After airfare and hotels, renting a car is often a traveler’s largest expense — U.S. travelers pay an average of $55 to $75 a day to drive off in a standard-sized vehicle, according to USA Today — but it’s one that’s ripe for savings.1 With so much money at stake, here are six ways to save on your next rental car:

1. Look for member discount codes.

The key to getting the lowest rate from a rental car company is to take advantage of some of the discount codes they offer. For example, you may be eligible for a discount if you have a membership in a warehouse store, are part of your university’s alumni association or are part of a large organization like AAA or AARP.

2. Give yourself a chance at free upgrades.

The least expensive car to reserve is typically a sub-compact, but locations may not actually stock them. As a result, if you choose this option, you may be offered the chance to upgrade when you arrive at the counter. You can decline the upgrade and, if there’s no sub-compact on the lot, you may receive a larger car at no additional cost. In the event you’re actually given the keys to the sub-compact you reserved, you can still request an upgrade if you require a larger car.

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3. Consider if optional insurance is necessary.

While it’s important that you have adequate insurance coverage for your rental, you may not need to purchase the expensive coverage offered by your rental car company. Most rental car companies charge up to $50 per day for optional coverage, which, at the highest end, is the equivalent of buying an insurance policy for $18,250 per year.2 To avoid this expense, first check to see if rental cars are covered by your existing personal auto insurance and if this policy provides adequate coverage. Second, see whether your credit card’s collision damage waiver policy can substitute for the rental agency’s offering. Just be sure to dig deep into the terms and conditions of your credit card policy to be sure you’re adequately covered.

4. Avoid overpriced options.

You can avoid charges for high-priced extras by planning in advance. For example, you can decline a navigation system and use your smartphone’s GPS instead. And if you’re traveling with small children, you can bring your own car seat rather than rent one. In fact, airlines often allow you to check child car seats as luggage at no additional cost.

5. Shave a day off of your rental period.

Rental car companies typically charge for an entire day, even if you have the car for just a fraction of the a 24-hour billing period. But you can save a full day’s charge if you can avoid renting a car immediately upon arrival, or return your car before the day of departure. For example, take a free shuttle to an airport hotel after a late arrival, and rent a car in the morning. Or use public transportation or a ride service to reach your first destination and rent a car the next day. And when you rent a car away from the airport, you could save even more money by avoiding the many taxes and fees often imposed at airports.

6. Use your credit card rewards.

You may be able to redeem your credit card rewards to pay for your rental car. Just be sure to pay with a credit card that allows rewards to be redeemed for travel expenses.

Resources:

1. http://traveltips.usatoday.com/average-cost-rental-car-100390.html

2. https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/credit-cards/rental-car-insurance-2/

Legal Disclaimer: The articles and information provided herein are for informational purposes only and are not intended as a substitute for professional advice. 

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