Updated on July 24, 2014
Updated on July 24, 2014
One of the speakers at the Ann Arbor Do that Drew and I just returned from, (a ridiculously smart kid named Tahsir) gave a great presentation on rental cars. It had never occurred to me to be part of a loyalty program with a rental car company before in part because I have always thought that we keep our car rentals to a fair minimum considering that we are always traveling.
But do we actually keep car rentals to a minimum? If you look back at our stats page over the last year, we’ve rented cars about 7 times, a total of 39 days, all costing us roughly $903.85. (This includes a one-day rental not yet posted in the July stats).
A few things to clarify. For now “roughly $903.85” is the best I can do since the car rental on July 3 listed as ~$250…is still being worked out by Avis/Budget customer service. The Budget in the Charlottesville airport accidentally charged us an extra 11 days on top of our 15, and at a totally random rate. So when I checked my accounts online and saw $973.05 for a 15 day rental I’d been told should be around $250, I called A.S.A.P and was told we’ll be refunded all but the correct amount, which should be around ~$250.
Even if 39 days is a decently low amount for a year of non-stop travel…
So 39 days for $903.85 comes out to an average of $23.18 per day.
That doesn’t sound too bad to me, but not that impressive either compared to the savings we achieve in other categories via loyalty programs and the like. After hearing Tahsir talk about the various ways status/loyalty can help out with your car rentals, I can’t help but think we could bring that average down if we were even the smallest bit intentional about signing up for a loyalty program with Hertz or something. If that’s the case with hotels, why wouldn’t it also be true with car rentals?
Skip renting all together? Let me explain that.
We are sort of public transit junkies. When we were attempting to live a stationary life in Charlottesville VA we felt like we could afford a slightly more expensive apartment closer to town if we gave up having a car. No car meant no car repairs, no car inspections, no gasoline, no oil changes, no parking fines or fees, no speeding tickets, no car insurance, no property tax (in VA you have to pay property tax on a car). None of those things that seem to be inevitable no matter how perfect your vehicle seems when you buy it.
Now, that also meant that we spent a bit more time getting places. Walking to work took me about half an hour and when it was raining I hopped on the free University bus, which also took half an hour. Drew took a city bus to work for about a buck fifty but I think it took the better part of an hour.
At the end of the day, time and power over that time are the main things lacking from the public transit strategy. But especially when we’re traveling, we think that sacrifice is especially worth it for a few other reasons.
Even though we tried to avoid rental cars all-together, we still found a reason to justify it for 39 days. So let’s look at the other side.
Some of these things are obvious. But we are a generation that loves lists so here is a list for when we actually like having a rental car.
But…the closest Zipcar to my parents’ place is an hour and a half away.
The more we find ourselves renting cars, the more I realize that we need a plan for saving money when we rent. Maybe that plan will be signing up for a loyalty program and maybe that plan will be getting wiser about the other transit options out there.
How about you? What are your best tips for renting cars on the cheap?