails and from time to time they have a “sale” on booking with a lower mileage rate. As with other comments, it can pay to keep re-checking your rate and re-book if i goes lower, also check out the different rental locations, there can be a big difference in price that you can factor in. For us it was cheaper to fly out west and rent there than drive from the east coast even though time was not an issue, it’s the mileage that adds up. If you are on the fence, I encourage you to give it a try, we were glad we did!

    • Kathleen

      You could also try Outdoorsy.com. My neighbors have rented their RV out with a lot of success.

  7. Tolu

    We got free car rental with hotel purchase through Expedia. That saved us $70. And the hotel price was cheaper than other sites too

  8. frances

    wow, nice savings, I didn’t even realize that you can do this. I’ll keep this in mind for next time for sure. Thanks for the tip H2S!

  9. Tammy

    We just started using Lyft for everything and don’t even rent a car anymore. Don’t have to pay for parking, gas etc. Drop us right off at the door whenever we travel.

  10. Jennifer

    I do the same thing and I do it also with hotel reservations. I check when I get a moment and if the price went down by over $1 I book the lower price and then cancel the higher priced reservation.

  11. MD

    If we need a rental for more than 3 days we most always find a better rate at a weekly price. So we book the weekly rate and turn the car back in early. Easily saves $100+

    • Jean

      When you take it back early, they don’t charge you the higher daily rate??

      • Tia

        Not at all. They will only charge you based on your initial reservation rate. They then are able to rent that same car again. (I’ve worked at Enterprise)

    • Amy L.

      The weekly rate is triggered at 5 days. If you turn it in before that, you are only charged the daily rate.

  12. Jen

    Last year we rented from enterprise & when we arrived they didn’t have our vehicle. I called the 800# & not only did she find us a vehicle in stock at another location closer to home at a cheaper price, she gave us an additional discount. I saved $200 on a 3 day rental. Call multiple locations, prices vary greatly.

  13. Qi

    Autoslash.com is a free site that does two things: 1. ask you what memberships you have (e.g. costco, AAA etc) and finds the best rental car price. 2. once you have a rental booked, let it know and it will regularly search to find you better prices.

  14. AZinOZ

    Don’t rent from an airport location if possible. Airports have additional taxes and fees that can really add up!

    • Rhae

      Yes, but normally the airport location has unlimited miles and the in town places have a so many miles a day and then so much per mile after that. So you have to take that into consideration. Plus the airport location is normally open longer than the neighborhood ones.

  15. Ian Thomas

    I can second the Autoslash recommendation. It does what you suggested – just without you having to always go back and spend the time doing the search 🙂 I discuss my experience with it about halfway down a recent post I did on roadtrip tips under the Rental Car Tips section – check it out if you are interested in how it works!

    https://www.simplywellspent.com/road-trip-tips/

  16. Cokercrew

    I’m in a predicament and wonder if anyone could help me. My 20 year-old daughter is interning at a church in CA this summer for 10 weeks. Last summer we had no choice but to rent a car for the duration. I flew out (we are from SC) and actually completed the rental myself since she was 19. I was hoping to ship her own car this summer to save the cost of my going initially, but I can’t find anything less than what we spent in total last year. I’m too afraid of having her use uber alone. Other than seeing if an individual in her church has an extra car, I’m not sure of any other options. Any suggestions?

    • Dkp91576

      I personally find Uber and Lyft very safe. You get a picture of your driver, car description and plate info, plus his name through the app and the car is marked with lyft or Uber icon. I screenshot that info to my mom and bf before I get in car. My mom can also log into my lyft account and track my gps movement and she texts me when I arrive home so I can call her to confirm I arrived. I live in the NYC area so both are readily available. I know it can be scary for a young girl but they really provide you a lot of up front info so you aren’t getting into a car blind. And sometimes driving a rental in a strange new place can be more dangerous than a taxi type transportation.

    • jennine

      A previous reader mentioned TURO for large city rentals. Maybe check that out? If she’s staying within 3miles from the church. Consider buying a bike or bring her roller blades. When I was in CA for the summer I was able to roller bladed 2 miles to work. It was a great cheap adorable transpiration. I’m not athletic. When she does need a car I car Pooled with other young adults my age doing something similar. Most places were in walking distance so I didn’t need a car. Just carted my light groceries.

  17. Sara StClair

    Another tip is to not take any sort of upgrade when you arrive. They informed us when we arrived that the car I had chosen was too small for my family. The lady told us the upgrade would only be $17 a day. Well, after my husband paid. He gave me the receipt later and I noticed our original discount was gone. There was no $17 a day anywhere on our receipt. She charged us the full price, no discount. She did that just so we wouldn’t get a discount. So deceptive. So if you want to keep your discount, make sure you don’t get the upgrade, unless it is free of course. 😉

  18. K

    I have used almost all the sites mentioned here, but find repeatedly that Hotwire is the cheapest website for car rentals all the time.

    Yes prices do vary from day to day so the others strategies mentioned may work. At times the reservation is not cancellable, but other times it is. You just have to be sure you read the fine print. I’ve compared by Hotwire price at the same time to Costco, Expedia, Chase SWA Visa Rewards Reservations, and so on. Each time Hotwire has been the cheapest.

  19. Lori Stevens

    I had no idea that car rental costs could fluctuate so much. This is so good to know! Thanks for all of the great advice and tips!

  20. Kate

    Thanks! Just saved $40 off my rental in May through Costco travel! Costco was the least expensive when I booked and now it really can’t be touched!

  21. Mary

    Thanks for all the tips! Anyone know of a good tip for getting carseats. Avis wants $54 a seat!

    • Megan

      Car seats are insanely unsafe to get from car rental companies. They could have been in accidents, they are often expired (making them literally illegal to use in lots of states), they aren’t well taken care of, just stay away from them completely. They’re a bad idea. Depending on how old your kids are, there are a number of great cheap seats you can buy yourself and use to travel. A popular very well loved one is the Cosco Scenera Next from Walmart that runs between $30-40. It only weighs about 6lbs so even a child can carry it, and it can be installed as upright as you need safely in any baby that can sit unassisted, so it fits really well in the majority of vehicles and lasts most kids up to age 3+. You can gate check car seats at the airport for free for your flight, or use it on the plane. There are lots of other cheap travel seats as well, you can check out a car seat safety group with trained child passenger safety technicians (CPSTs) for info on which other great seats would work well for you for travel. My favorite car seat group for that is “Carseat Safety” on Facebook.

    • Kelly

      If you’re a AAA member, Hertz provides one free car seat per day with your rental. If both you and your spouse are AAA members, they’ll provide two…. one free seat per day per AAA member.

  22. marie

    Wow…never knew this! Thanks!

  23. @GeeEmm

    Like Qi and Ian Thomas, I use AutoSlash too. Make your reservation and they check for price drops. It’s free and easy.

  24. Carrie h

    Do they take debit cards

    • Jean

      Carrie ~ you don’t pay Costco, you pay give the car rental agency your card when you pick up the car.

    • Amy L.

      Rental companies do take debit card but policy varies from company to company. My experience as an employee has been that the rental must have an instate license and pay the full rental cost + deposit up front when picking up the me rental.

  25. Cindy Johns

    I just reserved through Costco. Must have hit it on the cheapest day @ $536 for a Suburban for a week. Every day I have checked since has been closer to $1000. I have it registered with AutoSlash also but I don’t think it’s going to get any cheaper. With Costco you also get 2nd driver free.

  26. Laura

    How do you save on car seat rentals? We have a trip coming up and our just turned 2 year old will need one. I’m not taking our really nice $200 car seat through the airport and risk it getting damaged.

    • Megan

      Don’t rent one, they aren’t save anyway! They’re often expired, have been in accidents, or don’t fit a child well. For a 2 year old, grab a Cosco Scenera Next at Walmart for $30-40! They’re super light, literally like 6lbs, and can be installed as upright as needed safely in any kid who can sit unassisted, so they fit very well in the majority of vehicles and are compact side to side as well. They’re the perfect travel or backup seat!

    • Megan

      Plus then you’ll have it for future trips if needed as well!

    • Mhambrick25

      If you have AAA and book through Hertz using their discount you get a free car seat for the duration of your rental.

  27. Jon

    Next time, try Turo. Its like airbnb, but for cars.

    Get the car you want where you want it, and always cheaper than the big rental companies!

    Use my link for $25 off

    https://turo.com/c/jong

    http://www.turo.com

  28. Jean

    I’ve been doing this for years and even check the day before the rental begins. Saved a few more dollars…..better in my pocket than theirs – lol.

  29. Susan

    This is a fantastic post as our family is getting ready to take our 1st family vacation in Georgia. I’m interested in booking a rental but I am so nervous about the unlimited mileage thing. Last year, my SIL rented a vehicle to drive to GA that was supposed to have “unlimited mileage” and when we got to the rental place, they said she would be charged extra for driving it out of state. We’ll be driving from FL to GA. Other than booking a rental that says it has unlimited mileage, how can I be assured I won’t get screwed when I go to pick it up? Has anyone else had this problem?

    • Amy L.

      I would call the branch directly and confirm. Typically Enterprise has unlimited miles, at least in surrounding states.

  30. Norma

    Good to know, thanks for the tip!! 👍

  31. Minka

    Isn’t it costcoTRAVEL.com though? There’s a link on costco.com for car rentals but it takes you to costcotravel.com as well.

    • CJ

      Yes it is Costcotravel.com The link off Costco is the same. You have to have a separate sign in for this page.

  32. Carrie

    I found an AARP discount code on retailmenot.cim for Budget directly and it was way cheaper than a standard discount. You do not have to be 50 to join either. It’s $12 for a year for the membership and you can call and join if under that age!

  33. TJ

    We did this the last time we went to Hawaii. I watched Costco everyday and was even lucky enough to score a $20 Costco cash card for booking and redeeming during the timeframe. My initial reservation for a minivan was over $400 and after cash card, it was just below $200!

  34. ATM

    do you need a membership to rent at costco? tia

  35. Holly

    Thank you! I have a reservation for next Saturday. I just checked and am now saving $50!!!

  36. Maggie

    A word of warning: all travel site prices are NOT alike. You need to read fine print to know what’s in the price terms.

    Some will bury in fine print that a second driver (even a spouse) adds $10-$25 extra PER DAY when you show up to get the car. We stopped using Hotwire because of those extra fees — they’re not *really* the cheapest price once those fees get added in. Not paying it voids the rental agreement if they require it….so you want to make sure you don’t book a rate that requires it.

    USAA.com’s contract for their members is special, and I gladly pay a few bucks more per day for its peace of mind: (1) never any fee to have both spouses as drivers (they’re both allowed automatically), (2) their rental car contract forbids “loss of use” and similar fees (which are NOT covered by your regular insurance in the event of an accident and add up to big money).

    I also recommend using an American Express card or card with equivalent benefits to book. AmEx offers secondary insurance (not primary) layered on top of your coverage in your regular policy. It won’t help if you don’t have other coverage, but it will cover your deductible, for example. It’s a pain in the butt to use if you need it, but they do pay.

    Lastly, if you REALLY want to save big money, don’t get your car at the airport. Use a free hotel shuttle if offered, then use something like a neighborhood Enterprise lot. We cut our rental car fee in half in Honolulu that way. It takes a little extra planning on arrival/departure day, but it quite do-able on longer trips.

  37. KristynMc

    If you are a member of Costco, there is a “code” if you read the fine print when you’re checking out. Take that code, and use it as a promo code on the actual car sites like Budget.com. I find that it’s MUCH cheaper that way! I rented an mid-size SUV for four days for $80, as opposed to the Costco site asking for $200.

  38. Leanne

    I booked my car rental for June about 2 weeks ago, I have been checking daily for a price drop every day now, and I haven’t seen any changes.

  39. Tarri

    Thank you for this post, I just went to check and decided to add another day and it was around 3.00 more for the extra day.

  40. Alicia Makowski

    Thank you so much for this post! I had booked our rental van for our family of 6 when I booked our flights. At the time, $600!!! So expensive! I used your trick and went thru Costco? Saved me $200, right off the bat. Then, we decided a van might be too much room and went down one class and saved yet another $100! With your trick? I saved $300!! More money for our vacation. THANK YOU!

  41. Cobe vizio

    I learned a lot here.💃🏿🤑🎉🎉

  42. Tarri

    Thank you again for this post, I decided to check again today for my rental car price and I found the next size up car for about $7 less, so bigger car, less money, yay. Second time of checking, so from first rental I am saving almost 10.00, doesn’t sound like much but hey free lunch.

  43. sheryl dorsey

    Does Motor Vehicle Insurance Have Gst?

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