Most trips don’t require a rental car, especially in cities with a great public transit system. But when it is necessary, you’ll want to be able to get the best deal possible on your vehicle.

Kayak searches not only the big-name car companies but also peer-to-peer options like Turo. It also offers a map feature that can be helpful when searching for off-airport rentals.

Book in Advance

For many people, securing the right car rental is one of the most critical components of their trip. They often book flights nine months out, hotels close to that time, and then leave it to the last minute when it comes to renting a vehicle.

If you want to make sure you get the best rate possible, it is always a good idea to book in advance. According to experts, booking three to six months out will usually get you the best deal. After that, prices tend to fluctuate based on demand. It is best to stay on top of rates by checking them regularly. However, it is also important to remember that a reservation doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you will get the vehicle that you reserved.

Check the Weekly Rate

New York City has an incredibly efficient transportation system that means locals rarely need to own their own cars. However, it can still be fun to cruise around the Big Apple in a rental car for a few days.

You can usually find cheaper rates by renting by the week. If you know that you are going to need a car for about seven days, it is best to reserve a vehicle for that duration rather than a day at a time.

It is also worth considering signing up for a rental car loyalty program. These programs offer benefits like member-exclusive rates, skip-the-line privileges, free rentals and other perks. However, make sure to read the fine print carefully. Some of these programs may require an annual membership.

Check the Fine Print

Many rental car companies charge extra fees for things like a full tank of gas (which may be more expensive than the fuel you’d pay at a local station), equipment rentals such as ski racks or child seats, and the cost to return the car with a clean interior. These fees can add up quickly, so be sure to comparison shop online.

You also need to carefully check the terms and conditions for waivers offered by the rental company. For example, they often push Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) insurance, which is not always necessary. Your own personal auto insurance or the credit card you’re using to rent the vehicle may offer coverage that the CDW does not. Likewise, some companies block the full amount of the rental from your account until you drop off the car, so be aware of this before you sign on the dotted line.

Don’t Pay Through a Third-Party Website

Renting a car can be an expensive process, especially with all the fees rental companies will try to charge you by surprise. Luckily, there are some easy ways to avoid these extra charges.

For example, if your deal has a mileage limit, make sure you keep it within limits or you’ll be charged per mile/kilometre. Alternatively, some credit cards offer rental car coverage, so check with yours to see what’s included.

Also, make sure you read the fine print to check that all taxes and fees have been included in your quote. Lastly, many rental companies require you to return the car with a full tank of gas, so check that before you leave the lot. Some will prepay a full tank of gas for you to save you time, but this may be more expensive than filling up yourself.

Book Direct

One of the best ways to save on rental car fees is to book direct with the rental company. This usually saves on both daily and weekly rates and eliminates third-party booking fees.

Many rental car companies offer loyalty programs that provide perks like free vehicle upgrades, waived airport fees and discounted car rentals. These programs can also help you bypass the counter completely and score pre-assigned vehicles.

If you have the time, set a calendar reminder once a week to check online for rate drops on your booked rental. It only takes two minutes and can save you a few dollars. Most companies make it easy to find these discounts by listing them directly on their websites, right next to the ‘Book Now’ button.

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