How to Find Inexpensive Car Rentals

Looking for cheap car rentals? Consider these options.

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When you’re traveling to a new city, one of the best ways to see the sights – or even to go from Point A to Point B – is to rent a car. But with the average cost of renting an automobile topping $100 a day, the costs can really add up, particularly if your rental lasts more than a few days.

You can find cheap car rentals by using a little bit of ingenuity and by pursuing a few quick strategies. Check out these options to see if you can cut down the cost of renting your next short-term car.

1. Bundle When Possible

If you’re flying into a new city, always pay attention and look for bundling deals when you book your flight. You can save a tremendous amount of money by booking your flight and rental car at the same time. This is an option on travel booking sites like Expedia and Orbitz, but it’s also an option on many airline sites.

The airlines frequently partner with rental car firms to provide deals and discounts, so when you book your flight online, always look for bundling options so you can reserve your rental car simultaneously. This can save you up to 40 percent off of the cost of your car rental, depending on the site and the company.

2. Book Without Brand

Rather than booking a rental car through a specific company, you can reserve a car based on price rather than brand. Sites like Hotwire and Priceline say they can help you find car rentals as low as $10 per day. The catch is that you enter your travel dates and pickup/dropoff cities into the website and then you’ll receive a listing of rental car options – but you won’t see which rental car company is assigned to your reservation, and you won’t see the exact car model.

The website will then tell you the prices as well as a list of possible car rental firms. For instance, it may say “$30.00…You’ll get one of these brands: Hertz, Dollar, Thrifty, National or Enterprise.” So if you have a brand preference, you won’t be able to specify which you prefer – you’ll instead book based on price and find out the brand name later. In addition, you won’t know the make and model of the car. If you’re interested in a compact car, for instance, you might see “Hyundai Accent or similar,” or if you’re on the hunt for an SUV, it could say “GMC Acadia or similar.”

3. Consider Hourly Rentals

If you’re traveling to a city, you might want to check out an hourly rental service like Zipcar, which are often plentiful in metropolitan areas. Just keep in mind that you typically have to register for the service well in advance, because it requires an application process, and then you’ll receive a "Zipcard "in the mail, which you’ll use to unlock your rental when you go to get the car. The cars can be reserved by the hour or the day. Hourly rates usually run you as low as $8 or so, which means if you only need a car for two hours, you can get one for under $20 as opposed to a daily car rental, which may log in at closer to $40.

4. Check out Car Sharing

Familiar with AirBnB? That service allows you to rent someone’s house (or a room within it) for a defined time period. The same type of service exists for car sharing. For example, Turo allows you to input the name of the city you're visiting and then review the car options that you can borrow. The cars appear to be well-maintained and attractive, and range from under $10 per day to upwards of $200 for really luxurious options.

Getaround is similar to Turo in that you provide information about the city you're visiting and then you have the option of finding cars for as low as $7 through the higher-end options.

5. Get Away From the Airport

Car rental companies are notorious for hiking up the rental price if you're renting at the airport location, because you're considered to be trapped there. You might want to calculate how much cheaper a rental would be if you picked up a car from a location further away from the airport so you know whether it's worth it to take an Uber or shuttle to that rental shop rather than the one at the airport.