Some pointers on car rentals

This Christmas I’ll be renting a car for the third time since selling mine back in March. I had pretty much no idea what to expect, and I’m definitely still learning the ins and outs. I rent a car to go out of town for events and weddings (if no one else is already going that way), and hitch a ride with friends or venture out on my road bike to go exploring on weekends.

My first car rental was with Hertz and as I recall I spent about $200 for a weekend including gas, taxes and insurance on a small sedan. My credit card offers secondary insurance on car rentals, but car rental places typically assume that you have some sort of primary insurance so it’s good to make sure if you’re carfree that you’re actually covered in the event of an accident). I rode my bike to the downtown location, picked it up, popped off my front wheel and drove off with my bike practically in the passenger seat next to me (eensy weensy car).

The only issue with Hertz was that the car I got smelled like stale cigarettes (despite no smoking stickers all over the interior and windows), so when September rolled around and I had a wedding to go to, I decided to check with Enterprise.

Enterprise had similar rates, but also a location close to my work (I left straight from work on a Friday), they have a rewards points program, the location I went to was much better maintained and best of all, the car did not make me want to stick my head out the window as I drove.

This week, I’m driving just one way to the coast since I have a ride back home, and I had heard that one-way trips are often much more expensive so I was nervous. A brief look online showed me that if I picked up at an airport location and returned to another airport location, I could expect (in my particular case) to pay about $105 (all but gas included). In contrast, if I picked up near my  home downtown and dropped off in town at my destination, I was quoted $110 just for the relocation fee for going one-way. Then I called the airport Enterprise, where I was quoted $110 and they recommended calling the national 1-800 number for Enterprise because that is “almost always the best rate” (counter to what you might do for a hotel reservation).

So, my advice in the shell of a nut:

  1. Check rates to/from local airports. If you have a friend who can drop you off or can take public transit to the airport, you can probably get a better deal, especially if you are going one way instead of round trip.
  2. Call 1-800-RENT-A-CAR for a quote from Enterprise, and get several quotes. Different companies use various algorithms and price charts, so depending on your travel plans you may get quoted different rates on different dates and locations.
  3. Call your credit card company if you’re not sure if they cover car rental insurance (if you don’t have primary auto insurance, make sure they know that). Most major credit cards offer a lot of perks that you may not even know about.
  4. Make friends who travel a good bit. I’m kidding, but only kind of. I much prefer to travel with someone else and I’m always happy to cover their gas because hey, I didn’t have to rent a car! I’ve saved myself several instances of having to rent a car just by asking around and being flexible with my travel plans.


[*This post is not sponsored or endorsed in any way by Enterprise, I’m just pleased with them thus far in my short experience renting cars]

Some pointers on car rentals