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Travel Tips: Best Practices around Gathering Car Rental Quotes

Reading Time: 4 minutes

In this post we describe our best practices for gathering car rental quotes and organizing our findings.

Opting to travel by private car can be a more time and cost-efficient way of moving throughout a country. It also gives you greater access to hard-to-reach, off-the-beaten track towns that may provide insight into a country’s character beyond the major cities.

Below we share our process for gathering car rental quotes and how we organized our findings for later reference.

Create a spreadsheet.

In the spreadsheet, create a separate table for each rental car company quote with the following column headers:

  • Car Pick Up City Location
  • Car Drop Off City Location
  • Pick Up Date
  • Drop Off Date
  • Manual Transmission Price (includes taxes, surcharges etc.)
  • Automatic Transmission Price (includes taxes, surcharges etc.)
  • Number of rental days
  • Total cost per day
  • Terms and conditions
  • Hyperlink to the car quote or reservation identifier

Other fields:

  • Rental promotions + date promotion ends
  • Type of vehicle + available cargo space
  • Child car seats rental options
  • GPS rental options
  • Toll-booth payment options

Copy this table as many times as needed.

Make the top-line columns filterable, if desired.

Research car rental companies.

Develop a short list of well-known rental companies in your region of travel. At the least we recommend opting for companies that have:

  • A wide reach of rental facilities within your travel region
  • A built-in roadside assistance program — i.e. what happens if you pop a tire and are stranded roadside?
  • Standard payment language — no upfront payments, pay by (international) credit card etc.

Generate a quote from your list of car rental vendors.

Populate the spreadsheet with basic quote information.

Repeat across all of the car rental vendors.

Go back through and review each quote’s terms and conditions.

Note any important terms and conditions that may apply to your quote, including:

  1. Change of itinerary or rental cancellation fees
  2. Mileage limitations
  3. How many drivers can conduct the vehicle; some rental companies apply a surcharge to add a second driver. This may be impactful if you plan to drive long-haul stretches.
  4. What kind of insurance is compulsory for the car rental
  5. If any incidental deposit is required upfront
  6. Off-roading limitations
  7. Roadside assistance programs available with the rental
  8. Rental clauses related to intra-country travel

While many vendors provide transparency and a customer-centric/no “gotcha” quotes, unfortunately, many still do. Add-ons can add up and itinerary changes can double the price of your rental. The onus is on you, the traveler, to know what you’re signing up for ahead of selecting the rental.

Check if your credit card provider extends car insurance to its subscribers. Many car rental vendors will allow you to opt out of their insurance if you can prove you have international coverage through a credit card provider. Individual countries and car rental agencies may have clauses around the type of insurance they require you to carry; be clear about what the terms and conditions look like for rental vendor and credit car provider.

Determine if the quote allows you to return the car early for a pro-rated credit. Sometimes travel plans change and you may want to drop off the car earlier than anticipated. If so, you may be able to recuperate costs. Other rental agencies may charge you a “change” fee for making an update to your itinerary.

Be aware of how flexible the quote is, and what you feel comfortable with when selecting a rental.

Adjust your itinerary to try different itinerary scenarios.

If your itinerary allows, modify your search criteria with different pick-up/drop-off dates and locations to see if the price changes in any meaningful way.

For longer itineraries, consider making multiple rental reservations.

If your itinerary spans multiple cities, towns and nights, you may consider making multiple car rental reservations for your trip. Save money by returning a rental during a long stay in a city-center and picking up a new car at the time of departure.

You may have an itinerary that looks like the following:

  • Location One: 2 nights
  • Location Two: 2 nights
  • Location Three: 5 nights
  • Location Four: 2 nights
  • Location Five: 3 nights

In this scenario, you may consider picking up a rental car at location one, and dropping it off upon arrival to location three. This will avoid rental and parking fees during your stay in location three. At the end of your stay in location three, pickup a new rental car and proceed with your itinerary.

Add a 1-3% rental cost cushion to your budget.

Credit card transaction fees, car accidents and other fees will pop up along your journey. Add a line item to your budget of an anticipated 1-3% of “miscellaneous” fees that seem to appear last minute.

There may be instances where you can save beyond the first quoted price. Look into your credit card company and see if they offer a rewards or shopping portal where you can either apply points, earn points or get discounts by being a card member.

Although we were traveling using a zero fees on international transaction credit card, we still added in a cushion for any fees we expected to incur. While the credit card provider themselves might not charge you anything, the rental agency may tack on an extra percentage for using a non-cash/debit card option.

Share the spreadsheet with your travel mates so they can see your analysis.

Gather feedback upon your research to date. Your travel companions may have ideas in mind or quickly strike down some of the presented quotes, especially if they have anecdotal experiences working with rental vendors from travels past.

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