Travel Hack 1

Travel Hack: Rental Car Edition

Hey there Blog & Breakfast readers! Spring has sprung. And I don’t know about you, but spring is the kick-off to my travel season. I have short stays and family vacations scheduled for the next 6 months. As such, I rent cars 3-5 times a year and have a sure bet for the best deals. Knowing this, I don’t spend precious planning time milling over where to score that low-cost rental. It’s a simple quick search and BAM! Rental car booked. Today, I want to help you save some coin.

First things first, when is the best time to book the rental?

I’ve found that booking 3-6 months out offers the cheapest rates. But, I never really stop the search and I never pay up front. Once booked, I routinely check rates every couple weeks to make sure I’ve scored the lowest one. It’s paid off a few times. Even upgraded my ride for less money. I also try to check the rates during odd times. A quick search on the weekends, nights, and early in the morning. I’ve found the best rate whenever I book during the week before 3pm. I have no idea if there is any truth to this or it’s just plain coincidence.

Where is the best place to book?

Your one-stop-shop for car rentals? Costco. No, this is not a paid ad; nor am I one of those Costco’aholics either. You know the ones who shop 2-3 times a week and buy everything at the superstore: food, home goods, electronics, household items, tires, cars, gas! Honestly, I have my membership for the toilet paper and rental cars. If you don’t have a Costco membership and travel to destinations that would require a rental more than twice a year, go sign up for one. And if you have one and are not using their rental car perks, start now. Even if you never, ever shop at Costco, the cost of membership will pay for itself after you rent two cars through their travel website. And possibly even after a single car rental. Let’s me show you.

Costco has partnered with Alamo, Avis, Budget, and Enterprise car companies and will get you the best price. I’ve never seen it cheaper anywhere else. Here’s the breakdown in the form of an example.

  • Costco membership at the time of writing: $60
    • Trip #1-Vacation in Fort Myers, June 19-26:
      • Costco rental via Alamo:
        • Economy car with unlimited mileage, free cancellation AND a free extra driver: $544 (taxes and fees included)
      • Alamo website:
        • Economy car with unlimited miles, free cancellation $583. And if that extra driver is not a spouse, add $15/day. That’s an additional $120 for a total of $703.
      • Savings range: $39-159
    • #2-Weekend getaway in Fort Myers, October 28-31:
      • Costco rental via Budget:
        • Intermediate SUV: $284 with all the extras from above
      • Budget website:
        • $320 and $13/day for that extra driver who’s not a spouse, add $52 bringing the total to 372.
      • Savings range: $36-88

As you can see here, even if you’re on the low end of the savings for your two trips at $75, you’ve recovered $15 after your $60 Costco membership. And if you were on the high end of savings, you would have an extra $187 in your pocket!

Level up your game

I often book 2-4 different types of vehicles if I’ve found a good deal and decide which to use a day before my trip, making good use of free cancellation. That way if I have a little extra money and want to splurge, I’ll get that upgraded rental. If not, there’s nothing wrong with standard or economy.

The only problem I’ve found with Costco’s rental car service is that you cannot make adjustments to your booking. If you decide to change your flight to a day earlier, you have to cancel your booking and place a new reservation. So you run the risk of a significantly higher rental cost for that one day. Keep that in mind when booking and maybe reserve a few options for your trip to allow for some wiggle room.

Let me know if this helped save you some dough. I’d love to hear from you. And, keep an eye out next month for more travel hacks.

Psssst…I have one last small, teeny, tiny secret to add…
I’ve never been asked to show my Costco membership card at pick-up. Do with that information what you will.


Lisa Brooks
Superpowers include finding the best money savings hacks