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Car rentals: reserve & prepay ?
Old 07-24-2019, 08:16 PM   #1
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Car rentals: reserve & prepay ?

We haven't traveled much where we needed to rent a car. Any advice? We wondered whether it seems more convenient to add the rental (prepay and reserve) along when we book our flights? Or is it better to cross our fingers and rent when we land at the airport? My questions are regarding both the financial aspect (is one cheaper than the other?) and also the convenience (is it better to have one waiting or does that even make a difference?) ?

Any tips or suggestions are appreciated by this novice traveler.
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Old 07-24-2019, 08:21 PM   #2
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Always reserve. I don't know if it is cheaper, but airport rental places do run out of cars sometimes. Especially if there is a disruption like bad weather (cars don't get returned because people can't get out of town). Once or twice I've shown up with a reservation and no car was available. This is out of hundreds of trips and at smaller airports, so YMMV.

I've always booked straight with Hertz/Avis/National, but you can check package prices versus a la carte.
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Old 07-24-2019, 08:25 PM   #3
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I always reserve, and stay with the same company as part of their "preferred" thingy. Always have a car waiting for me, ready to go. Usually bypass the counter and get a text when I land saying "go to spot J7 and get in your Prius" or something.
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Old 07-24-2019, 08:29 PM   #4
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Yup. No reservation, pay big bucks. They got you right where they want you.

Wanna go somewhere?
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Old 07-24-2019, 08:38 PM   #5
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http://www.autoslash.com for one way rentals.

Renting anywhere other than the airport is cheaper but more hassle.

If it applies to you, try to use an affiliation like AAA, AARP, or your business - if you work for a large company, they (both the car rental company and your employer) are generally OK with you using your affiliation with them even if it is entirely a personal trip.

I generally reserve but don't prepay. If you prepay, it can be significantly cheaper but if you change your plans your prepayment is generally non-refundable.

I found this link useful. It may repeat some of the points above:
http://extrapackofpeanuts.com/cheap-rental-cars-guide
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Old 07-24-2019, 09:11 PM   #6
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We always reserve rental cars ahead of time. And if at all possible, I avoid picking up rental cars in airport locations because they always come with increased taxes and tolls. City center locations are much cheaper.

If you join a rental company's frequent renter program, you'll also get a price discount. I have an old corporate Hertz Gold Card that gets me the absolutely lowest prices worldwide on Hertz cars.

And remember that overseas, all rental companies are not created equal. Some big name familiar rental companies are franchises in some countries, and some are not nearly the same operations as in North America.

Outside the U.S., I compare prices with AutoEurope.com, a New England based consolidator.
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Old 07-24-2019, 09:25 PM   #7
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Always reserve. Period. Read reviews. There’s a couple of companies out there that have great rates, but their reviews are awful. Go with a well established company. Yes, airport rental is more expensive, but you’re kind of stuck unless you really want to jump through hoops to save a few bucks (no thanks).

Don’t but the insurance. I’ve always known that, but for $13 per day, there have been times when I thought about it just to avoid any hassles. Then, I realized that my credit card (Fidelity card) has rental car coverage benefit. You may be very well covered by your auto insurance and credit card.

Check for AAA discounts or anything that may apply. Bottom line is, do your best, but hold you nose and just get it done. You don’t want to be stuck out of town without a path to a car. It could ruin your trip.
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Old 07-24-2019, 10:18 PM   #8
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Another couple of thoughts:

1. I always return the car full of fuel and decline the rental car companies' offers to return it empty or to have them fill it up. There is almost always a gas station within a few miles of the airport. This saves a few bucks at the expense of a little bit of convenience; I think I do it this way because my parents did.

2. If you're going to a place where toll roads are common, I think it is easier to activate the "EZ Pass" or whatever toll device is in the car. There is a convenience fee for this, but if you don't activate it and accidentally end up on a toll road, it will charge it to the EZ Pass toll device anyway and the rental car company will hit you with a hefty fee (like $35) for using EZ Pass without activating it first. In areas where toll roads are common, the toll roads are usually nice and usually save time and hassle compared with the non-toll road options.

(So I guess I'm inconsistent when it comes to convenience versus cost.)
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Old 07-24-2019, 11:08 PM   #9
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Reserve but don't prepay. Generally Costco is cheapest. Use credit card insurance, fill with gas before returning. I usually reserve the smallest car I could live with and am generally upgraded to a larger car for free.


If you have extra time, renting away from the airport can save a bundle. For example in Portland, I take the light rail from the airport to down town and save hundreds on a week long rental, which I drop off at the airport.
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Old 07-24-2019, 11:56 PM   #10
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Reserve but don't prepay. Generally Costco is cheapest. Use credit card insurance, fill with gas before returning. I usually reserve the smallest car I could live with and am generally upgraded to a larger car for free.

I do this and it's the best deal going.
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Old 07-25-2019, 12:59 AM   #11
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Do you know that credit card insurance is secondary to your personal auto insurance policy in most cases--in the U.S. Read your credit card policy's terms (online) to see if you're covered in Mexico and Canada. Amex may be the only card that pays no matter what.

In Ireland and Italy, CDW insurance is required by Gov't. regulations. Credit Card insurance is not applicable. Otherwise in Europe, credit card insurance is primary.
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Old 07-25-2019, 03:03 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Momcpa View Post
We haven't traveled much where we needed to rent a car. Any advice? We wondered whether it seems more convenient to add the rental (prepay and reserve) along when we book our flights? Or is it better to cross our fingers and rent when we land at the airport? My questions are regarding both the financial aspect (is one cheaper than the other?) and also the convenience (is it better to have one waiting or does that even make a difference?) ?

Any tips or suggestions are appreciated by this novice traveler.
You don’t need to prepay, but I always reserve. I use Costco Travel online to reserve car rentals. I check back to see if prices have dropped, and they often do, so I rebook.

Our United Mileage Club card offers primary car rental insurance so we always pay with that.
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Old 07-25-2019, 06:01 AM   #13
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Reserve but don't prepay. Generally Costco is cheapest. Use credit card insurance, fill with gas before returning. I usually reserve the smallest car I could live with and am generally upgraded to a larger car for free.


If you have extra time, renting away from the airport can save a bundle.
+2

Costco car rentals also include a 2nd driver at no additional charge.
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Old 07-25-2019, 06:27 AM   #14
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You don’t need to prepay, but I always reserve. I use Costco Travel online to reserve car rentals. I check back to see if prices have dropped, and they often do, so I rebook.

Our United Mileage Club card offers primary car rental insurance so we always pay with that.
Most times, prepay offers additional discount. The drawback is that once you prepay, there is minimally some fee if you want to cancel/rebook, and potentially no ability to cancel with refund. If you prepay with Autoslash, you can cancel up to 48 hours in advance and get a full refund. I've done this numerous times as their own (prepay) rates had dropped, and I'd cancel and rebook.

As far as primary/secondary insurance provided by credit cards, it doesn't matter very much. If you get into an accident, regardless of what insurance company pays for it, your personal auto insurance company is notified and they will adjust your rates according to their policies...no different than if they paid.
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Old 07-25-2019, 06:54 AM   #15
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After you reserve, you need to check back periodically to see if the rate has gone down. If it goes down, cancel current reservation and book the new better rate. We usually reserve several months ahead of a trip, and it is surprising how much the rates change every week. Supply and demand I guess? Last year we went to SF and picked up a weekly rental at Alamo. The reservation amount was about $325 for the week (using Costco), but the guy at the reservation counter said, "well I can get you the same car for $199 if you cancel your Costco reservation." Wow, big difference. His best tip was that you should always make a reservation, but when you get to the counter, ask if they have any "special deals." Often they have an overage of a particular vehicle type and will deeply discount.
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Old 07-25-2019, 07:52 AM   #16
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+2

Costco car rentals also include a 2nd driver at no additional charge.
Sometimes Costco will also include additional perks. In January when we rented through Costco, on top of having the best rate for our trip, they also included a $30 Costco gift card which they mailed within a few weeks after the rental.
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Old 07-25-2019, 03:17 PM   #17
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We typically rent through Costco for NA rentals. We do not have to pay in advance

We usually rent through autoeurope outside of NA. We pay at time of booking however it can be cancelled.

In our experience walk ups pay more.

We decline the insurance. Our credit card covers this for us.
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Old 07-25-2019, 03:33 PM   #18
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I always reserve, and stay with the same company as part of their "preferred" thingy. Always have a car waiting for me, ready to go. Usually bypass the counter and get a text when I land saying "go to spot J7 and get in your Prius" or something.
Last time I landed at Chicago, I got even better with Hertz. I had booked an intermediate size car as I had to give a couple of people a lift. When I arrived, instead of "spot J7", I was directed to "lot C" and told to choose any car I wanted. I told the attendant that I didn't know anything about US models and asked if he could recommend something, and he pointed to a Nissan Maxima (normally a full-size) that I could have for the same price.
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Old 07-25-2019, 04:54 PM   #19
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Always reserve. The one time we decided to prepay, guess what, medical issue the night before departure caused us to cancel our trip . Lesson learned...not worth the 10% or so we (didn't) saved by prepaying.
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Old 07-25-2019, 05:16 PM   #20
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+1

I've had great luck with this outfit.

I will often set up a search for the same trip with different size vehicles, just to watch the pricing over time. As the trip date draws closer, I'll pick the best one and cancel the rest.

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