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How I saved nearly $250 on a one-day car rental by taking a $110 Uber ride

April 17 2021
4 min read
Rental cars at STL airport
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It's no secret there's a massive rental car shortage right now.

So, I can't say I was completely surprised when I went to book a car back to Philadelphia after visiting family in Dayton, OH, last week and my search on Kayak returned prices starting (starting!) at a whopping $460 for a one-day economy vehicle rental.

I had already been in Ohio for three weeks after a one-week extension thanks to a last-minute opening to get the Johnson & Johnson vaccine and needed to get home, and had too much stuff (re: three weeks' worth of baked goods from my mom, clean-out-the-closet junk, an overstuffed suitcase and my pup, Ruby) to get on a plane, which probably would have been cheaper.

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Thus, I began my quest for a way home that wouldn't set me back almost $500.

Securing a car out of Dayton was out of the question. One-way rentals — available only at the Dayton International Airport (DAY) — were too astronomically priced to justify a mere eight hours of use. I figured I might have better luck in a larger market so I shifted my focus to the next closest major city that would take me in the same direction as my final destination -- Columbus, OH. Sure enough, cars were pricing out for a fraction of the cost. And by fraction, I mean only $120 — $340 cheaper than the options in Dayton.

But before I could book I had to solve for one last issue: how to get the 70+ miles from my mom's house to the rental office in downtown Columbus. Despite the distance, I priced out an Uber out of curiosity and found my solution. The fare was only $95 after applying the up to $15 monthly Uber credit from The Platinum Card® from American Express (enrollment required for benefit). Plus a $20 tip for the driver that I paid for with the twenty my mom slipped me on the way out (thanks, Mom!).

Related: 11 common rental car mistakes — and how to avoid them

That meant instead of spending $460 for a one-way rental out of Dayton I was able to reserve a car for only $120 out of Columbus, plus $95 for the Uber to get there, saving me $245 in the end. Not bad if you're willing to do a little schlepping.

To pay for the reservation, I used my Chase Sapphire Reserve to take advantage of the rental protection.

Bottom line

The rental car shortage is very real, especially if you are starting from a limited market like I was and don't have much flexibility in terms of dates and/or are making a close-in reservation.

That said, there are workarounds if you're willing to get creative. Consider larger markets nearby, and using alternative modes of transportation, such as Uber, to get there. Dig into your credit card perks for any tools that will help keep costs down, and always remember to use a card that offers rental protection to book.

Related: Best credit cards for rental car coverage

Photo by Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

Featured photo by The rental car facility at Lambert-St. Louis International Airport (STL). (Photo by Jeffrey Greenberg/Universal Images Group via Getty Images)
Editorial disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airline or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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Best Marriott card for Business Owners
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
3 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

6X6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
4X4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
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  • Intro Offer
    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.

    Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 points
    75,000 points
  • Annual Fee

    $125
  • Recommended Credit
    Credit ranges are a variation of FICO© Score 8, one of many types of credit scores lenders may use when considering your credit card application.

    670-850
    Excellent/Good

Why We Chose It

The Marriott Bonvoy Business Amex is a stacked card with a rewards rate that will help you earn bonus points on everyday and business-related purchases. You'll earn 15 elite night credits each calendar year, and receive automatic Gold elite status. Finally, the free night award certificate with a redemption level of 35,000 points or less can get you hundreds of dollars in potential value each year.

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  • Receive 15 elite night credits to jump-start status
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  • Airline points transfer ratios are poor
  • Must spend $60,000 in a year for second free-night award
  • Limited Time Offer: Earn 100,000 Bonus Marriott Bonvoy Points after spending $4,000 in purchases on your new Card in your first 3 months of Card Membership. Offer expires 11/2/22.
  • 6x points at hotels participating in the Marriott Bonvoy® program.
  • 4x points for purchases made at restaurants worldwide, at U.S. gas stations, on wireless telephone services purchased directly from U.S. service providers and on U.S. purchases for shipping.
  • 2x points on all other eligible purchases.
  • Receive a 7% discount off standard rates for reservations of standard guest rooms at hotels that participate in the Marriott Bonvoy program when you book directly. Terms and Conditions Apply.
  • Receive 1 Free Night Award every year after your Card renewal month. Plus, earn an additional Free Night Award after you spend $60K in purchases on your Card in a calendar year. Awards can be used for one night (redemption level at or under 35,000 Marriott Bonvoy® points) at hotels participating in Marriott Bonvoy®. Certain hotels have resort fees.
  • Enjoy Complimentary Marriott Bonvoy Gold Elite Status with your Card.
  • Terms apply.
  • See Rates & Fees