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Car rental tips and tricks: a practical guide

Are you going to rent a car? We will give you a list of car rental tips and tricks for you to put into practice and get it at the best price.

Once you have made the decision to rent a car for your trip, the next point is to find the best value for money. Yes you can, don’t despair, you just have to follow these tips and tricks to do the best car rental choice.

Tip 1: define the type of car you need

What kind of car do I need? Well, the cheapest, right? Yes, we agree on that, the cheapest, but it will not necessarily be the cheapest that appears on the list. Let’s assume that the one that comes out as “cheapest” is a Fiat 500 or a Renault Twingo that can fit 4 passengers and little luggage. That is the cheapest rental car. But it may not be the most convenient. This is one of those car rental tips and tricks that probably does not seem so obvious, we will try to explain why.

This will depend on many factors:

  • How many people travel: it is not the same if 2 people travel than if you’re 6 to travel, also you have to take into account the luggage that each person will carry.
  • The type of roads that we are going to travel: if you know that you will travel some “difficult” roads, renting a Fiat 500 may not be the most convenient, that car will probably give you problems on those terrains.
  • The planned distance: even if the roads you will travel are “easy” you have to take into account the distance, for that of fuel consumption. You have to take into account that the “cheapest” car may spend more fuel over long distances. The fuel consumption data should be provided by the company that rents the cars, so that you can make the most appropriate decision.
Autos Ferrari de juguete en Modena

Tip 2: check the included mileage

When you rent a car, it does not necessarily mean that you can take it to make wind and twist around, no, sometimes the rent includes a certain number of kilometers. If you exceed that number you have to pay an extra amount.

Once we had to rent a car at the last minute, since we had missed the train, and we had to go from one city to another and the distance was almost 400 km. But the car that we had rented included fewer kilometers. Anyway, we had to pay the difference.

So, when we rent a car without the “emergency” factor, we do make sure that the included mileage is what we need. Or better yet, unlimited mileage cars.

Tip 3: be clear if you are going to change country

This is something that is better to decide before renting a car, since it can affect the final price. Or it may even be impossible to do so, which can cause your plans to be upset.

For example: when renting a car in México, knowing that I would cross the border into the United States to make some visits, I had to take out extra insurance for the time I would be in that other country.

But there are times when you simply cannot cross from one country to another, either because it is prohibited by the company that rents the car, or because the country you want to enter does not allow it. For example, in Kenya they did not allow vehicles with license plates from Tanzania, the neighboring country, to go on safari.

Carretera en Arizona

Tip 4: Use the right tool

Instead of quoting the price on each car rental page that comes to mind, it is best to use a tool that does that for you. In a single query, you will be comparing all possible options.

That can be achieved with a metasearch engine (if you want to know what a metasearch engine is, we explain it here).

The metasearch engine that we use is Rentalcars and it has worked quite well for us. Last time it helped us save almost half the price at which we had found cars by searching the “traditional” way.

In the tool you simply have to put the city where you want to pick up the car and using the map you can see if the price is better in a nearby town. Which brings us to tip 5.

Tip 5: look at the prices of nearby towns

Do you have a nearby city with an airport? Are you living next to a city larger than yours? Do you have a way to pick up the vehicle in that other location? If this is the case, then do not miss the opportunity to perhaps find a better price.

Going back to our last car rental, when using the Rentalcars tool we could see that in our city the price was very expensive, but if we went to pick up and drop off the car in a nearby city that had an airport, we would save a lot. But we could see that quickly thanks to the metasearch comparator.

Access the tool by clicking on the banner:

Tip 6: reduce the number of rental days

No, I am not referring to you giving up a full rental day. In fact here we are talking about an hour only. What happens with car rental is that a full day is taken into account for the 24-hour period that we keep the car. This gives us a freedom of maneuver to be able to save ourselves paying one more day of rent.

For example: if we want to rent a car from August 24 to 28, from Monday to Friday, and we say that we are going to pick it up at 5:30 in the afternoon. Let’s see the price difference depending on the time of return:

If we return it on August 28 at 6:00 PM

Consejos para rentar auto pantalla de ejemplo, antes

In this case, the company is taking into account the rent as if it were 5 days.

Now let’s see what happens if we return the car at 5:00 PM on the same day (Aug 28)

Consejos para rentar auto pantalla de ejemplo, despues

In this case the rental is taken as a 4-day rental.

And for one hour, we save 54 euros!

Of course, the time at which we will declare to return it will be effective as long as we manage to return it at that time. If you think it won’t be possible then don’t even think about it.

Tip 7: check the insurance included in your cards

When we rent a car we have to take out different insurances, due to unforeseen events. But before accepting all the extra insurance offered by the rental company, look at the insurance that is already included in your cards.

For example, we have several insurances already included in the American Express card that we use to pay for these services. If you live in France and want to try it, I leave you my link so you can have the first year for free.

fila de autos en Japón

Tip 8: have your papers in order

It’s kind of obvious, but I have to say it. Depending on the country, your driving license alone may not be enough, sometimes they ask for the “international license” and you have to go through an additional procedure to obtain it. It varies in each country, so if you need one you will have to investigate, in France for example you have to obtain it at the Prefecture.

Tip 9: Don’t forget to fill up the fuel tank

Another of the car rental tips and tricks that seems obvious to me, but in reality we may overlook it: you have to deliver the tank as it was given to us, which is usually full. In our case, not following this advice cost us dearly.

When we rented a car to go visit Munich, when we came back to deliver the car we were so tired and forgot to fill gas, we were already at the car rental company and said “bah, it doesn’t matter, we deliver it like this and they charge us for gasoline“. And yes, they charged for gasoline, but at an exorbitant price!

Since then, we never forget to refill the fuel tank before delivering the vehicle. Doing it yourself will always be much cheaper!

renta auto al mejor precio

Tell us how you have been renting a car on your trips? have you felt with more freedom of movement, or on the contrary, with more problems, such as where to park, etc. Tell us everything in the comments.

We hope that these car rental tips and tricks have been useful to you, put them into practice for your next car hire! (and tell us how it went).

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Olga Grijalva

Olga is a traveler and travel content creator with 17 years of experience. Her goal is to share useful information to help you plan your adventures. She has visited more than 40 countries and is excited to share her experience with you.