I spend a LOT of time on the road for my shoots and thus, I make myself very familiar with rental cars around the United States. I thought I may share some tips that could save you some time & money in the future with your rental cars. Feel free to comment with your tips as well!
- Corporate memberships – You would be surprised how easy it is to apply for a corporate/business membership with the major rental companies. If you travel as a photographer/producer or for business in general, you MUST utilize this! I use my enterprise corporate account the most domestically and it cost me nothing to apply. Things you can get with a corporate rental car account: priority check-in line, no additional fee for drivers under 25 (great if you have an assistant driving a vehicle, some places normally charge $15-25 a day for a driver under 25 if they allow it at all), no fee for a second driver, & standard pricing discounts (usually around 10%)
- Make the reservation in advance - Much like buying plane tickets, the more you reserve in advance, the better deal you will get. I have certainly gotten burned before when I checked rental prices weeks in advance, but forgot to make the reservation until days before my trip and the price had doubled.
- Neighborhood locations don’t have “airport fees” - Airport rental locations have to charge a load of extra on-airport fees and taxes. Neighborhood locations do not. Sometimes its cheaper to hop a cab to a location nearby, but off airport property to save yourself a load of money on airport rental fees and taxes. Although, airport locations sometimes have a cheaper rate, despite the additional fees, because they rent more in bulk and can be more competitive, so make sure to check ahead and compare.
- Get quotes from several companies before you travel - You would be surprised. I have compared prices with 3 major car companies before and there is usually at least one that is considerably cheaper than the others in order to be more competitive.
- Rent a lesser car class & negotiate up on-site – Let me preface this by saying that if you have to rent a specialty vehicle like a cargo van, pickup, minivan, or large SUV I would not try this because some locations have limited selections. When I fly into larger markets like Orlando, Vegas, LAX, & San Fran, I usually rent one car class under what I need. These days, a lot of rental car companies are trying to unload the more premium vehicles because many are just renting the cheapest options possible. When you speak with the agent setting you up with your car choices, ask what kind of deals they are offering for a possible upgrade. They will probably say something like “wellll…. I can get you into a ____ for say… $XX more a day (which they will tell you is a discount off the normal price because they need to rent/unload more of those vehicles)” and you have full right to negotiate and say “I will pay $15.” I have negotiated to a premium or larger vehicle at half or better the posted price many times doing this.
- Check with your credit card company & car insurance before renting – Many opt to spend on the rental car company’s full insurance coverage, but that can add up to a lot of extra charges. Did you know your personal car insurance may already cover your rental car? Some credit card companies, like American Express, also offer their own liability coverage of cars you rent using their card. In some cases you would still be responsible for covering the deductible and other charges, but check with your credit card and personal car insurance company. You may be paying for redundant costly insurance charges when you rent.