Before setting out to rent a car it pays to know how to compare car rental companies by price. Numerous online sites today offer consumers a way to quickly and relatively easily input their requirements and gather pricing information from multiple car rental companies. While the information presented by such online comparison sites can be useful, consumers can save money on their car rentals by using the following guidelines to interpret the data.
If you find a rental rate that is significantly lower than those being offered by other companies check to see the locations at which the rates apply. Sometimes, rates can vary significantly by location, even within the city. Car rental companies often offer terrific promotional rates on rentals but only if the pick-up and drop-off location is an airport. The rate for renting the same car at your local suburb could be significantly higher than the rates offered by the company at an airport location. So in comparing companies make sure that you are looking at rates for the same pick-up and drop off locations.
Often car rental companies that offer lower daily or weekly rates than others have a maximum limit on the number of miles that you are allowed on that rate. For example, a company that is offering a sub-compact for $20 a day might cap the daily mileage limit at 100 miles. Any miles that you accumulate in excess of that limit will be charged at a flat rate per mile (on top of your daily rate). This overage can quickly add up and completely wipe out any cost savings you might have anticipated by going in for the lower rate. However if you know for sure that you will not be using up more than the daily mileage limit it makes sense to take advantage of a lower daily rate with a limited mileage option.
Rental rates vary significantly by the category. Rates are lowest for sub-compact and economy vehicles while SUVs, mini-vans, sports cars and luxury vehicles cost significantly more to rent. However not all car rental companies categorize their vehicles the same way. A car that is categorized as a sub-compact by one company could be priced as a compact car by another company. Before choosing a car rental company, make sure that you are comparing rates for the same class of vehicles across all companies. Sometimes a company that is charging you slightly more for a vehicle in the category that you are looking for, could be offering you a much better car than the lowest-priced rental company.
Rates can vary depending on the rental period. Car companies often offer attractive discounts on weekend rentals or on multi-day or weekly rentals. Sometimes taking advantage of such promotions could save you money compared to choosing a daily rate. Even if you don’t want a car for an entire week, the weekly rate offered by one company could be cheaper than what you would pay for a three-day rental charged at a daily rate by another company. Car rental companies won’t penalize you if you return the car before the rental period expires.
In addition to such steps it also makes sense to see if the rental car company that you finally decide to go with is offering a lower rate if you book directly via their Web site. Often car rental companies offer discounts and deals that may not always be immediately available on online comparison sites. So checking your car rental company’s Web site before you book might just help save you a few extra dollars.