Sunday, April 11, 2010

Traveling Well - For Less!

Roadboy's Travel Tips: Part 2 Rental Cars

Time to update my "Traveling Well" post.

I believe that travel should be something to remember. Never a chore. So I plan trips to experience unique places. I just like to do it in comfort at a fair price. The next three posts will cover how to select and get the best possible prices for Airlines, Rental Cars, and Hotels.

Rental Cars

In the word of rental cars size is relative. I consider a full sized car something like a Taurus. To a rental car company a corolla might be a full sized car. 

• Enterprise
Enterprise takes forever to rent you a car. First you "meet and become best friends" with a smiley rental agent. They all look like they spend belong to some religious cult. Then you fill out endless manual paperwork and endure the up-sell. After that they take out a clipboard walk around the car.

To their credit when you return they always ask how their "service" was. I am honest and tell them I feel that it wasted 15-20 minutes of my valuable trip time. They routinely offer 10-15% off my rental. 

They frequently have GREAT weekend rates (not uncommon to find $9.95 /day cars).

• Budget
Uneven company. Their Fast Break program is pretty darned good. Pricing is typically a little above Thrifty, but well below Avis / Hertz. 

• Dollar / Thrifty
Frequently the best rates and always the longest wait for an airport shuttle. The wait usually nets pretty decent cars at good rates. Thrifty has a great frequent renter plan delivering a free day for every sixteen days you rent.

• National / Alamo
I hate Alamo and National. Slow service, relentless up-sells, and lazy / surly staff. The cars are increasingly old and frequently dirty. National, which used to be great, is now owned by Alamo and has descended to Alamo's level of poor quality.

• Avis
Frequent shuttles deliver you to surly staff, delivering dirty, overpriced cars. Avoid.

• Hertz
Too Frequent shuttles (sometime one comes before the previous one leaves). If on an expense account, Hertz is for you. Translation: Hertz rents fine, clean, cars at prices that are routinely two to three times what the others cost. This company is experiencing financial death rattles and may disappear in the next year.

Getting The Best Rental Car Rates

1. Travelocity has hands down the best comparison page for rental cars. I always start here. Then I go to the specific rental car website website to finalize the rental.

2. Reserve a car well in advance. Rental cars rates almost never decline as your travel dates approaches. If you wait, you usually lose. Since you don't have guarantee the rental with a credit card, there is nothing to lose with an early reservation. As the date approaches, check for "Last Minute" or "Hot Deals".  These deals are frequently sorted by airport. If you stop at the first page of the car company website the deals don't show up. You gotta dig.

3. While Priceline has never really delivered hotel deals for me, it has with rental cars. I have twice bid $9.00 a day and gotten Hertz full sized cars at LAX.

4. Roadboy's main tip for renting a car. Learn to emphatically say NO! When they ask if you want them to fill the tank with cheap gas. Say no (you have to buy the whole tank). When they try to sell supplemental insurance by telling you they won't deal with your insurance company, look indignant and say no! If you are unsure check with your insurance agent before you go, they will tell you the rental car company supplemental insurance is a scam. When they tell you they can "put you in a more comfortable  car for only $20" say no! They mean $20 a day (which with taxes and fees is like $32 a day). If they get pushy about upgrades it means they are out of the car class you ordered. Just smile and say "I'd like the car I ordered or a free upgrade to the next car class". How about a GPS? "No thanks I brought my own".

Rental car companies cream the novice traveller. I see it all the time. I'll be at the counter reciting my string of "No's" and next to me is some young couple buying everything without clue one that their weekly rate just quadrupled.

Thats how Roadboy does it. 

Roadboy's Travels © 2010

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