Sam Schuler | August 9, 2016 2:32 PM ET
5 Secret Ways to Save on Your Next Rental Car
Photo courtesy of Auto Europe
Finding a car rental deal to suit your pocket is not always as straightforward as it seems.
Never make the mistake to settle for the first brand you find when you do a Google search, or to assume that because Company X gave you the best deal on your previous trip, it is going to do the same this time around.
At Auto Europe we have been helping to secure the best deals for our clients for more than 60 years, and when you do a search for your European car rental, you can compare rates between the best local companies to find the lowest rate and compare the customer service record of each car rental company which provides service in your destination.
To help you save on your next rental, here are a few insider tips:
Downtown versus Airport Pick-up
It sure is convenient to walk straight from the plane to your rental car. Most likely, however, it is going to cost you. When you’re planning your pick-up location, compare the cost of the on-airport pick-up fee to the cost of a shuttle or transfer to a downtown location in the city center. Sometimes it’s less expensive to pick up your car at the airport even with the fee, but in some cases, you can save money by picking up your car at a downtown location.
Tip: Airport and train station fees normally don’t apply when dropping the vehicle off — if your local supplier has an office in both locations, try picking up downtown and dropping off at the airport office to save money.
Compare One, Three, Five and Seven-Day Rates
It goes without saying that you should get quotes from an expert consolidator like Auto Europe to compare discounted rates between companies, double-checking whether all additional fees, taxes and surcharges are included in quoted rates.
Many people don’t know that comparing rates for different periods of time is equally important. Sometimes a three-day car rental is cheaper than a one-day rental. Similarly, five and six-day rentals more often than not cost the same as a weekly rental. Many agencies also have special offers on longer-term car rentals.
Tip: Be careful when selecting pick-up and drop-off times. If you pick your rental up at 10 a.m. on the first day and drop it off at noon on the last day, you might be paying for a full day’s rental just for those extra two hours!
Watch Out for One-Way Rental Fees
When road tripping in Europe, you don’t necessarily want to drive back to your starting point to drop off your rental car. Chances are that you might want to drop it off in a different country altogether. This type of itinerary, called a one-way car rental, requires careful planning.
Some rental agencies don’t charge a one-way rental fee for a drop-off at a different location in the same country, especially when it’s a busy location. One-way international travel is a different story and fees always apply.
Once again, compare rates and look at all country-specific costs. Pay special attention to differences in fees associated with renting in different countries. Driving from Italy to France, for example, turns out to be a lot cheaper than driving from France to Italy due to the insurance requirements, which are mandatory for cars, rented in Italy.
READ MORE: How to Save on a Long Term Car Rental
Drive a Manual Transmission without All the Extras
Manual transmission rental cars are the norm in Europe and cost much less than renting an automatic. So brush up on your shifting skills if you’re used to an automatic and save some money in the process.
Also, ask yourself whether you need all the extras the rental car agencies are trying to sell you. Some items like GPS rentals or zero-excess coverage may be really useful and add peace of mind while driving abroad, but other add-ons and extras should be skipped unless they’re mandatory in the country you’re visiting.
Book and Pay in Advance
Possibly the easiest way to save money is to book early. Why wait until the last minute when your plane tickets have been paid for months ago? The longer you wait, the less rental stock is available and the more expensive it gets. When you rent with Auto Europe, you’re protected … if rates drop significantly you can have your quote updated. We guarantee the best available rate, and as long as we can verify the deal you find, we will match any rate on a rental of equivalent value.
Once you book, pay upfront rather than at the agency counter in Europe. In so doing, you avoid overseas transaction fees and price increases due to currency fluctuations.
Tip: While it’s good to pay upfront, also keep the company’s cancellation policy in mind. Auto Europe allows you to cancel most rentals up to 48 hours prior to scheduled pick-up, but some agencies have a less favorable policy which might leave you out in the cold should your plans change at the last minute.
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