Save Hundreds When You Hack Your Rental Car Reservation With These Smart Tips

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holding car keys

The cost of going on vacation can add up quickly, especially when you need to rent a vehicle. This expense alone can add on a few hundred dollars to the mix! Try any of these smart and effective hacks for your next rental car reservation and you’ll enjoy watching your costs rapidly decline.

1. Save $200 when you cancel and rebook after the price drops.

side by side comparison of car rental prices

Collin’s sister Bryn shared this incredible hack that saved her $169 on her rental car by setting up the reservation through Costco. More recently, another Hip2Save team member Michelle saved even MORE and got her 3-day reservation down from $318.96 to $118.49 following the same cancel and rebook method. She even upgraded her car in the process!

I first booked my car rental over a month ago and was really bummed to see it was over $300 for only 3 days for a small car. Last night, I looked again following Bryn’s advice and the price was just over $100! So the price had dropped down $200, and I even went up a car size. – Michelle

2. Play around with different rental time frames.

30 day calendar and a man pointing at day 16

If your schedule is flexible, change the length of your rental time. Sometimes picking up your car a day early (or keeping it a day or two longer) will trigger a deal!

3. Save even more with rewards programs.

holding up triple a (aaa) membership card

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 an organization you belong to offers special rental car discounts like USAA, AAA, or AARP. Even your Costco membership can reward you with some money-saving incentives.

4. Check your credit card rewards for extra cash back opportunities.

person looking in a purse

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

Follow these tips to avoid additional rental car fees.

There’s no reason to pay more than you have to when you rent your ride. These simple tips will ensure you hang onto more of your vacation money.

1. Fill the gas tank before returning your rental car.

at gas station pumping gas into car

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

2. Compare equipment rental fees to buying and selling.

phone attached to dock in phone using navigation

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. You can also get away with just using your phone for navigating around town!

3. Document any initial damage inside and outside the car.

dented car body

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!

Follow along to read how I get through TSA in a snap!

About the writer:

Emily obtained her Bachelor's degrees from Clarkson University with 5 years of content writing experience specializing in health, beauty, fashion, home, & living frugally.

Join The Discussion

Comments 27

  1. Sara

    I saved $200 on our minivan rental for our Disney trip over Thanksgiving using I made my reservation through Alamo then registered it on Autoslash and about a month later they alerted me to the price drop. I made a new reservation (still with Alamo) through Autoslash and everything worked perfectly. I’ll definitely try Autoslash again!

    • Stacy F (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Thanks for the tip, Sara!

    • Tricia

      Thank you so much! Just used auto slash and saved almost $300 on our reservation.

    • LS

      I recently ran across AutoSlash on a travel website blog. I’d never heard of it. After submitting my rental info to AutoSlash, I received a cheaper rate via email the very next day! Sweet! Used it for last week’s rental car, and saved over $200!

  2. Maggie

    Sometimes a deal isn’t really a deal. I stopped booking rental cars with certain travel deal sites because of the added booking fees and discovering that we had to pay extra on-site to have a spouse listed as an additional driver. Now I only book through USAA because their contract not only gets a great price, but it always includes my spouse as a driver and most importantly forces the rental car co to waive things like loss of use fees in case of an accident (those kind of fees are NOT covered by your own insurance, even if it covers damage to rental cars — and they can add up to thousands). I have no idea if Costco or AAA offers this too — you actually have to read their rental car contract for their rate-code to find out. I also always put rental car charges on my AmEx because they offer secondary insurance that covers my deductible in case of an accident. One accident years ago was enough hassle to convince me that the layers of extra protection above and beyond my regular insurance are worth it — and I can still decline overpriced car rental company coverage.

    • Stacy F (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Great tips, Maggie. Thanks for sharing. I had no idea about the extra protection with AmEx card – really good to know!

    • Lori

      Your own car insurance does not cover loss of use, however, you can add that endorsement to your policy before you leave/pick up the rental car. Then, you can remove the endorsement after you drop off the car. It is a simple phone call. If you rent frequently, then it’s good to just leave it on your policy. At State Farm (in AZ) it is only $35 for 6 months. I added it to my policy for a 3 day rental and when I got my monthly bill, after they pro-rated the coverage, it came out to be 17 cents per day.
      If you really wanted to take it a step further… again, a simple phone call to your insurance agent.. you can change your Comp & Collision deductible to Zero before you pick up a car. Then, switch them back after you drop it off. Once the difference in premium is pro-rated, it is usually only a couple of dollars (if that) and you wouldn’t have to come up with a $500 deductible!
      IE: If the difference in premium from a $500 deductible to a Zero deductible is $200 for 6 months, ($33.33 per month) and you rent a car for 3 days…. that is only $1.11 per day for a zero dollar decuctible. Just thowing it out there.

  3. Dwilson19

    I love using costco travel for my rentals! I also like using alamo because they only charge the amount of your rental. Other companies charge a deposit plus rental or a deposit that is over the amount of the rental. Also check various locations in the area where you are staying as they are always cheaper for me than renting from the airport.

    • Stacy F (Hip2Save Sidekick)

      Costco has lots of great perks! Thanks for the tips!

  4. Diana

    Ive always had good luck with USAA!!

  5. L

    I rent through Expedia and such sites but pick up/drop off at an airport instead. Lots of demand means competition since they are all in the same place and lower prices.

    • Daniela

      Airports also means extra fees. The rental might be cheaper per day but you get stuck with extra charges you wouldn’t get with an off site local place. I rented a week in Tampa for $99 but TPA was $180. I just hired a Lyft for $8 off site.

  6. Denise

    Just booked through Priceline and saved almost one hundred dollars

  7. Brenda

    Prices are constantly changing. I picked up a car once and the employee saw all my cancelations and she had no idea the prices changed. Ive found the best prices are about 8 months out. But keep checking back up til you have to pick up the car. Ive also had a price drop a significant amount just by changing the pick up time by an hour.

  8. Nicole

    We recently booked through enterprise and got a car for $10 a day! We are coming in super late and I guess we get the last pick, but it has 4 doors and that’s all we need. We looked at the same day in the morning and the same car was $36 a day.

    • Linda

      I landed at the Savannah airport really late one night (10pm) during Spring Break. I’d booked a mid-size car, and the nice guy at Enterprise offered a Dodge Challenger with a Hemi for the exact same price! It was awesome!

  9. Marie

    I typically end up rebooking my car an hour before I leave for the airport lol. I didn’t know this trick my first year I moved cross country, but the last three I’ve literally paid hundreds less by doing that. I search all the sites – sketchy or not. I picked a car up once in a makeshift kiosk in an abandoned parking garage in LA in the middle of the night. Hahaha. But it was legit! But before the day of I always book something refundable or pay upon pickup just in case I need to cancel it.

    • E

      Oh man that sounds like when we rented a car in LA a number of years ago! The garage was closed when we needed to return the car because our flight was so early. I forget what we ended up doing to return it. I think a friend returned it for us. But it was so sketchy!!!

  10. Smack

    I had miles that were about to expire and I was able to use them to cover the cost of a needed rental car. Nice!

  11. Scruffybean718

    Also please, please check your personal auto insurance policy before purchasing “additional coverage” through the rental company. There is a significant likelihood that your rental car is covered under your personal policy.

    • Jennifer (Hip Sidekick)

      Great idea, Scruffybean718!

  12. Keri

    Score! I just rebooked my Costco reservation and saved over $75! You the best:)

    • Chelsey (Hip Sidekick)

      Woohoo! So glad you could save even more Keri!

  13. Sandra

    Thanks everyone I have to book a rental for Disney (staying offsite) and hopefully these tips will help

  14. Heather

    THANK YOU! Just saved $70 on my rental because I checked back after reading this!

    • Amber (Hip Sidekick)

      Yay! You’re so welcome!

  15. Sarah Clark

    Thanks a lot for providing individuals with an exceptionally marvellous hints to discover important things from here.

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