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The top 3 easiest ways to save on rental cars

Dec. 28, 2021
6 min read
Rental Cars in a lot
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Renting a car can be a wildly confusing process. There are many different rental companies out there, and each has its own set of partnerships, add-ons and other quirks that can make it hard to compare prices. Plus, there are many different rental car booking sites out there, each of which partners with various rental car companies.

Thankfully, though, it’s easier than you might think to save money on your rental cars. I’ve covered this topic extensively in the past, but I want this article to show you the easiest ways to save money on a rental car. After reading this, make sure to check out my complete guide to saving on rentals, too — there’s more helpful information there.

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Always check with your university or employer for a discount code

DePaul University rental car discount page
(Screenshot courtesy of DePaul University)

Many universities, alumni associations and companies have corporate codes that affiliated people can use to get preferred rates on rental cars. While some of these discounts may be reserved for official use, many of them — including the corporate codes issued by my university’s alumni association — can also be used for leisure rentals.

These can offer pretty excellent savings on your rentals too. My university has deals with Avis, Enterprise, Hertz and National, and each of these partnerships provides discounts and other perks. For example, the Enterprise code gives a preferred rate, waives the under-25 fee and even adds a damage waiver free of charge. In some cases, these perks give me over $100 per day in value.

Make sure to check with your employer and university for a rental car discount code of your own. If you have access to multiple codes with different rental car companies, it’s in your best interest to cross-compare pricing with all of your available codes.

Don’t have a code available to you? Consider signing up for AAA. The automobile club has partnerships with Avis, Hertz and other rental car companies, offering preferred rates and other benefits. My AAA code has saved me hundreds of dollars over the years at Hertz.

Related: Your points, miles and loyalty guide to Hertz car rentals

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Find other discounts with AutoSlash

AutoSlash has long been one of TPG’s favorite rental car booking services. All you have to do is input your dates and destination and select all of your applicable discounts from credit cards, airline programs and automobile clubs. In short, the website will help you find the best deal on a rental car by searching all of the major car rental websites for you.

Sample AutoSlash Submittal
(Screenshot courtesy of AutoSlash)

After submitting your request, AutoSlash will run searches for you for free and email you a list of quotes from various rental car companies that include your applicable discounts. If you see something you like, you can book your car by clicking through the link on the AutoSlash website.

AutoSlash also has a price-tracking tool that monitors the cost of a rental you’ve already booked. If the service sees a better deal pop up, it will alert you so you can cancel your existing reservation and rebook it at a cheaper rate. This is a super valuable service, and we highly recommend you use it to save money on your next rental.

This can save you a ton of time when compared to searching through each rental car company (and online travel agency) on your own time. That said, there is a downside to the service: It can’t search corporate or alumni codes, so you’ll need to look for those separately.

Related: TPG sits down with CEO of AutoSlash on Talking Points episode 14

Get a free damage waiver

Damage waivers are a form of insurance sold by most rental car companies. In short, they cover the car's total value against damage, theft and other mishaps. Think of it like comprehensive insurance on your own car, but without the deductible.

While this sounds great on paper, they can be pretty pricey at $10 to $20 per day, depending on your rental company. Thankfully, though, many credit cards include damage waivers with all rentals you charge to said card. Two of these cards include the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Chase Sapphire Preferred Card.

Whenever you pay for a rental car with these credit cards, your rental is insured from damage and loss up to $75,000. The process for actually claiming this coverage is simple, too: Just get an invoice for the damage incurred and open a claim with Chase. Once the claim is approved, you’ll be reimbursed for the charges.

Better yet, this coverage is primary, meaning that it kicks in before your personal car insurance does. This means that your rates won’t go up if you have a fender-bender in a rental, regardless of who was at fault for the damage.

That said, I always recommend paying for your car rental car with one of these credit cards. It will save you money on your rental car and protect you against damage incurred to the vehicle.

Related: The Critical Points: 5 steps to a perfect car rental

Bottom line

While there are plenty of ways to save money on rental cars, these three are the easiest. Make sure to always shop around for the best deal with AutoSlash, and compare those quotes to the price you get with any applicable corporate or university codes.

Then, use a credit card that includes a damage waiver to pay for the rental and you’ll be protected, all while knowing you got an excellent deal.

Drive safe!

Featured image by ALEXFAN32/SHUTTERSTOCK
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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TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
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If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

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Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more
Best premium travel card for value
TPG Editor‘s Rating
Card Rating is based on the opinion of TPG‘s editors and is not influenced by the card issuer.
4 / 5
Go to review

Rewards Rate

10xEarn 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
5xEarn 5x total points on flights through Chase Ultimate Rewards®.
3xEarn 3x points on other travel and dining.
1xEarn 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Intro Offer
    Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®

    80,000 bonus points
  • Annual Fee

    $550
  • 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.

    740-850
    Excellent

Why We Chose It

If you are looking to take your premium rewards to the highest level, this card is really a no brainer in our eyes. Chase's Ultimate Rewards make points easy to redeem, with a wide range of 10 airline and three hotel transfer partners and a friendly user interface. Despite the high annual fee, Chase is consistently adding new benefits to keep the card competitive in a fierce premium rewards field.

Pros

  • $300 annual travel credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year
  • Access to Chase Ultimate Rewards hotel and airline travel partners
  • Unlimited 3x points on the broad category of travel and dining
  • 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • Broad definitions for travel and dining bonus categories

Cons

  • Steep $550 annual fee
  • May not make sense for people that don't travel frequently
  • You must spend the $300 travel credit before earning 3x points for travel and dining
  • No automatic hotel elite status
  • Earn 80,000 bonus points after you spend $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months from account opening. That's $1,200 toward travel when you redeem through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
  • $300 Annual Travel Credit as reimbursement for travel purchases charged to your card each account anniversary year.
  • Earn 5x total points on flights and 10x total points on hotels and car rentals when you purchase travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® immediately after the first $300 is spent on travel purchases annually. Earn 3x points on other travel and dining & 1 point per $1 spent on all other purchases
  • Get 50% more value when you redeem your points for travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®. For example, 80,000 points are worth $1,200 toward travel
  • 1:1 point transfer to leading airline and hotel loyalty programs
  • Access to 1,300+ airport lounges worldwide after an easy, one-time enrollment in Priority Pass™ Select and up to $100 application fee credit every four years for Global Entry, NEXUS, or TSA PreCheck®
  • Count on Trip Cancellation/Interruption Insurance, Auto Rental Collision Damage Waiver, Lost Luggage Insurance and more