In many cases, those who are planning a road trip or vacation spend hours compiling the details and checking them twice. They want to choose the right airline, stay in the best hotel room for their budget, eat at well-reviewed restaurants, and visit the most popular venues at night. Yet after all that planning, they opt for the cheapest rental car company they can find.
Below are some tips for finding the best rental car.
Select Your Own Vehicle
Whether you want a standard vehicle or a premiere exotic car rental, you should work with a rental agency that will allow you to choose your own car whenever possible. Select an agency that will give you the option of selecting a specific model upon making your online reservation. The agency should also provide the option to choose from a larger selection when you arrive to pick up your car. Otherwise, there is a strong possibility you will get whatever vehicle the attendant behind the counter assigns to you.
The only company that gives you the option of selecting a specific model online is Hertz. The bad news is that you can only choose from the class you have paid for. Upgrades are not an option.
There are several companies that offer special programs that provide a selection of cars if you visit one of their larger locations. With Hertz’ Gold Choice and National’s Emerald Aisle, you sign up to become a member of their reward program. The program is free and once you are a member, you pay the mid-size price and then have the option to choose any vehicle they have in their Gold Choice or Emerald Aisle areas.
After 12 rentals in a year with National, you get upgraded to the Executive level. You will then have an additional row of upgraded cars from which to choose. Often this means you can bump up two or three vehicle classes at no additional cost to you.
Research the Airport of Your Arrival
The airport of your arrival may influence the inventory that’s readily available for you. It’s a great idea to call in advance to talk about your options. Though in some cases, the car rental agency won’t have a vehicle you would consider an upgrade.
Where you land will also have an impact on your travel plans. At different airports, the actual location of the cars varies. For some, you will have to take a long ride on a crowded bus. For others, the vehicles are just a casual stroll away from the terminal.
Any offsite agency location has the potential to throw off your entire schedule. You don’t want to spend a lot of time at a busy airport. If possible, try to fly into an airport where the rental cars are at the terminal. Not only will you save time, but you may have the opportunity to get first dibs on the cars they have available.
Choose the Right Trim Level
You may have chosen the correct model, but that doesn’t mean you have chosen the correct level of trim. If you have the vehicle for several days, driving without a USB port or satellite radio can be frustrating. It’s impossible to memorize the level of trim for every make and model a car rental agency will offer, so consider these tips:
- You may not want to become a mechanic, but you should educate yourself about the car’s features. Before committing, look for the features you want the rental car to have. Do you want leather? A sunroof?
- Listen to the radio. Don’t assume the subscription to Sirius is active just because there is a sticker on the window.
- Choose the model with the most letters. The more letters on the back, the better. An LE is not as good as an XLE.
As much as you may want to experience driving a different car or a more distinguished rental, there may be some cities and locations where it makes more sense to take an Uber or a taxi.