On the Road Again
“Just can’t wait to get on the road again.” Hat tip to Willie Nelson on the iconic road trip song. Here at the Gypsy Wives we love road trips, and travel, and anything that involves adventure. And sometimes that means we have to rent a car. In previous weeks we have touched on lodging and airfare, and todays post is all about the wheels that get you there.
A car rental can make or break your trip. If you get cheap flights and a place to stay on AirBnB but then get saddled with a $500 car rental, you’re once affordable adventure becomes, well, less affordable. And that should not happen. So here are our top tips for getting a good price on your next rental car.
1) Decide if you actually need to rent a car.
There are places that we just don’t bother to rent a car at all. New Orleans is one of those places. They have affordable, and usable, public transportation with their Jazzy Pass that allows you to use street cars and buses for $3 a day. Also, they have a great concentration of Uber and Lyft drivers. Plus, if you’re in NOLA you are probably drunk and shouldn’t be driving anyway. Safety first, folks!
New York is another great example. Even people that live in NYC don’t drive. Don’t waste your money. If the place you are visiting has good public transportation, save your money and skip the car rental.
2) Costco. Yes, Costco.
This is our #1 (well, on this post it’s #2, but who’s counting) tip on saving money if you need to rent a car. A Costco membership costs $50 for the year. You can then rent cars via their travel website with a 20-30% discount. It eliminates milage restrictions and you get a second driver for free. You have options of rentals from Budget, Avis, Alamo, and Enterprise; all widely known companies so you know you’ll be getting a reputable rental.
Also, and this may be my favorite part of the Costco car rental thing, you can reserve a car and change or cancel your reservation at any time. I have saved $100 by reserving a car, monitoring the price, and changing my reservation at the last minute. You aren’t locked in to your Costco reservation until you arrive at the rental agency and pick up your car.
3) Skip renting at the airport if possible.
Airport rentals are notoriously expensive. They bank on convenience. If you absolutely need a car at the airport, they know that and will charge you more. But if you can take a cab, get a ride, use public transportation, or get an Uber/Lyft to your destination and then rent a car off site the next day, you can save a bunch of cash. We did this on our recent Colorado trip. Denver International airport is notorious for overpriced car rentals. So we took a cab to our AirBnb for the night and took an Uber to our rental car agency the next day, and we still saved money.
4) Skip the insurance, and use a credit card that covers you.
This was a tip I learned on our 6 day road trip in Costa Rica. Different countries have different laws regarding what you need to have for insurance. Even in the United States, extra insurance is pushed by lots of rental agencies (although I will admit I have never been pushed to get extra insurance when using Costco for my rental). If you use a credit card that covers your car rental, and many do, you don’t need that extra insurance. You are already covered. And most likely you are already covered by your own car insurance, if you have it.
5) Just say no to extras.
You don’t need a GPS system. Your phone will cover you, even if you lose service. As long as you have service or WiFi when you set your destination, Google Maps will continue to run even if you are in a remote destination. Also, pro tip, learn to read a map.
Skip the Toll Transponder. The rental company will tell you this is cheaper. It’s not. Even if the city you are visiting has automatic tolls, your bill will be cheaper if you just pay later. Ask when you rent the car how to make sure the Transponder is turned off. If you use it even once, you can get charged up to $25 a day.
If you have kids, bring their car seat. Find out if your car seat is FAA approved and just put the little tike in the seat on the plane. Or find out if your airline charges to stow your car seat. Many don’t and will allow 1 car seat and stroller per ticketed passenger.
6) Look at your trip as a whole.
When we did our Vegas, Los Angeles, San Francisco, Las Vegas road trip we saved money by looking at the whole trip. We wanted to go to California. That was the goal. But flights were a lot cheaper going from Philly (a 4 hour drive from Connecticut) to Vegas, verses flying direct from CT to Los Angeles. Also, we wanted to drive the Pacific Coast Highway in a Mustang Convertible because it was a life goal of Lindsay’s. Renting a convertible in Vegas, where the sweltering heat and sun makes having the top down nearly unbearable, was $300 cheaper than renting the same convertible in Los Angeles. Sometimes adjusting a few things will save you big bucks.
I also blew that $300 in 30 minutes on Vegas slots, but we won’t talk about that…
Pro tip, don’t play slots in Vegas.
Until next time, Adventurers!