photo: Iris Papillon/Unsplash

How to Save on Car Rentals

By Craig Moy

Renting a car is often a necessary expense when travelling abroad. Savvy travellers know, however, that there are ways to cushion the cost of renting a car. It’s exceptionally easy if you’re an AMA member: Our new partnerships with Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Alamo Rent A Car and National Car Rental mean you’ll get exclusive discounts on advance bookings worldwide—plus bonus benefits on rentals in Canada and the U.S.

Looking for even more ways to save? Check out our tips below.

CHECK YOUR INSURANCE
If you know you’re going to be renting a car while away, check to see if you’re covered through your personal auto insurance policy. Typically, coverage for a rental vehicle isn’t included in your policy by default, but most insurance companies, including AMA Insurance, allow you to add it as an endorsement for a minimal cost. Alternatively, some credit cards have built-in coverage for rental cars, though be aware that the policy is likely conditional based on various factors, and you’ll have to use the card to pay for your car.

If you have coverage through your personal auto insurance or credit card, you can forego purchasing insurance with your rental.

TIMING IS EVERYTHING
If you’re going away for a week but think you’ll only need a car for a few days, it may still be less expensive to book it for the full duration of your trip. In general, the short-term rental market is geared toward business travellers, who are assumed to be less price-sensitive than leisure travellers. This means that agencies tend to work harder to offer lower rates for rentals of a week or more.

MORE TO READ
How to save on your personal auto insurance policy with new discounts for AMA members

A similar concept applies to weekend rentals. There’s less demand from Friday to Monday (due to fewer business travellers), so if you just need a vehicle during that period, you may be able to score a deal. And no matter when you rent or for how long, remember to return your vehicle on time—to avoid late fees that are typically charged by the hour.

MEMBER PERKS
In addition to discounted rental rates, AMA members get benefits from Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Alamo Rent A Car and National Car Rental that can mean even more savings. In Canada and the United States, you’ll save on GPS rentals and get 10% off prepaid fuel options. Members can also take advantage of bonus freebies like adding two other drivers, and getting a child or baby seat at no charge.

If you run into trouble while on the road, use your AMA membership to get roadside assistance. You’re covered for service (according to your membership level) from CAA and AAA affiliates across North America, no matter whose car you’re in, and regardless of whether you’re the driver or a passenger—so you can decline the rental company’s roadside service, if asked.

AIRPORT AWARENESS
Airport car rental locations are very convenient but you may want to consider picking up your rental car at an off-airport location. That way, you’ll avoid paying the daily tax that many airport rental locations charge for on-site vehicle pickups (you’ll still have the option to return the car to the agency’s airport location). But do some research in advance: Depending on the duration of your rental, paying the airport-pickup premium may still be cheaper than taxi fare to an off-site rental office.

MORE TO READ
Save money on gas by refining the way you drive

UNDERSTAND THE BRANDS
Like many other businesses, the pricing strategies of car-rental companies are at least partially reflective of the way they see themselves as brands, and the type(s) of customer they cater to. Certain rental companies take a premium approach—you’ll get tons of choice and convenience, but you may pay more—while others are known for catering to travellers who are willing to sacrifice some bells and whistles in favour of a better price.

DO THE WALK-AROUND
No matter which company or location you rent from, once you’ve signed the rental agreement and have been shown to your vehicle, make sure you perform a full visual inspection, inside and out, before driving off the lot. If you see any imperfections or evidence of damage that isn’t already noted on your paperwork, report it to the rental company before you leave the lot—and take photos if you can. This way, when you return the car, you (and your wallet) will be protected from being dinged for damage you didn’t cause.

WE’VE GOT YOU COVERED
For more information on adding rental car coverage to your AMA auto insurance, call 1-800-615-5897 or visit one of our centres to talk to an AMA Insurance Advisor.

HOW TO SAVE
AMA has new and exclusive partners for rental cars. Members who book in advance with Enterprise Rent-A-Car, Alamo Rent A Car and National Car Rental are entitled to exclusive discounts on the cost of rental vehicles worldwide. In Canada and the U.S., members can also save on GPS rentals and get 10% off prepaid fuel options. And there’s more: You can add two other drivers, plus a child or baby seat, for free! Rent a full-size or larger vehicle and you’ll also earn up to $10 in reward dollars. (Some terms and conditions apply.)