How to Rent a Car Like a Boss and Make the Rental Company Work for You

As of writing this (9/9/19), anytime I travel and need to get a rental car I go straight to Priceline.  I'm sure many of the other online booking agencies like hotel.com, Kayak, or Expedia may be similar to Priceline in price and convenience but I've grown comfortable with Priceline so that's what I'm writing most specifically about.  If you use another website keep reading because most of this information applies to any car rental situation.  I'm making no legal claims in this post so follow this advice at your own risk:) 

Renting all over the country, I've averaged conservatively averaged about $28 per day or $300/wk booking my rental cars on Priceline. All of the rental deals I've seen on Priceline are for unlimited miles so if you are considering driving hundreds or thousands of miles and you want to save the wear and tear on your car while traveling in style, you may want to consider this option.  If you are traveling for music or work, the dependability of a new vehicle may be necessary to make sure you make it to that high paying gig on time and in one piece.  No more 1990 duct taped Chrysler Neon. 

Right now, looking at Priceline rental car prices I can get an economy car for 2 weeks for $416.  I could take a nice vacation from Lincoln -> Los Angeles -> San Francisco and back home which comes out to about 10 cents per mile driving 4,000 miles (not including gas) and you don't even have to pay for the oil change!  Whether your car is new or old, rental cars may be a great way to actually save you money on your next trip. 

Insurance or No? Full coverage on the car through Priceline is for $11 per day which is much more comprehensive than what you would purchase over the counter when you pick up the rental car.  If you own your own vehicle and currently have full coverage insurance, most car insurance allows your policy to also cover rental car damage. You definitely want to have some kind of insurance for your rental car so you are not left on the hook for potentially thousands of dollars if you get in a car accident or damage the vehicle.  If I'm traveling to a big city for just a few days and getting a rental car I normally opt for the $11 extra per day so I can have the peace of mind.  If I'm traveling to National Parks and spending most of the time on the highway I normally opt to keep my own car insurance on the rental car. 

Rental Car Inspections: Make sure to spend the extra three minutes inspecting the vehicle before you leave the rental location to note any scratches/damage and stains/smells you car has on the contract prior to your renting.  When you return your vehicle, try to do so during normal business hours so you can get a receipt and they can't inspect it after you leave and claim you damaged the car when you are not even there. 

Fee for pickup outside normal business hours:   You will typically be charged an extra fee if you try to pick up your car outside of normal business hours.  Look up the hours of the location you are renting from to make sure your Priceline quote falls within normal business hours. 

Fee for drop-off at different location: When reserving rental cars, always try to return vehicle to same location you rented from.  Otherwise, you may get hit with a large drop off fee. 

One week is 6 business days: For example, if you rent a car at 9am Monday morning and return it the following Monday morning you will be charged for one week plus one extra day.  If you are only trying to get charged the promotional full week rate, try to avoid that extra day if your travel plans allow. Even if you return at the beginning of the 6th day you will be charged as if you've rented for the entire day. 

Don't change your reservation at the counter:  Although Priceline is the cheapest, they are the worst at changing reservations and all bets are off on your deal once you start trying to make adjustments to the agreement.  Make sure you double check dates, unlimited mileage, decide on what size of car you want all within the Priceline app.  DO NOT DO IT AT THE COUNTER.  The only person with a worse reputation than a used car salesmen is a rental car salesman. Just kidding, I think car salesmen are probably worse. Maybe... Avoid dealing with them and their offers as much as possible.   If you follow these steps before you get to the rental car location you will not be duped by their scare tactics. 

Did you know? You can rent a car under 25 years of age. You just have to pay an extra daily fee. 

Best practices while renting cars: 

  • Double check parking signs 
  • Do not eat in rental car 
  • Many times there are Mobile deals if you book on your phone that are even cheaper than doing it on your computer 
  • Avoid tight parking spots when possible 
  • Pay tolls with cash or avoid all together on your GPS 
  • Treat the rental car with respect and bring to location if it needs oil change 
  • If used for business, rental car costs are 100% tax deductible

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