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

Apr 17, 2021

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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

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