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How to save on a car rental

Renting a car for a vacation opens up all sorts of possibilities: day trips from the city you’re based out of, access to remote locations, and if you’re traveling with young kids or older relatives, the ability to give them a break from walking.

It’s easy to shop around and focus on the daily rental rate, but that expense (plus parking costs, gas, and tolls) can easily add up to hundreds of dollars over your entire trip. Thankfully, there are ways to lower the cost of a car rental.

Bundle with your flight or hotel reservation

Much like how bundling auto and homeowners insurance can save you money, so can bundling your car rental with other reservations. Airlines, hotels, and discount travel sites often allow you to add a rental car onto your reservation when you book your flight or hotel room.

Not only does this make booking travel more convenient (everything in one place!), it often nets you discounts on your entire booking.

Check out a discount website

Discount websites are one of my favorite ways to save on a car rental. In exchange for not knowing which company you rented a car from until you reserve your booking, you get a steep discount. If you don’t mind a little mystery, Hotwire is a great resource.

Kayak, meanwhile, compares rates from many car rental companies in one search, saving you a lot of time and effort.

For example, a quick search on both Hotwire and Kayak resulted in compact and economy cars for under $25 per day in Miami over Labor Day weekend.

Book through your airline

Airline websites have online shopping portals where you can search for cars, easily compare options, and book a rental.

As an added bonus, you can include your frequent flier number on your reservation and earn miles. You also have the option to pay in cash or redeem miles for your car rental.

Book through your credit card’s website

If you have a credit card that offers rewards points you can redeem for travel, check to see if they also have an online portal where you can book flights, hotels, and car rentals.

Your credit card company may offer you the best rate on a car rental, and you have the option of paying in cash, rewards points, or a combination of both.

Opt for the slightly smaller car

A friendly car rental company employee once let me in on a little secret: economy and compact cars are usually the same exact cars!

Yet car rental companies will charge less for an economy car. If you weren’t planning on renting a sedan or SUV anyway, you can shave down your rental costs by a few dollars a day by opting for economy over compact.