There's always one big question to ask before embarking on any long road trip: use your car or get a rental? While each choice has pros and cons, the advantages of rental cars often tip the balance in their favor. Rentals provide peace of mind while also allowing you to save substantial wear and tear on your vehicle, ultimately making them the ideal choice for many situations.
However, there are ways to make your road trip rental even more successful. A little extra time, effort, and planning can help you save money while ensuring you get the perfect vehicle for your trip. These four tips will help ensure that your rental car turns your next road trip into a resounding success.
1. Book in Advance
You've probably heard that there's no substitute for planning, and that's never more true than when dealing with rental cars. Booking at the last minute often means paying higher rates, dealing with limited availability, and potentially needing to travel much farther to pick your car up. These downsides can put a damper on even the most exciting road trips.
When booking ahead, you'll also want to consider whether you're taking your trip during peak season. If you're traveling over the summer or during the holidays, consider booking an extra week or two in advance.
2. Book for Convenience
Saving money is important, but don't ignore convenience. If you're deciding between multiple rental agencies and locations, consider how you'll pick up and return the car. Many agencies offer free pick-up if you can't get a ride, but these offers typically have distance limits. Choosing a cheaper pick-up or drop-off location farther away can potentially mean a much less convenient trip.
Remember that road trips are supposed to be fun. While you shouldn't ignore cost savings, you also shouldn't make your rental experience more difficult just to save a few dollars.
3. Don't Ignore Rewards Programs
Many rental car agencies offer rewards programs that are free to sign-up and offer bonuses, perks, or even cash-back on rentals. It's easy to ignore these programs, especially if you only rent infrequently, but it's not uncommon to get better rates or even sign-up bonuses by becoming a member. At a minimum, not signing up may mean leaving bonus points on the table for future rentals.
4. Hit the Goldilocks Zone
Most rental agencies offer a range of vehicle sizes, from tiny compact cars to enormous full-size SUVs. If you're spending a long road trip in a rental car, you want to get your sizing just right. In other words, you want to hit the "Goldilocks Zone." A vehicle that's too small will leave you cramped and uncomfortable, but a vehicle too large for your needs will mean less convenient parking and more spent on gas.
Choosing a vehicle rental that suits your needs without being too large or too small will save you money while also helping you have a comfortable and enjoyable trip.