Rental cars: Brand matters (and other tips)

Rental cars matter.  People will put hours into choosing a flight and hotel but, when it comes time to picking the rental, they’ll grab the cheapest one.  Not a good idea.  You don’t have the level of “reservation protection” that you do with airlines so, if there’s no car for you, you could just be out of luck.  And that could happen after waiting 45 minutes at the counter.  If you’re paying next to nothing for a car, there could be a very good reason.  I’ve had good luck with Hertz and National, but the bottom line is, make sure you have at least done a search on the company and location that you will be renting from.

One of the nice things about rental car companies is that most of them will give you premium status without your ever having rented a car from them.  That will often get you privileges that allow you to skip the desk and go right out to the cars, where they will likely have your name on an electronic board.  You’ll head straight to your car and out of the lot before others have moved a single place.

Last notes:

  • Most people know the basics, including checking ahead of time if your credit card offers insurance, filling the car before returning it, etc.  But one thing that many forget to do is to take a “walk-around” of the car and make sure that there are no scratches, bruises, dings, etc.  If you find any, make sure a rental employee documents it.  The last thing that you want is for somebody to claim that you made that dent.
  • Never rent a car without using a coupon.  The links below have discount codes, but you can also check sites such as Retail Me Not or Auto Slash, the latter of which will search for coupons and rate changes for you.  Here are a couple of discount links to Hertz, the first of which will give you a bonus mileage multiplier for American miles and the second of which will give you Delta miles.
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