Rental car at low price

How to Get a Great Rental Car at a Low Price

by Malcolm Logan

You can literally save hundreds of dollars when you use these tips to get a great rental car at a low price.


Book Your Rental Car at an Off-Airport Location

To get a great rental car at a low price, whenever possible book at off-airport rental locations. Yes, it means you will have to take a taxi from the airport to the rental agency, but the savings will offset the cost of the taxis, and then some. This is particularly true during high demand periods.

For example, booking a standard size car with Enterprise at Denver International Airport during the busy ski season March 12-18 costs $810.00. But take an eighteen mile cab ride to the Enterprise location in Aurora, Colorado and you get the same car for $376. That’s a savings of $434 in exchange for a twenty minute cab ride.

Or let’s go to Orlando during summer break, July 9th to the 15th. Book an intermediate SUV at the Enterprise location in Orlando International Airport and it will cost you $555. But take a fifteen minute cab ride to Williamsburg, FL, which is closer to Disney World, and it will cost you $355. You just saved $200.


Be Careful About the Hours

Shop around. Most cities have more than one off-airport location. For example, Orlando has sixteen Enterprise locations, and each location offers the same car at a different price. Find the best one. But be careful.

Off-airport locations have different hours than airport locations. They’re usually open from 7 AM to 6 PM on weekdays, and 8 AM to 4 PM on the weekends. Which means they’ll be closed if you arrive after hours. Returning the car is not as much of an issue, as most have a way to drop off after hours, but contact them before renting to see how that works.

Knowing how much money you can save by booking at off-airport car rentals, you may want plan a little differently. Most people book airfares first and then look for a rental car. Flip that around. Research rental car rates before you book your flight. That way you’ll be sure to book a flight that gets you to the off-airport location before it closes.


How to Get a Free Upgrade

Another way to get a great rental car for a low price is to finagle a free upgrade. Start by booking the lowest grade vehicle available, which is usually an economy car. Then when you arrive at the location ask for a free upgrade. If they’re reluctant to give you one, ask for an upgrade at a reduced rate. You’ll be surprised how often this works. But before you say anything make sure they have the car you reserved.

During high demand periods, agencies routinely run out of cars. That’s especially true of non-airport locations. If you arrive at the agency, and they don’t have the car you reserved, tell them you’re in a hurry and watch what happens. They’ll almost always upgrade you for free. If they don’t, find a different rental car company to do business with.


How to Get a Great Rental Car at a Low Price

The last three times I’ve rented from Enterprise I’ve gotten a free upgrade by using the two-step method of booking at a non-airport location and booking an economy car. Economy cars are not the most popular cars at rental agencies, so they have fewer of them than other grades. But economy cars are the cheapest, so the upgrades can be substantial. On one occasion I was upgraded from a Mitsubisi Mirage at a rate of $295 to a Cadillac Escalade at a rate of $725. The difference of $425 was money in my pocket.

All of this works better if you are a part of the rental car company’s loyalty program. Having said that, however, some of my best upgrades occurred before I joined the program. I’ve spoken specifically about Enterprise here, but these hacks work as well with any reputable rental car agency.

Use these simple hacks and see how easy it is to get a great rental car for a low price. Then put the extra money in your pocket and enjoy a more gratifying travel experience.


Image credit

Car in a shopping cart, by free pictures of money

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Steven Richard February 11, 2021 - 10:01 AM

Whenever I can I book off airport. Sometimes one only needs to walk literally just a block or so off the airport property for a much better rate. Also, shop around for unlimited mileage cars if you’re traveling far.

helen h February 27, 2021 - 8:29 PM

Picking your car up after 11am is another good way to get a “free upgrade,” from a non-airport rental location. Though honestly I’m usually sad to end up with a larger car.


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