Flying our family of four down South to visit my in-laws is not cheap. And when you tack on a rental car when we get down there, we’re already out close to 2k. Not fun. But the 20 hour drive in a sedan (that already has 170k miles on it from the dozens of other drives to the South…) with two dramatic little girls is not fun. It’s borderline torture, especially considering my hubs and I are both over 6 ft tall. Leg room is a premium. It’s almost impossible to have things accessible, but out of reach of the little people who like to make messes.
Anyway, a few months ago a friend mentioned that they sometimes rent cars for their road trips.
Instantly the wheels started turning (pun not intended) and I thought,”Heyyy, it would be nice to put the miles on someone else’s car… Oooo maybe we could rent a bigger car… LIKE A MINIVAN.” And just like that, my mind was made up. We were going to rent a minivan for our trip to Arkansas.
I casually mentioned the idea to the hubs. (“OMG, DEAN. Guess what?!! We should totally rent a minivan for out trip! Don’t answer me now, just think about it.” You know, the usual way I handle my amazing ideas.)
And so we did.
And I got us a smokin deal. A loaded minivan for two full weeks, 2 drivers and unlimited miles for $700. Over the Fourth of July holiday from Utah. The comparable rates were $1100-$1500. Aww yeah.
1. Start early
Months ahead, get on Priceline and the other travel sites, and get a feel for the price range of the type of car you’re interested in, the dates you need, the different companies, and the locations. Try lots of different combinations. You won’t know what a “good deal” is unless you know the price ranges. Different days have different rates, and sometimes its cheaper to book for a full week instead of 6 days, and sometimes its not. Do some research. Check airport rates vs local rates. Try going to the company’s website vs the big travel sites. Consider driving a little further to pick it up. If it saves $100 its totally worth it to me!
2. Reserve early
Most rental companies don’t require credit card info to secure a reservation, so if you see a good rate, book it. You can always cancel, no problem. Plus, sometimes the companies will call to confirm, and you can leverage your good deal with a different company to see if they’ll beat the price. It’s worth a shot, right?
3. Hunt for promo codes and discounts
Most rental car companies have a couple different types of discount codes, and many of them can be used together. Check with your credit card, bank, insurance company, employee benefits, and other affiliations to see if they have rental car discounts available, and write down the codes/deals. Google things like “Hertz rental car promo code” and write down the codes and what the deal is. You can put the codes in when you book the reservation, or you can call the location you booked at and ask to add the codes onto your reservation, or you can also wait and have the person at the counter add the codes when you’re there to pick up the car.
How it worked for me:
I started looking at cars about 4-5 months before our trip, and the prices were around $600 for 2 weeks. But I didn’t reserve anything (because I didn’t know better :), and when we went back to book the reservation about a month before our trip, prices had doubled. But I stuck with it, and looked at various combinations of dates and locations, and found a rate for $780 at a Hertz about 40 miles away through Priceline, so I booked it. A few days later, I started thinking about how to get that price even lower, and I remembered that our bank (USAA – the best bank ever) offered rental car discounts. I looked up the corporate discount code, and then called the Hertz office and asked if I could add the discount to our reservation. They guy said yes, and it knocked $80 off!! Then I asked if I could add a promo code too (so 2 different types of discounts) and he said yes, to just bring the info with me when we picked up the car. Turns out that the rate I’d gotten through Priceline was lower than what the second promo code could do, so I couldn’t use it after all. But at the end of the day, I think we got an awesome deal. And it was SO great to have that nice minivan with the extra room, the DVD player and the plugs for our iPhones, and all the cupholders. So great. But it was hard to return it… I am going to ask Santa to bring me one for Christmas this year. :)Hope that helps you get a great deal (and have a more comfortable family roadtrip!). What tips do you have?