Car Hire Cost-Cutting Tips

FREE UPGRADES It’s worth taking a chance by booking the cheapest car going, which is usually also the smallest. Because these cars are limited in number, the rental agency will sometimes offer you an upgrade. If they initiate the upgrade, make sure you don’t pay more for it – especially if you booked ahead with a credit card.

GET INSURANCE GRATIS About 20% of all consumers always take rental car insurance and another 20% sometimes do, according to a recent study by a Canadian car insurance company. But there’s a good chance they’re already covered under their own credit card’s insurance, which means they’re paying an unnecessary extra.

Call the toll-free number on the back of your credit card before you leave to find out what coverage, if any, you have. Check to see if your card offers insurance and then bring along a printout describing the coverage for the rental car agency. The caveat: some cards limit rental-car coverage to premium card holders, and others may not provide coverage for luxury cars, off-road vehicles or campervans.

THE CLOCK IS TICKING Most rental car companies use a 24-hour-clock rate when charging you. It pays to know its billing policy – does the day end at midnight, or is it strictly 24 hours? Some companies charge an hourly rate for the first three to four hours late, while others will give you a breathing space of 90 minutes.

AIRPORT FEES Must you really collect your rental car at the airport? You’ll pay a premium if you do.

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