We recently (during the pandemic) rented a car and while it’s been a few years since we have done that on vacation, I hope to NEVER have to do it again!
Today, I’ll share car rental tips to avoid the insane pricing and a few other challenges along the way.
Upcoming Travel? Read these USA Car Rental Tips Before Booking
While travel has its own issues at current, car rental has more!
I should have titled this article: “Why to Never rent a car from Enterprise Holdings or you will end up paying more than any human should for a rental car. Just so you know they are the parent company of:
- Enterprise (rent-a-car)
What amazed me the most about everything that challenged us along the trip planning was the unflexible car rental stipulations and the unreasonable prices.
Built into this thought is a lot because, upon arrival, the manager at the desk was upgrading cars for many people, and also renting cars that had not been rented.
However, online there appeared to be limited stock and lots of ‘or similar’ but the cars were there, so why tell me or similar?
Meaning, there are a lot more cars available than are listed and the online scuffle is a whole other mess to combat and it’s really not justified.
Put Them On Your Naughty List is my official 1st tip
Current World Issues + USA Car rental tips to help
Since there are issues with cars, chips, etc., I would expect issues with pricing, but there are some super insane issues that can arise.
Now I can share how to avoid insane issues that can arise while you have a rental car and when you are looking to book a rental car since we experienced many of them already!
My USA Car Rental Tips article is created from pure frustration
Our story reads as follows:
We rented a car online, priced shopped it, ended up booking right with the brand itself (ALAMO) to avoid insane issues that can arise, after reading all the Google Reviews for Dollar, Thrifty, and Budget at the Sarasota airport.
Therefore, after a nasty rental car experience, I am sharing USA Car rental tips so that you can avoid not only the brand but the nonsense that creates a negative end-of-vacation experience and spend!
Yet, we still ended up with a boatload of BS that never should have happened.
- we rented a car for a week
- we did not add an additional driver, because online it states that you will be charged $25 a day for an additional driver (no disclaimers, just straight up) and we already had stated WHICH state we needed the car in(which will make sense in a minute)
- No, we did not need insurance and I’ll cover why
- We did have a 5% off perk, and I’ll share that too
- upon needing to return the car early we were told it would be $600 or $900 as we had broke contract (not true)
- we just needed to return the car a day early to the airport so we could get on a flight that the airline provided due to weather issues (no charge for the change of booking even on a ‘Wanna Get Away’ fare, because the airline was dealing with severe snow issues, so while the airline was rolling along and keeping the issue seamless the car rental was NOT!)
- We did ask to return the car to a different location and were told $600 or $900 more for that as well
- We had to pay almost $200 to get a shuttle from Sarasota to Tampa airport even though we had a full 24 hours left on our current rental to avoid paying $600-$900 more (which 2/2 Alamo associates were unable to figure out how much exactly) Yes, we had to pay even more to get from place A to B even with a car that was not due for another day!
- Both Alamo associates told us that we also had to pay that much to return the car, and then one said, no you can return the car and won’t be charged more, but can’t be refunded. (OH fun!)
- The guy at the Alamo return said that was all a bunch of crap and not true and that we could have used the car to get to Tampa! (more on this below)
- Then, we got a text offering us to extend the booking of the car, and trust me, I won’t use ALAMO or Enterprise or any other their other sister companies again, ever!
Start On Google Reviews to avoid insance issues that can arise (1)
Before we booked a car (at the airport terminal) I read the reviews about Budget, Thrifty, Dollar, etc. car rentals and none of them were too compelling and many were just 2-3 stars.
When you know that the rental company has your credit card, you know that you have to tread softly because what has happened to some of these people is a nightmare!
Avoid those rental companies and seek one that might be o.
Do note, that my USA car rental tips are meant to help you move along the process of renting but truly can’t guarantee seamless as each interaction is individual.
USA Car Rental Tips: Booking (2)
Let’s start out shopping for a rental car online and work through the process.
Do you want to pay full price? No way, so try to see if you have some advantages through what you already have!
Use what you have to check for discounts long before you start trying to book a rental car.
Do you belong to any of the following:
If you do, peruse your memberships carefully and with a fine-toothed comb or just do a Control H and look for the word RENTAL CAR on your fine print membership criterium.
You might find a great discount or you may not, it really just depends.
I’ll tell you this, even with those options above, AAA, Costco, we found NOTHING, but it is worth a looksie.
Booking: USA Car Rental Tips: How To Possibly Get Cash For Booking (3)
Shop, notify and shop again and keep looking until 24 hours ahead.
To me, the golden rule of shopping, renting, or buying anything online, is to make money back on my purchases.
In order to do this, I shop with this on my browser bar always.
Anytime I can, I earn cashback because why not?
If Rakuten works with the brand you are booking through, make sure it is enabled upon the booking and get that cashback in your rebate check on each quarter!
Credit Cards can work for you! (4)
Yes, credit cards can rack up a world of debt but try to rent a car without one and see how difficult that is!
Harness the power of your credit card and hope you have one that pays you back on each spend.
We used one that does just this so between Rakuten and our credit card we were getting a bit of a deal, but not enough to ‘holla’ about, but enough to share!
Make Your Car Insurance Work For You (5)
As part of my USA car rental tips, I’d be remiss if I didn’t clue you into using your car insurance to max out on your savings.
If you can’t find your policy, or you really can’t interpret it, make sure to chat with your Insurance company and get the details of your car insurance.
To avoid insane issues that can arise, we checked with our insurance to see if rentals are covered.
In fact, our car rentals are covered for 45 days under our car insurance policy and this is a bit of valuable insight to help you with your USA car rental tips to save money!
If you are already covered, then don’t purchase what you already have!
Do read the fine print, and ask your insurance company what is and what is not covered.
USA Car Rental Tips – It’s A Florida Thing (6)
When you are offered options to add on your spouse and if you are traveling to Florida, don’t add your spouse and don’t pay $25 extra for that extra driver!
See, this tip is sharing how to avoid insane issues that can arise as it is insane to pay for what would be FREE.
As stated by the Alamo counter representative, “in the state of Florida, married partners are not charged $25 as additional drivers, they are included!”
Online does not advise this, instead it asks if you want an additional driver added and does not add the disclaimer about Florida!
Hold off on adding a driver UNTIL you get to the counter!
And while I can only share that tidbit for Florida, I’d think it would be true in a few other states!
Discount Seekers Beware! (7)
Unless you’ve insured your trip, with the proper travel insurance that can magically undo anything (get you refunded in other words) don’t prepay your rental car fees to get the better price!
First, you can’t undo the reservation and what if…
- you get sick and can’t go
- you didn’t buy travel insurance
- your flights get cancelled
- there’s a family emergency and you can’t go
So the difference I found over and over again was just about 10%, not more, not less, just 10%, and sorry, that was not enough of a difference to force me over the edge to prepay.
Don’t Pay for Gas (8)
Simple and easy, so let’s keep this one rental item easy: don’t pay for them to fill up your car with gas, you need to make time to do that just before you get back to the airport.
Save money right here, bottom line!
Things Change Fast So What Do You Do To keep moving? (9)
Let’s just say that you took a flight to wherever and due to impending weather your flight has been changed.
You’ll need to drop the rental car off early, but there could be issues (trust me, we just dealt with ALAMO and NEVER again!)
Avoid insane issues that can arise, and know what to expect ahead of time, because apparently even though the airline’s industry and hotels roll with the current situation, ALAMO is there to ‘stick it to you’ and suck your wallet dry and poison your trip.
Avoid insane issues that can arise like this one… your flight is cancelled and changed due to weather (10)
We called Alamo and just got more and more frustrated when our recent trip had to change flights, per our airlines.
Impending weather was creating a choice: change our flight or don’t get home due to massive cancellations.
Well, this is all Alamo needs to dig in deeper into your pockets and they have you because your credit card number is on file.
So, don’t ask if you can suddenly change your car dropoff location without penalty (even 24 hours ahead of an ending reservation) because your car rate might be quoted like this.
The initial rental rate for 7 days is $295 with taxes. Unlimited miles. To and from the same airport.
However, in the moment of issues, when we called (2 different times back to back to make certain), we got nasty, scumsucker answers from a brand, that apparently does not roll with issues whether it be the pandemic or weather!
New rate if we decided to move the drop off location from Sarasota to Tampa:
Alamo Associate No. 1: $695
Alamo Associate No 2: $900
Thanks NO THANK ALAMO!
What do you do to avoid insane issues that can arise like this? (11)
First, never choose Alamo.
2nd take your car right back to the airport that you got it from (drop off and pick up the same location) then take a transfer for about $50 to Tampa.
3rd, Note To Self: never ever rent from Alamo again!
Interestingly enough, when we got there, the person fielding the car drop-off told us that was basically BS and he checked the car right back in, immediately charging JUST what we had on our original billed agreement and ended it.
Can You Take the rental car back early if you need to? (12)
According to Alamo Associate No 1: Absolutely NOT, and if you do, it’s $600 to return early because you broke the contract.
1st, we never asked for a refund, we just needed to return the car and for that, she told us we were going to incur a $600 charge. BS! That’s what I can tell you.
Next, Associate No. 2 said: Yes you can take the car back, we will not refund you but you can take it back and it just ‘should’ be billed as originally agreed upon.
You Might Get A Better Deal…(13)
On the day we delivered the car back early, we got a text from ALAMO, so make sure to watch your UNKNOWN texts on your phone.
In fact, it was offering us to extend our rental.
So, what I learned here is, you can extend the rental, but if you want to turn it in early you’ll have issues, yet the guy accepting the rental returns told us that they were so busy because the airlines rescheduled so many flights that people were dropping cars off early all day!
In other words, you’ll get POOR customer service on the phone with the ALAMO reps but you’ll have a better experience right at the rental location.
Plus, when we arrived at the Sarasota rental center, the manager was upgrading most of those in line, at no additional charge, based on what they had rented and not paying for it.
Coupon Codes or great deals are pretty Much Non-Existent (14)
You used to be able to find rental coupons on the internet.
Now those coupon codes are gone, instead, the rental car offices offer pay ahead, again, we’ve covered this above, so I would suggest proceeding with caution.
You do want to join the car rental programs such as Alamo’s Insider as it costs nothing to join but will give you a 5% discount which is halfway between what they offer for a prepaid rental versus a nonprepaid rental.
If you choose to add your airlines (like SW) to your ticket, you will lose benefits so read the details carefully. Basically, you are robbing Peter to pay Paul.
Priceline + Car Rentals + Avoid Insane Issues that Can Arise (15)
I started out looking in incognito mode and struck upon what I thought was GOLD: Priceline.
I looked on Ladybug and a few other sites.
Ultimately I booked through Priceline without commitment or credit card and it was able to be canceled until like 1 hour ahead of its scheduled use.
The next day, I shopped online again to see if there were other cars that would fit our travel needs better and might be less expensive for what we needed.
Right on the ALAMO website, was a better deal, about $20 less and to me, that was good.
So, I booked directly on Alamo, again, I would never use this brand again, EVER but it served its purpose for the moment, considering all the bad Google reviews, the other rental operators had at the airport.
Make sure to sign up for price alerts and use incognito mode when searching so that you can get the best deal possible.
Avoid Insane issues that can arise when renting a car
Travel at current has multiple challenges but many of those challenges are being met and helped via the hotels and airlines, however not via the rental car agencies.
After reading numerous reviews at Sarasota airport, we made the best decision we could using what others were saying.
However, what’s not covered are the items I shared above. so take heed when renting a car and test out a few of my USA car rental tips to help you get on your way! ~ DANA XO