Book in advance
Booking in advance is the best way of ensuring that you get the best rates. If you leave it until the last minute to hire a car, you’re unlikely to find any bargains – and you won’t have much choice of models either. If you’re travelling in low season, you may be lucky and get a better rate, but for high season it really is wise to book as early as possible. Even at busy times, that will help you secure more economical rates than if you try to book on the day or at the last minute.
Look for special offers
If you’re travelling by air, check whether the airline has any special offers. Surprisingly, it can work out cheaper to book a trip with car hire included than to book a flight on its own. Even when that isn’t the case, airlines often offer bargain car hire rates to encourage you to book with them. Do, of course, check that it is a genuine bargain before committing yourself, by comparing the rates if you were to book independently.
Check price comparison sites
Dozens of price comparison sites have sprung up in recent years, so it should be easy to compare different car deals for your destination. Typically, they will show you the prices offered by various companies for different types of cars, but some sites will also allow you to select from a greater range of criteria such as capacity or number of passengers.
Buying extras can be much more costly if you purchase from the car hire company. You can still get the same add-ons at a much cheaper price if you purchase from third party companies. For example if you want a policy to cover you for hire car excess insurance, you would do better to purchase independent cover, especially if you plan to hire a car more than once in the same year. Always shop around to find the best deal, but remember to check that the policy suits your needs – the cheapest is not always the most suitable.
Pay only for what you need
It’s easy to waste money by accepting add-ons that you don’t need and won’t use, or being unaware of deals that do not work to your advantage. For example, you may be asked to pay for a full tank, but won’t be given any refund for unused fuel. And the fuel will be charged at a much higher rate than you would pay from a petrol station.
There is also little sense in paying for a vehicle that exceeds your requirements. If all you need is a cheap runabout to get you from A to B, hire an economy vehicle with a small engine. Don’t be seduced into paying for a flashy car, or a seven-seater people carrier if you’re a couple with one child. And don’t be tempted to book an expensive convertible just because you’re on holiday.