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Five Signs you're Overpaying for a Rental Car

We all have our own quirky hacks and strategies for everything from finding the cheapest flight to beating the rush hour traffic and just about everything else. The world around us is changing rapidly and we need to evolve our strategy in order to keep up. What worked best for us two years ago may not be the smartest move today.

Over the past year, we've spent most of our time looking at how Car Rental rates fluctuate, how coupons and discounts affect the regular rates and how some of the common winning strategies work (or don't work). We'll save our thoughts on miscellaneous add-on charges like insurance, prepaid gas, etc. for another day and focus on five things people say that indicates that they're probably overpaying for a rental car.

Kayak always Gets me the Best Price

Kayak is a one of our favorite sites. It helps us quickly do a price-comparison across a number of car rental agencies to figure out what works best. Its also helps us figure out if we can get a better rate by going to an off-airport location or a nearby town or city.

While Kayak is a wonderful tool for price and availability search, the rate is almost always the highest you can pay for a specific vehicle at a specific location. Kayak shows you the Rack Rate and in almost every case, you can easily get a discounted rate by using a coupon or going through Hotwire or Priceline.

Bidding on Priceline is the Way to Go

Priceline has a unique business model - in exchange for your commitment and upfront payment, you get a deeply discounted rate. On the contrary, Car Rental Companies and most Online Travel Agencies (OTA) don't require an upfront payment and you are free to change or cancel your reservation at any time for no charges.

While Priceline offers deep discounts, it is important to remember that you're locked-in to a specific rate when you book. As car rental rates fluctuate based on demand and supply, the regular rate can sometimes drop lower than your Priceline rate as you move closer to the vehicle pick-up date. In such cases, you won't be able to take advantage of the lower rates. In most cases, we've seen that by using the best coupon for a rental agency, you can match or even beat Priceline's rate and still retain an open reservation.

With these points in mind, it is best not to commit to a Priceline rate too early. Book the best discounted (and cancel-able) rate you can find as soon as you know about your travel plans. As you move closer to the vehicle pick-up date, the regular rate might drop and more discounts will be available. If that happens, take advantage of the better deal and bid considerably lower than your current rate to see if Priceline can beat it.

I don't Nickel and Dime with Coupons

Like it or not, coupons are here to stay and unless you're OK paying the more for the exact same product or service, you better get into the game. While we're not a big fan of putting in any effort to save a quarter at the grocery store buying stuff we normally wouldn't buy, we certainly don't mind saving a considerable amount on a rental car that we're going to pick anyways. Don't get us wrong, Grocery coupons work for a lot of people, but if you have limited time and bigger fish to fry, then go after the one that gives you the biggest return on your investment (time and effort).

Look for the Best Rate & then Find a Coupon

Coupons can have a big impact on the rate and final amount you pay for your rental car. If rate plays an important part in deciding which vehicle you rent, you need to start including coupons into the equation early on.

Lets say you're headed to Orlando for a week and are OK renting from any of the major car rental companies. You head over to Kayak and figure out that Thrifty offers the best rate($150/week). You look around for a coupon and find one that saves an additional 10%. You're now down to $135/week. Pretty sweet. Isn't it?

Now consider this - You ruled out Hertz solely based on the higher rate($200/week). However, Hertz offers a stackable discount with 20% off and an additional $35 off dropping the rate to $125/week, which is better than the discounted rate you have with Thrifty. By including coupon into your decision making process, you can usually get a much better rate and sometimes for a much better vehicle!

I Rent All the Time and Nothing beats Costco

Costco members enjoy fantastic car rental discounts. After playing around with other car rental coupons a couple of times, Costco members quickly realize that nothing else comes close. It seems reasonable to expect that they have the wining mantra and stick with it. Despite pretty good deals all the time, there are a number of reasons to look beyond your Costco discount.

First and foremost, Costco offers discount at only four (Avis, Budget, Alamo, and Enterprise) of the eight major car rental companies. It is possible to find a discounted rate at one of the other rental agencies that trumps the Costco rate.

Secondly, rental agencies that offer the Costco discount can sometimes have better promotions that are available for everyone to use. Right now, Budget is offering the fantastic Wendie Deal with an Economy or Compact car for $15/day or $119/week, which can easily beats the Costco member discount by a mile depending on where and when you're renting.

Wrapping it up

A savvy traveler understands the extremely dynamic and volatile nature of car rental deals. He/she is constantly in the know of new tools and strategies and quickly learns to make the best use of all available resources to his advantage without picking favorites.

What are your winning strategies?

This post first appeared on The Zalyn, please read the originial post: here

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Five Signs you're Overpaying for a Rental Car


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