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Always Rent Economy Cars and Avoid Airports

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Three weekends ago (luckily not this week!), when my fiancee and I took a trip out to Denver, Colorado (a little more than a hundred bucks from Baltimore, courtesy of my favorite airline, Southwest) we rented an economy car from Enterprise for something in the neighborhood of $18/day plus insane taxes (as always). Instead, we received a full-size car for the price of an economy class. Whenever I travel and need a rental car, I almost always reserve an economy car and almost always get upgraded because by dumb luck (though I’ve read of tips that suggest you pick up your car during the day when most of the cars are out) they don’t have any economy cars left in the lot. Granted, I’m lucky in that I don’t have any kids, I’m not especially tall, and I am not going anywhere that requires four wheel drive so even if I were to get an economy car, it wouldn’t be something terrible.

Outside the main benefit of getting more than what you’re paying for, the smaller the car the more fuel efficient it will be, in general, and so if you’re willing to sacrifice a little bit of torque, going with the cheapest option is usually the way to go especially with the potential upgrade. The reason why these upgrades are so frequent is because rental companies always overbook. An unrented car is like an unstayed room or an empty seat – a revenue loser. So, it’s really easy to score an upgrade with vehicles.

Also, avoid airports because they come with additional taxes (11% airport tax!) and fees because they’re selling to a captive audience. If you need a car, that means you don’t have a car. If you don’t have a car, you can’t get to an off-site location to get a better deal… thus, you have no choice but to pay the higher rates. While this isn’t a helpful tip if you’re flying into a city, if you ever need to rent a car, remember to avoid the airports.

Lastly, I’m really glad we didn’t go to Denver this past weekend because they’re getting pounded with snow!

{ 6 comments, please add your thoughts now! }

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6 Responses to “Always Rent Economy Cars and Avoid Airports”

  1. Master Allan says:

    Good tip to remember.

    Haha I’m in Denver right now, moved here from Dallas a few months ago. Right you are about not being stranded at D.I.A. It’s as messy and shutdown as the news says. There is a good 20 inches of snow on the ground in most places. Because of the wind huge snowdrifts formed too. I can look outside over the parking lot and see cars completely covered bottom to top in snow with maybe an antenna sticking out. Never seen anything like it.

    Financial advice for the snowy season: On a day like this if you value the investment in your car, STAY HOME. So many idiots out on the road think their 4WD means 4 wheel stop and end up sliding into the back of your vehicle.

  2. jim says:

    Hahaha, yeah, it’s like that here in Maryland whenever it snows… people in SUVs think they can go 80 in the slush and snow. They go 80 into the guard rail.

  3. Matt says:

    I’d amend the advice a bit:

    1. Don’t ALWAYS rent an economy car. Instead, ALWAYS check the rates closely, becuase your assumptions are sometimes going to be wrong. Many times when renting a car I’ve found that Economy is not, in fact, the cheapest option, and a nominally higher caliber of car is actually being offered for a lower price. Budget (my personal favorite supplier of rental cars) often does this.

    2. Unless someone else is paying the bill, don’t rent with Enterprise. Or Hertz or Avis. They charge you for mileage. With Budget, National, Alamo, and most local agencies, mileage is free. Plus you’ll usually get a better base daily rate from one of those second-tier providers than from the Big Three.

    The one advantage of Enterprise is that I’m told (I haven’t confirmed this) that they will sometimes accept payment by check, whereas no other car rental agency will accept customers without credit cards. But this doesn’t apply to most people.

    • pam says:

      matt: your info about enterprise is incorrect. i have never paid for mileage and i have been using them for the last ten years for rental cars. i also get very nice cars and great rates. i recently rented a 2008 impala to go out of state and it cost me 64.55 for four days. that’s the total cost. you should check your facts more carefully.

  4. Otto says:

    Unless someone else is paying the bill, don’t rent with Enterprise. Or Hertz or Avis. They charge you for mileage.

    AVIS never charges me for mileage. This may be because I signed up for their “preferred” club or some other reason. So, I would echo your first point: don’t blindly follow rules, but rather compare.

  5. Master Allan says:

    Are you sure about Enterprise car rental? I’ve rented from them four different times in 2006 in Texas and Colorado and never had a charge for mileage. Exceptions to that rule if you are driving out of an adjacent state but that’s a given. You can’t rent a car for 3 days, drive all night across the United States, and expect the weekend rate of $69.

    When flying to a city and need to rent, I check for price quotes from Avis, Enterprise, Budget, and Hertz online. Enterprise in my experience was usually the cheapest but Avis was very close.

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