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

Apr 17, 2021

This post contains references to products from one or more of our advertisers. We may receive compensation when you click on links to those products. Terms apply to the offers listed on this page. For an explanation of our Advertising Policy, visit this page.

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.

Want more credit card news and advice from TPG? Sign up for our daily newsletter

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

The All-New United Quest℠ Card

WELCOME OFFER: Up to 100,000 bonus miles


CARD HIGHLIGHTS: 3X miles on United® purchases

*Bonus value is an estimated value calculated by TPG and not the card issuer. View our latest valuations here.

Apply Now
More Things to Know
  • Earn 80K bonus miles after you spend $5,000 on purchases in the first 3 months your account is open. Plus, an additional 20K bonus miles after you spend $10,000 in the first 6 months
  • $250 Annual Fee
  • Earn 3X miles on United® purchases, 2X miles at restaurants, on select streaming services & all other travel, 1X on all other purchases
  • Earn 3X miles on United Airlines purchases
  • Earn 2X miles at restaurants and on select streaming services
  • Earn 2X miles on all other travel
  • Earn 1X mile on all other purchases
  • Each year, receive a $125 credit on United® purchases and two 5k-mile anniversary award flight credits. Terms apply.
Regular APR
16.49% to 23.49% Variable
Annual Fee
Balance Transfer Fee
Either $5 or 5% of the amount of each transfer, whichever is greater.
Recommended Credit
Excellent, Good

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

Disclaimer: The responses below are not provided or commissioned by the bank advertiser. Responses have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by the bank advertiser. It is not the bank advertiser’s responsibility to ensure all posts and/or questions are answered.