Renting a car for business or personal travel today isn't the same thing it was a few years ago. Between the advancements in technology and COVID-induced policy changes, renters now have many more options.
There's so much to consider, like rental venues, car styles, insurance, and extras. The choices are in your favor, but they can make finding the ideal car for your trip, plus deciding on the add-ons, a challenge.
We've put together the ultimate car rental guide here — complete with travel expert tips — to streamline each rental process step for you.
1. Your Rental Vendors
The rental car industry is a competitive business worth over $100 billion dollars. It's easy to see why so many companies want to be involved in this service, which means you have a variety of options.
You can stick with tried-and-true companies like Avis, Budget, and Enterprise. Each of these, plus the myriad of other lesser-known names, provide quality cars and service at competitive pricing.
However, alternatives to "big businesses" are on the rise, too. Turo, for instance, is like an Airbnb for car renters. You download the app, choose your car based on location, cost, and vehicle preferences, and book it from the owner. It's quick, easy, and often cheaper than going through traditional companies.
Business Travel and Preferred Vendors
One important thing to note applies to business travel. If you're traveling for work, check the corporate travel policy's list of approved vendors before booking.
Many businesses use preferred vendors for common corporate travel factors because they get the best rates, such as Hotel Engine's popular discounts on lodging. Car rental services work the same way.
If there's a new company you prefer working with, you can ask for approval, but otherwise, you'll need to stick with the vendors on the list.
2. Review the Coverage Terms
As you're debating between companies, cars, and rates, review the terms, too. A common complaint from renters is the fees that get tacked on after they pay for the "final" cost.
Some companies charge for fuel and/or insurance coverage. Others add extras, like toll coverage and streaming services. You can reject these add-ons if you know about them, but they may be hidden in the fine print.
Of course, we're not saying that you should decline all coverage extras. Some rental insurance is smart to include, especially if you don't have rental coverage with your primary auto carrier.
However, you could have insurance coverage through your company if you're traveling for work. Rental coverage is a popular credit card perk, as well. Check the benefits on your cards and consider paying with an account that has rental coverage to save you money.
You'll also want to decide for yourself whether you need extras like Collision or Loss Damage for items in your car, Supplemental Liability Protection for other people's vehicles and medical costs, and Personal Effects Coverage for theft.
If you add all of the coverage options you're provided, the price can be hundreds of dollars more than the original quote. Go ahead and invest in the extras you think are essential, but be careful to avoid paying for something you already have included in another policy.
3. Use Travel Tricks to Save Money
Are you flying into a popular airport and considering renting a car there? If your flight gets you to your destination during normal business hours, it may save you a lot of money to book your car out of the airport area.
When you rent at the airport, you usually pay extra fees for convenience. Compare the rates for similar cars at the airport companies and at those off-site, then find out how much a rideshare or cab would cost to take you to the off-site rental company. If it's an extra $20 to save you $200, it'll be worth the short hassle.
Try adjusting the length of your rental car to save money, too. If you return the car a few hours later and sit at the airport instead, it could cut a full day off your rate and open you up to more options.
Before you decide on a car based on the cost and terms, check the reviews. If the company you're thinking about using has a lot of bad feedback, move on to another business with comparable rates and better reviews.
Pro tip: Look for companies that deliver to you or have "skip the line" options. Depending on what's going on in the city when you're there, you could be waiting in line for hours.
Renting a car doesn't have to be a hassle. Follow these three expert recommendations to book your vehicle, and you'll skip the stress and get to the fun part of your trip faster!