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Insider strategies to find the best price on your next rental vehicle.

April 14, 2017

Timing can be everything when looking for a rental car—you might find a low rate, say at $25 per day, but if you sit and wait for a lower price, you may miss out on a deal. But there are other secret ways to find the best price. Use these three insider strategies—and maybe even score an upgrade.

Try Lesser-Known Sites

The least competitive deal might be the one you find on your car-rental company’s site. Instead, try an aggregator. Costco Travel consistently offers lower rates than the major online agencies (costcotravel.com), and AAA has deals on Hertz rentals. (Memberships are required to access these specials.) If you don’t care about which company you rent from, check “opaque” sites like Priceline and Hotwire, both of which offer deep discounts, but don’t reveal the rental-agency name until you’ve made a nonrefundable purchase. Also try AutoSlash.com, which searches a database of coupons for the best price.

Avoid Insurance Potholes

Your credit card, personal car insurance, or travel insurance may cover your vehicle during your rental. Look it up before you rent, and read the fine print. It could save you $15 to $25 a day on the cost of your car. Don’t forget to bring proof of your insurance coverage; increasingly, car-rental companies have started to demand this before they hand you the keys. A site like Insuremyrentalcar.com can sell you a stand-alone insurance policy that costs a fraction of what the rental companies charge.

Outmaneuver Fees and Industry Quirks

If you plan on collecting frequent-flier miles with your car rental, be aware that you might be charged up to $1 per day for the privilege. Other junk fees include renting a toll transponder (about $5 a day), a GPS navigation system (use your smartphone instead), and satellite radio (sometimes as much as $8 per day). Rental companies often price their vehicles in peculiar ways, too. For example, cars rented at the airport are almost always more expensive because of added taxes and fees. Rent at an off-airport location and you could save 20 percent or more.

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