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Close up of person signing documents in the background with a key to a rental car in the foreground
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How to Find Cheaper Car Rentals

SmarterTravel

The coronavirus pandemic forced many car rental companies to sell vehicles which created a shortage and surging prices once demand for travel returned. In Hawaii, rates rose as high as $700/day this year and tourists even started renting U-Haul vans to get around the ridiculously high car rental rates. While rates have since dropped considerably, prices aren’t expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2022 or 2023.

If you’re searching for a car rental using only the typical online travel agencies and metasearch sites such as Expedia, Kayak, or Rentalcars.com, you may be missing out on a better deal.  These aggregators do a great job of comparing rates with the major car rental companies such as Avis, Hertz, and Budget Car Rental but there are some lesser-known rental agencies or peer-to-peer platforms that you should check for cheaper rates.

Peer-to-Peer Car Rentals

Close up of person handing another person keys to a rental car
methaphum | Adobe Stock

In the age of the sharing economy, it’s not only possible to rent another person’s home or apartment for your vacation, you can also rent someone else’s car. Here are some of the most popular peer-to-peer car rental platforms and how they work.

Turo

One of the most popular peer-to-peer car sharing platforms is Turo where private individuals in cities around the U.S., Canada, and the U.K. put their vehicles up for rent. You can search for cars just as you would on other sites, only the results will give you pictures, details, and reviews for the exact car you’ll be renting rather than just a generic type of vehicle.

You’ll find a wide range of vehicles to choose from and prices can range drastically depending on the type of car you’re looking for, but typically start around $25/day for basic vehicles. And if you’re looking for a specialty vehicle such as a Tesla, Jeep, or Porsche, you’ll typically find a much wider selection on Turo than through a car rental company.

Payment

You can pay for Turo car rentals with a credit or debit card or with Apple Pay and Google Pay. Turo does not accept cash, checks, or cards that are not linked to a bank account. 

Pickup/Drop-off

Since there isn’t a central physical location, hosts determine how the car will be picked up and dropped off in the listing. Many hosts will offer to deliver the vehicle to you though most will charge a fee for this service so make sure to calculate what the total cost of your rental will be including any extra fees.

Insurance

Insurance is a little trickier when booking through Turo than it is with car rental companies. Many credit cards offer insurance protections when you book at rental companies but may not provide that coverage through peer-to-peer networks like Turo. You’ll want to check with your personal insurance provider and your credit card company to find out what it is covered when renting a car through Turo.

Turo sells protection plans which vary by market. In the U.S., the cost ranges from 18% to 100% of the trip cost depending on the level of coverage you’d like to purchase. This can really add to the cost of your rental so you’ll want to make sure to compare the total cost of your rental, including insurance, to determine if a Turo rental will save you money in the end.

Getaround

Getaround is an app that allows you to unlock affordable car rentals in over 800 cities around the world. Its aim is to keep roads less congested and provide convenient access to cars where and when people need mobility. You can rent a car for as little as an hour so if you only need a car for a quick day trip around town, Getaround will likely be the cheapest option. If you’re looking for a full-day rental, you’ll likely find cheaper alternatives.

Currently, you’ll find Getaround cars in over 20 metro areas in the U.S. as well as cities in France, Germany, Spain, Austria, Belgium, and the U.K.. Simply download the app on your Apple or Android device, sign-up with your driver’s license, book a car for the time you need, and you’ll be given instructions on how to unlock the vehicle.

Payment

All payments are processed through the app by using a credit card which must be in the name of the driver. Cash is not accepted. PayPal can be used for rentals in Germany and Austria but it may take up to two days to verify your account.

Pickup/Drop-off

Getaround offers contactless pickup and dropoff. You’ll either be given instructions to find a lockbox with a code to get the car keys or you’ll be able to unlock the car directly from your phone. Exact instructions will be given via the app once you complete your booking. When returning the car, you’ll either need to return to its designated parking spot or park within a ¼ mile radius of the home location in a legal parking spot with no restrictions for 24 hours after the end of the trip. Once the key is returned to its proper location, just end the trip in the app.

Insurance

Basic liability insurance and a standard protection plan is included with all Getaround rentals. If damage to the vehicle occurs, you may have to pay a damage fee up to $3,000 with the standard protection plan. During booking, you can also purchase a Plus protection plan to lower your max damage fee to $250 or a Premium plan that gives you full coverage in case of any incidents.

Local Car Rental Companies

Close up of hands exchanging a key for a rental car over a desk
kamiphotos | Adobe Stock

Another way to save on car rentals is to seek out local car rental companies that are not associated with the major worldwide brands we all know. You can try doing a Google Maps search for “car rental” in the area you’ll be traveling and contacting the rental agency directly to get rates.

Of course, this will require some due diligence to find some reviews and you’ll have to be comfortable with a little bit of risk since they won’t be backed by a worldwide brand. But you may find some incredible deals this way and it can be a great way to boost small business in the local area.

Myrentacar.com

If you happen to be traveling in Eastern Europe, the Middle East, or Thailand, Myrentacar.com is an excellent aggregator that finds smaller car rentals in countries such as Bulgaria, Russia, Montenegro, Thailand, Czech Republic, Georgia, Cyprus, Greece, UAE, Armenia, and Turkey.

Like car sharing platforms, you’ll be able to browse results that will show you pictures and details of the exact car you’ll be renting. The rates are usually very reasonable compared to the larger rental companies. I recently used this site to book a car in Montenegro for a month and saved around $500 compared to what it would have cost renting through Hertz.

Payment

You’ll pay a small advance payment to Myrentacar during booking but you’ll pay the balance to the owner when you pick up the car. Most owners only accept cash so be prepared to find an ATM. You can filter your search to look only for cars that accept credit card payments but your options may be limited. You’ll also have to give a refundable deposit upon pickup, which seems to typically be €100.

Pickup/Drop-off

You can choose different locations in the country for pickup/drop-off and the owner will deliver the car to you. I found it really easy to communicate with the person delivering the vehicle via WhatsApp and simply had them deliver it to my hotel. I was also able to return it to the airport where the owner met me to pick up the vehicle before my flight. Changing the pickup/drop-off locations didn’t seem to alter the price too much compared to what these types of one-way car rentals can cost through other companies.

Insurance

All rentals come with 3rd party liability insurance and, depending on which car you’re renting, you can opt to purchase additional insurance. CDW covers all damages except for glass and wheels. SuperCDW covers all damages above deductibles and there is sometimes also an option to pay for Full Coverage. The insurance rates are very reasonable. In my case, I still saved hundreds of dollars even after paying for extra insurance that I wouldn’t have needed otherwise if I had paid using a credit card at a major car rental company.

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