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Car Rental Cost-Cutting Secrets

Around the country, gas prices have been taking us on a rollercoaster ride. For a few months, we are paying top dollar for gas, then it backs off a little and we are reprieved. Before we know it, we are on the same ride over and over again. With such fluctuation, many of us wonder if it’s even worth it to go on vacation, especially when we have to add on the cost of renting a car. Even though cost is weighing heavily on people’s minds right now, this should not be the only factor to consider when choosing a car rental company and model to choose. When you’ve found a successful car rental company they will be a company that brings together, price, model, service, and timing.

Even if you are an experienced car rental renter, meaning you rent several times a year, you still may be in for a surprise when you go to rent. Rental companies and cars vary so much from city to city,  it’s no wonder why renting a car can be a frustrating situation.

Next time you find yourself renting a car while away from home, make sure to get a great price, without having to go through a shady company. There’s plenty that you can do to make the rental-car stars align and end up with a lower bill. Here are a few steps to take when booking a rental.

Book Through Travel Websites

When you book your car rental through travel websites like Hotwire and Priceline, you are paying up front without necessarily knowing the specific car rental agency you are booking with, but this way you are guaranteed significant discounts. Even though you may not know the specific car rental agency, they are generally an interchangable commodity.

Avoid Airport Rentals

When you find yourself renting your car at an airport kiosk, you are undoubtedly going to pay significantly more for a rental car than if you were to book it in advance somewhere else. It is required by law that airport rental locations add local and state surcharges, where you may not get these charges if you book somewhere else. These fees can hike your rental up by about 25-45 percent.

Rent Locally When Abroad

It may be your first instinct to book a car rental with a local rental company because you are familiar with them and you trust them. But, it may be adventageous to you to look into booking your rental with a foreign company where  you are traveling to. Most often they will offer you a better deal and a wider selection of vehicles to choose from.

Top Off the Tank

Fuel policies of rental companies are quite strict, and when you bring back a car without topping off the fuel, they will most often charge you a pretty steep fee, over what the gas station would have charged you for gas. Keep in mind that you will need to fill up the tank at a fuel center close to the rental company station and show them your receipt to prove the action.

Beware of the Conversion Fee

When you are renting in another country, find out in advance whether you can choose between paying in U.S. currency or paying in the foreign currency. Make sure to compare the two rates, and if you choose to pay in the local currency, but use a U.S. credit card, they will charge you a conversion fee.

What Are the Restrictions?

Especially when reserving a car abroad, you’ll want to check out the age requirements and the insurance coverage options. Some credit cards that you reserve with have restrictions that don’t allow purchasing insurance in certain countries, like Jamaica and Italy. Other international rental-car companies sometimes impose restrictions on older rental drivers. Lastly, make sure to check if options available in the United States are also available abroad, like unlimited mileage.

International ID

Most often, you don’t need an international driving permit to drive abroad, but in the case that you were pulled over by police, it provides a familiar and recognizable form of identification. For the low fee of $15, available from the American Automobile Association (AAA), it is well worth the sense of calmness that it will give to you.

There are a number of ways that car rental companies are trying to save you money when you are vacationing. There are more independent companies that are increasing the competition, and there are a lot more deal finding tools online to help find that great deal.

One of the most positive changes that rental car companies are making is increasing their inventory of hybrid vehicles. These vehicles not only minimize the carbon footprint, but they save you considerable amounts of money on fuel. Also, when using a gas or electric vehicle, it’s possible to save as much as one day’s rental fees when you take a week-long trip.

Enterprise Rent-A-Car is planning on doubling its inventory of 5,000 hybrid vehicles by the end of 2009. They began increasing these cars in the more densely populated areas of the country, and now are expanding to more rural areas.

At Avis Car Rentals, sixty-three percent of their vehicles are certified by the EPA’s Smart Way program, and 2,500 of these vehicles are hybrids. The company doesn’t offer these vehicles at all locations yet, so the best way to reserve one is to travel to any of the major West Coast airport locations.

Hertz has also joined the ranks, offering many hybrid vehicles, more than 4,000 to be exact, and can be reserved upon request in many major U.S. cities.

When it comes down to it, renting a car is all about providing you a way to enjoy your vacation, so if you don’t have to worry about how much it’s costing you to rent, your bound to have a more stress-free vacation. If you do your homework in advance and look around for deals, you will pay less for your car rental and have more money to pay for those fun things while vacationing.