I’ve recently had several occasions to acquire a rental car and have been amazed at the cheap prices I’ve been able to get with a few small tricks, despite being under 25 years old. Most under-25 folks pay $20-30/day extra as an underage surcharge.
Here’s a step by step to get an awesome rate:
- Sign up for USAA. Anyone is eligible and it’s free.
- If you’re under 25, sign up for Hertz #1 Gold Club for free at http://hertz.com/goldfamily to get the Gold Family CDP (which gives some discounts (generally not as good as USAA, but may be better at times) and waives the under 25 fee) otherwise sign up at the normal site.
- Go to the USAA Rental Car discounts page which offers discounts of 20-30% off Hertz, Avis, and Budget car rentals plus waiving of underage fees for 18+ (Hertz) and 21+ (Avis, Budget). The Avis discount code (AWD) is A177232, the Budget discount code (BCD) is Y126501, and the Hertz discount code (CDP) is 77694. (DO NOT USE THESE CODES unless you first sign up for USAA as noted above. Otherwise there is a very real possibility of being denied the rate you reserved and being charged the full underage driver fee. Since signing up for USAA is free, there is no reason not to.)
- Click through to the Avis and Budget sites and search for your locations/dates making sure the above discount codes pop in.
- Go to AutoSlash.com and search for prices with your locations/dates and make sure to enter your Hertz #1 Club number and your CDP of 77694.
- Book through AutoSlash.com if Hertz has the best price or book with Avis or Budget directly if they have the best price, but be sure after booking with Avis or Budget to go back to AutoSlash.com to track your reservation.
(One thing to keep in mind with Hertz is that they have a meaningful “frequent renter” program that gives you a free rental day for every $500 spent, while Avis and Budget do not (as far as I’ve been able to discover). If you figure conservatively at $30 for the free rental day, that’s a 6% rebate, though if you use that free rental day at an expensive NYC location it’s more like $90/day. In any case, if Hertz is less than 6% more it may make sense to go with them instead. I’m just discovering frequent renter programs, so feel free to chime in with additional considerations.)
The amazing thing about AutoSlash is they track your rental and every day check to see if a better price has come along or a new coupon has been issued that applies to your rental or if another rental company offers a lower price. If they find a better deal (with the same company) they automatically rebook you or (with a different rental company) email asking if you want to switch.
Let me give you my most recent example. I need to pick up a car from Washington National/Reagan and drop it off at Washington Dulles for a two day rental. The best price that popped up on Kayak.com (an excellent comparison shopping engine) was $85 plus any underage rental fees which would be an additional $20-30/day, bringing the total to $125 for an economy car. Using USAA discount codes, I found a deal for an full-size car (a Chevy Impala with ~30 MPG) for $75.95. (It was about $10 more for a full-size instead of an economy car.) The rental is for a few days from now and just today I received an email from AutoSlash that they had found a coupon that dropped to price to $53.51 and that they had automatically rebooked it for a savings of $22.44! (That’s pretty amazing since the best price I’m finding searching on AutoSlash right now is $66.17 for a compact.) To summarize, following the steps in my post above saved (conservatively) about $75 for a 2-day rental. To put it another way, I would have paid 2.5 times as much for my rental car if I had not followed the above steps.
Another example is a two day Hertz rental for $41.52 at Harrisburg that I booked using the above steps. The best price on Kayak was also $41, but would have an extra $40+ in underage fees. Plus there’s still a chance AutoSlash will find a coupon or a better price between now and July.
So next time you’re interested in a rental car, do the above. I get no commissions and have no interest in you following the above steps, except seeing you save money. =)
Bonus Tip: It makes it easier for you if you add your USAA Hertz CDP to your Hertz #1 Club account by going to My Account–>Membership Details (Edit)–>Add another CDP.