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So I feel like I haven’t had a lot of luck with car rental places lately.  First there was Avis not having my car ready for me when I went to Georgia (perhaps due to my Southwest flight being delayed for 4 hours).  Then Avis tried to triple the price on me when I just wanted to add my customer number to the reservation (don’t worry, I got them straightened out). And don’t get me started on

Hmm… looking at it like that, maybe it’s just an Avis thing :-).

But I’ve also had crazy experiences with other places.  You know the drill, “Oh I’m sorry we don’t have the car you ACTUALLY want but maybe you’d like one of these other cars”.  That sounds like a good Seinfeld bit…

How to scam the scammers

There’s a couple of tricks that I will sometimes use to try and get ahead

  1. Many times you can sign up for free rental car elite status which might help you skip the line. With Avis, if you’re Preferred (or First), you can bypass the rental car checkout line and go right to your car. Some credit cards, like the Capital One Venture X, also offer rental car elite status. This actually worked great for me when I flew into DCA for the Family Travel for Real Life conference.
  2. Never rent anything but a subcompact (the cheapest one).  This is assuming you don’t need a van or SUV or something larger.  But even if you want a larger car, just rent the subcompact.  In my experience, the car rental agencies never have those cars anyways, so you’ll end up getting “upgraded” into a larger sedan, like I did when I went to tape my episode of Wheel of Fortune.  Lots of times if you have status (which is easy and usually free to get), you can pick your own car anyways.
  3. At the counter, it’s “No, no, no and No.” Just about everything they’re offering (gas “deals”, GPS, insurance) is something that you don’t want.  If you do want it, decide that AHEAD of time, so you don’t feel pressured into taking something at the counter
  4. Remember, for the most part, a car rental reservation is not a commitment on YOUR part either, so if there’s a line out the door for Hertz at the airport, try walking next door and seeing if National will match – oftentimes they will
  5. If you need to rent a car one-way, look for seasonal specials – just like retirees, cars go south in the winter and north in the spring!
  6. I use Autoslash to always monitor the price of my car rentals – see also Autoslash saves the day again (to the tune of $483.98)

The Bottom Line

Renting a car doesn’t SEEM like it should be this difficult, but it seems like every time I rent a car I run into problems that make the whole experience seem like it’s a total ripoff. There are a few things that you can do, like signing up for free car rental elite status, renting the smallest car type possible (if you don’t have a need for a larger car) or using Autoslash to monitor the prices of your rental.

What about you?  Do you feel the same way about renting a car?  Leave your tips to help make the car renting experience better in the comments below


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