8 ways to get the best rental car every time

Posted at 5:38 AM, Dec 12, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-12 07:38:14-05

Whether you’re renting a car out of necessity or fun, there are ways to ensure you get the best experience – and maybe even save some money.

As a travel resource, AAA offers eight tips on how to get the best rental every time:

  1. Pick your own car: When possible, choose a rental car agency that allows you to pick your own car – either a specific model when making the reservation or from a wider selection upon your arrival.
  2. Research your arrival airport: Call ahead to ask about options. Some airport rental car ports don’t have upgrades available. If you are flying into a larger city and have some flexibility, call around to see which airports have more of a selection to choose from.
  3. Timing is everything: Pre-book your car to avoid being limited on your choice of cars – that is, if you can get a car at all. For example, if you show up at a smaller airport on the last flight of the night, you’ll be lucky to get a car at all.
  4. Compare rates: Consider how long you need the car. Even if you only need the car for four or five days, a weekly rate may offer a better deal. Verify the hours of operation to ensure you can pick up the car on time. If getting in late, you may want to try to find a car rental company that is open 24 hours.
  5. Ask for discounts: Credit cards, frequent-flier programs, military and clubs like AAA have negotiated discounts. AAA members can sign up for Hertz Gold Plus Rewards and receive up to 20 percent off rentals; additional AAA member-driver at no charge; free use of car or booster seat; and discounts on GPS rentals and Fuel Purchase Option. These benefits can save a traveler as much as $200 for a weekly rental.
  6. Live a little: Step out of your comfort zone. Never owned a truck of any size but always wanted to drive one? Ditto for a Jeep, Mustang or Mini Cooper. This is the perfect time to drive a car you are interested in.
  7. Match your rental car with your situation: Got a family vacation planned with a herd of kids? Try for a Ford Flex, but don’t ignore the Kia Sedona minivan, which is overlooked by business travelers and readily available. Be sure to verify how much luggage the vehicle will hold in addition to the number of passengers.
  8. Final tip: Pick a trim level with the most letters. It’s almost always an upgraded model. For example, the SL is better than S, XLE is better than LE, and the word “Limited” can’t be a bad thing.

AAA is a go-to source for travel information. Visit for more information.