Ultimate Rental Car Guide: A Thousand Miles

Quick. Right this minute, I need you turn on Vanessa Carlton. Why? Road Trip guides are supremely boring, but a necessary evil and listening to a Thousand Miles makes everything better. Seriously. I was sitting down, with a cup of hot chocolate, and planning my next road trip (which I’m super pumped for), and I thought to myself, “Wow, there is a whole lot to road trip planning.”

I love road trips because once you’ve been through them a couple times, spontaneity is a powerful new tool that you have in your pocket. I still remember the first road trip I took. I started planning three months in advance for it. Three months! I’m leaving in five days and I haven’t looked into hotels yet for half my trip. But before you start complaining, “Anshula, I don’t need a road trip guide saga. Take me somewhere new this week”, I just want to say that I like to think of you, my dear reader, as Daniel, and I as Miyagi. Do you see where I’m going? Good. So I’m kicking off my new monthly series, called “Thousand Miles”, dedicated to all things road-trip oriented. This week we start with the most important part of every road trip – the rental car. Dun. Dun. Dun.

When and What Should You Rent?

Ultimate Rental Car Guide: Fly away on a high way...

My general rule of thumb for Rental Cars is “rent it over 500”. If your trip is over 500 miles (and you aren’t moving across the country) then a rental car is a damn good idea. First, find what size car you need. Are you going solo? A Kia or Bug should suffice. Are you going offroad a lot? A jeep or land cruiser may do the trick. Are your aunts, uncles, parents, kids, and their relations tagging along? First off, I would like to offer my sincere apologies for the bedlam that will ensue, but a Nissan Quest may be able to solve the problem (well, the “getting everyone there” part at least). Feeling in the mood for a revenge-ridden heist to steal 35 million dollars worth of gold bullion? Try a mini-cooper. Are you insanely tall and need more leg room? These are all questions that you need to answer for yourself before choosing a rental car. Except for the gold bullion one. That was a joke, by the way (don’t get any ideas). Every trip is different and so finding a perfect rental car can be like Christmas gift shopping. Look into cars that fit you, the driver.

How Much Should You Pay?

Ahh, the inevitable question of money. Once you’ve settled on your car, find a price range. Car rentals are, on average, $25 (in US currency) and above. The bigger the car, the more expensive. So your next question is most likely, “where do I search for these cheap deals”? Expedia and Priceline are great tools. I don’t normally use them for flight deals, but for rental cars, they have an effective algorithm for deal aggregation. Going on a shorter trip? Try to rent for the weekend. Weekend rates are much cheaper than weekday rates when rental cars are in more demand.

Now, browse through your options and pick a brand name. The major brands for rental car companies are Enterprise, Avis, and Hertz. You can go to independent companies, but these brand name rental car companies dominate a whopping 94% of the market, so they are far more accessible. In the case of car rentals, picking out deals, especially during peak season, far, far, in advance will greatly benefit your wallet. Trust me.

Wait, You Can Pay Less!

Ultimate Rental Car Guide...blurry window picture (cause I try to be artsy)

Okay, so you’ve looked through the prices. You have a general idea of your base price and what you are going to be paying, but since, we are smart, educated people, we are going to try to drop this price even lower. Are you ready for this? Two words. Discount Codes. Are you frequent flyer? Do you have an AARP card? Do you have a AAA membership? If you said a large, resounding YES to any of the above (I feel like a game show host right now) then you qualify, in most cases, for a discount. This is around 10-20% off! Ready for two more words? No pre-pay. Don’t ever take the pre-pay option. On the surface, it appears to be cheaper, and it might be if gas was as expensive as it used to be. Today, at a dollar-something per gallon, don’t bother. Especially, when I tell you (shameless teaser) what apps you need to download for your trip.

Insurance

I don’t understand why so many people take the insurance option. Rental car insurance is covered already if you are on a full-coverage plan. Even if you aren’t, most credit cards, do cover rental car insurance as well. Now, it is possible that cars may get damaged or scratched. In that case, take pictures. You’re travelling. You’re bound to have a camera or phone with you (I would hope). Take pictures of the damage, so that way you aren’t overcharged and you have any evidence on hand. Also, go walk around your car before you head out on your road trip. Make sure there aren’t any leaks or pre-damage or anything that smells wrong. It’s better to find out beforehand than afterwards.

And, Finally…

Last, but definitely not least, don’t forget to enjoy your trip. Don’t get so hung up on finding a cheap car deal that you never find a car deal in the first place. It’s okay to splurge a little on comfort. After all, you’re going to be with this little baby for quite a while.

Did you enjoy the start of this series? Yes! Then go over to the Sidebar and hit “Subscribe” so you never miss another “Thousand Miles” post. Also, be sure to share your favourite road trip experiences below and any tips you would like to add to this ultimate rental car guide. 

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24 Comments

  • Reply
    Brianna
    March 1, 2016 at 4:16 PM

    This is a really great guide! I’m considering renting my first car while in New Zealand in October. These are great tips to have 🙂

    • Reply
      Anshula
      March 1, 2016 at 4:29 PM

      Thanks! That sounds like such a fun trip (Hobbiton is on my bucket list). Let me know how it goes!

  • Reply
    travelogician
    March 1, 2016 at 4:18 PM

    Off to a good start. I’m passionate about road trips as well – it’s my preferred way to explore any new country for that exact reason: the ability to be spontaneous.

    • Reply
      Anshula
      March 1, 2016 at 4:31 PM

      I love the spontaneity of road trips! It’s kind of hard to just pick up a flight ticket and go somewhere, but road trips allow so much more control.

      • Reply
        travelogician
        March 1, 2016 at 4:38 PM

        Pro tip: buy the spontaneous flights, and then rent a car when you land. Learn to drive in the craziest situations around the world, and make sure you have the best credit card coverage: Master Card World Elite (the only card that covers every country including Jamaica, Israel and Ireland).

  • Reply
    ElegantlyFashionable
    March 1, 2016 at 7:38 PM

    This is super helpful for me. I am thinking of renting a car in US when I go for a vacation so this post really gave me a good idea.

    • Reply
      Anshula
      March 1, 2016 at 8:40 PM

      Awww…thanks! What states are you planning on visiting?

  • Reply
    Mel (illumelation)
    March 3, 2016 at 6:49 AM

    Gawd, I really need to get my driver’s license. I’ve been putting it off for years. I love your witty style and the fact that you’re not ashamed to champion Vanessa Carlton! Definitely subscribing!

    • Reply
      Anshula
      March 3, 2016 at 1:33 PM

      Thank you so much, dear! I was reluctant to get my license at first too, but I eventually just settled down on getting it (I’m more of a walking/public transportation girl myself). Thanks for subscribing too! It means a lot to me. I promise, I’m not spammy. I send only one email a month 🙂

  • Reply
    Stephanie Rose
    March 3, 2016 at 2:36 PM

    Great tips…up next “How to rent an Uber driver for your entire trip!” Haha That is my dream!!!! I do not like driving.

    • Reply
      Anshula
      March 3, 2016 at 9:27 PM

      Yes! I wish I could get an Uber driver for my entire trip! That would be amazing! P.S. I don’t enjoy driving that much either.

  • Reply
    IgniteYourBliss
    March 3, 2016 at 9:10 PM

    A great way to get a deal too is to go to the country’s website of the rental company…I’ve always found it’s cheaper than Orbitz, Travelocity, etc…Great tips!

    • Reply
      Anshula
      March 3, 2016 at 9:29 PM

      Thanks! Some websites have amazing aggregation algorithms…they collect some amazing deals. Orbitz and Travelocity are great recs 🙂

  • Reply
    Sierra
    March 4, 2016 at 1:51 AM

    Great tips! I’m always really intimidated by the whole car rental aspect of travel – I always tend towards public transport, so this is a big help!

    • Reply
      Anshula
      March 4, 2016 at 3:06 AM

      Thanks! I’m so glad that you found this little post helpful 🙂

  • Reply
    anne
    March 4, 2016 at 8:04 AM

    Awesome!! So going to use this on my next big trip abroad!

    • Reply
      Anshula
      March 4, 2016 at 1:35 PM

      Thank you so much! I’m glad you found it useful!

  • Reply
    Hess Gaia Sp
    March 4, 2016 at 10:12 AM

    I’m also a roadtrip lover and yes, renting a car is sometimes complicated when you’re a “beginner”. Insurance, coverage… arrggg! Sounds like if you have a small accident you’re gonna pay thousands of money. So, tips and recommendations like those are really important for new travelers on the road! 🙂

    • Reply
      Anshula
      March 4, 2016 at 1:35 PM

      Yes! A lot of new roadtrippers believe they have to pay a lot more on insurance when travelling than they really should, but as with everything else in life, road trips are a learning experience 🙂

  • Reply
    Cynthia
    March 4, 2016 at 4:34 PM

    I love road trips! These are some great tips! 🙂

    • Reply
      Anshula
      March 4, 2016 at 8:06 PM

      Thanks! I’m glad you liked them 🙂

  • Reply
    Adrienne Lee
    March 4, 2016 at 9:46 PM

    Great tips. With so much world to see and so many ways to see it, it’s easy to forget about seeing it from the road

    • Reply
      Anshula
      March 4, 2016 at 11:37 PM

      Thanks! Going on a road trip is often a very under-hyped method of travel, but one of my personal favourites 🙂

  • Reply
    Ashley Erickson
    March 29, 2016 at 9:38 PM

    Great tips! Trying to find a fairly priced rental car is tough sometimes.

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