I write a lot about hotels and airlines but very little about rental cars, since so few of us really think there’s much of a difference. The more I rent, the more I determine that there is. There’s nothing worse than waiting in line for 45 minutes only to get to the front and find out that they don’t have any cars left and you really have no consumer protections to help you. I’ve started using National when I rent a car because I have so few problems with them. If it’s a choice of a good company or Stinky Car Rental for $10 less per day, I’ll take the former every time. I probably paid quite a bit for whatever trip I’m on. The rental car is not the place to save a few bucks. Other things to remember:
Price? Which One do you Mean?
There’s no such thing as the price for a rental car. There are always coupon codes, deals to be had and online coupons. My first stop is usually RetailMeNot, but Autoslash also does a good job of tracking your rentals, finding the best deals and making automatic adjustments for you.
Want a truly luxury experience? Try Silvercar, a rental car company that does it right, giving you an Audi A4 with free wireless and satellite radio. You do everything through an app on your smart phone, so there’s no waiting in line anywhere. I’ve seen promotional pricing as low as $50 per day, but the typical price is $70-100 per day. Still, during busy periods, this could be the cheapest car available, given the extras that they throw in. They’re only at 11 airports, but they’re growing quickly. I have a promotional code around here somewhere but, if I forget to post it, please feel free to email me for the discount code.
Know your insurance. It will only take you a few minutes to figure it out ahead of time and you don’t want to be standing at the counter trying to do it while they’re pitching you and you have no idea what you’re actually covered for. The credit card you are paying with likely has some kind of insurance, but you will likely have to check to see what it covers and whether it’s primary or secondary. I’m not a big fan of the Chase Sapphire card (one that others seem to love), but the rental car insurance is the best I’ve been able to find. Outside of the sign-up bonus, though, frequent car rentals would be the only reason to get the card.
What Loyalty Program?
It’s heresy around here, but I have yet to find a car rental loyalty program that is so good that it makes up for the lousy service at discounters. Having said that, join anyway if it’s free. Some programs give “skip the line” privileges even to the base members.
Year-End Credit Card Bonuses
If you were thinking about applying for one of the high-end credit cards that comes with a travel credit, now is probably the time. The Citi Prestige ($250) and Amex Platinum ($200) both offer travel annual credits (Citi’s is broader than Amex’s, since the former can be used for any travel purchase but the latter is only for fees.), but the end of the year is approaching fast. If you want to get one in for 2015, now is the time. (Hat tip to View From the Wing, where I first saw this tip.).
Bonus bonus: Hilton is offering two Hilton Honors points per point transferred from Citi’s ThankYou Rewards program. The above Citi Prestige and its partner, the Citi Premier card, each offer 50,000 TYPs as sign-up bonuses, and the latter waives its annual fee for the first year. That’s 100,000 Hilton Honors points per card. Not a bad way to end the year, but it’s only good through January 6, 2016.
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And finally, you can apply for credit cards through the Credit Cards for Charity link above. All card proceeds are donated to charity, so please do well by doing good!