Best Cheap Alternatives to Traditional Car Rentals (Updated July 2021)

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FAQ: How to book a cheap rental car

Are there any risks in choosing an option outside of traditional car rental companies?

The risks in terms of car rental are about the same as with a traditional business, and in fact, most of these alternative businesses are less likely to overbook.

However, as always, be sure to read the fine print regarding your policy before booking to avoid possible charges or issues.

How far in advance should I book a car rental?

The short answer is, ASAP. Between three and six months is optimal to find the best deals. Early booking has become even more important recently, with last minute car rental bookings almost impossible to come by and car shortages occurring across the country.

Why are rental cars so expensive?

Prices are higher than ever due to unprecedented demand for rental cars. Additionally, each business will use their own pricing algorithms, and some have a flat rate or membership rate.

In general, however, weekend pickups tend to be slightly cheaper, with Monday and Tuesday pickups generally being slightly more expensive when travelers start their week. If there is a choice, compare transfers from the airport to places in the city, even including a taxi to other places. Some cities will always be cheaper at the airport, while others will see just the opposite.

Should I add auto insurance?

First, check with your


car insurance

to see if you’re already covered, or call your insurance company or credit card holder to see if your current coverage extends to a rental car.

Some of these alternative car rental companies include insurance in the rental fee, but be sure to check what exactly is included. For example, some require additional payment to switch from liability insurance to comprehensive insurance.

Is It Worth Joining Car Rental Loyalty Programs?

Most loyalty programs are free, and sometimes there are benefits or immediate offers, so there really is no downside to signing up.

Joining a loyalty program is even more appealing right now, as it often comes with perks like coming to the fore or renting a car first. With waiting times and queues longer than ever before in many places, these special perks can come in handy.

Where can I find a car rental quote?

Most of these companies will be happy to provide quotes on their websites without too much information.

What do you need to rent a car?

Typically just a driver’s license and a credit card. Most companies also require drivers to be 25 years of age or older.

What if I arrive for my car rental reservation and no car is available?

Unfortunately, this is becoming a real possibility amid the ongoing rental car shortages. These days it’s always worth calling ahead to confirm the reservation and make sure there are cars on hand at your rental location.

If you show up and your car is not available, several options are available to you:

Ask if there is another car available in a different class. Ideally, you would be able to upgrade at no additional cost if the company is at fault.

However, if they only have cars in a downgraded class, it may still be a better option than no car at all. Just make sure you receive a credit or voucher for the difference in price.

You can also ask if a nearby location might have a car available and if the company will cover your taxi or Uber. If it’s late in the day, you may also want to consider returning earlier the next day to see if any cars have been returned.

If no car with your original company is available, unfortunately your only option may be to research other car rental companies. In this case, always ask for a refund, but be prepared for the fact that if you had a prepaid reservation, it may be difficult to get your money back.

Are car rentals safe?

The CDC says traveling to the United States is safe for people who are fully vaccinated.

Additionally, all of the car rental companies on our list have announced enhanced measures to combat the spread of COVID-19 and have stepped up cleaning and disinfection procedures.

Experts also agree that a well-sanitized car rental is safe. Strict checklists, new cleaning products, curbside and contactless pickup, and comprehensive cleaning and disinfection protocols are all part of new levels of service designed to allay concerns about COVID-19.

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