It's hard to find comparison tools for car rental services, which are in the league of those available for hotels and air travel. This is because agents receive a measly 2-5% commission on the rate you book, as against 10-40% for hotel bookings.
Quite a lot, actually. And if you're really interested in bagging a good deal, here are some pointers to follow.
1. It does make sense to book early for peak season trips.
If you're looking to travel during the holiday season, or the summer, or any other peak period, it does make sense to snag an early deal. This is because peak seasons are immune to last-minute rate collapses, because a lot of people actually travel during these times. This is unlike the rest of the year when cancellations do happen when a lot of travelers abort their plans last-minute for one reason or the other.
2. Keep an eye out for fluctuations.
Make use of comparison tools like Autoslash, Priceline, and Hotwire to keep a tab on rates being lowered, especially if you're really looking for a steal deal. The last two websites are quite efficient at landing cheap deals, but these tend to be non-refundable most of the time. Remember that fluctuations are not as volatile in the days leading up to the holiday season, this is when prices mostly tend to escalate.
3. Beware of the "conditions apply" tag.
Extras like service tax, vehicle license fees, and other variables can send your rental cost spiraling, which can come as a rude shock if you don't pay close attention to the terms and conditions. Be sure that you've carefully perused these terms before you sign up for payment.
4. Check your insurance before you fall for theirs.
Insurance offered by car rental companies is often an expensive add-on which, in most cases, you don't even require. Usually, your regular car insurance policy covers your rentals as well, which negates the need of the policy offered by the car rental company. If you aren't sure about this, contact your insurance agent to confirm it.
Furthermore, some credit card companies also offer collision coverage when you pay for a rental service using their card. To know more about this, get in touch with your credit card company.
5. Be fuel-wise.
Always remember to give the pre-fill option a miss, since it assumes you will bring the car back on empty, and levies a pre-charge for a tank of gas. You will find cheaper deals with the pre-fill option, but it is unrealistic to imagine that you'll be returning the car with an empty or an almost-empty tank.
6. Reap loyalty benefits.
If you are a frequent traveler, and happen to procure car rental services as often, it makes sense to pick a company and opt for their loyalty program. This enables you to get speedy rentals and discounted rates, among other perks. However, ensure that you've made a thorough comparison of all the companies before you zero in on one.
There isn't an end to the list of cheat rules you can follow to get amazing discounts on car rental services. Using discount coupons, credit card points, and renting from a non-airport location will also go a long way in helping you get a great deal.