One of the best feelings when you’re planning a trip is when you can find secret coupon codes to save you a killer amount of money. For the past decade I’ve been using a variety of hidden discount codes that have helped to reduce the cost of my travel significantly. There have been times when I’ve even managed to raise the eyebrow of the car rental attendants because of how cheap I managed to get the car rental down to.
Finding an awesome discount code is like discovering treasure!
I’ve written about car rental discount codes in the past but it is a topic that deserves a refresh as the codes tend to come and go. I also wanted to take this opportunity to clean things up and make it easier to read and apply these codes.
Indispensable Car Rental Discount Codes
The following is a list of car rental codes that I’ve personally vetted. Each one of them offer a certain amount of discount and I’ve put them into an organized table to allow you to quickly navigate between car rental company which code works the best for you.
In terms of the “Amount of Discount” the way I calculated this was by simply taking discount offered by the code over the price if no code was used. I did this based on the total cost of the rental including taxes and fees instead of the daily rate as this seemed more fair of a comparison. That said, I would take as a grain of salt because each company has different base rates so what you should really care about is the final price of the rental which is where the Case Study further down gives you a clearer picture of which code is “better”.
The BIG DISCLAIMER that I have to put out there is that by using corporate discount codes (codes that belong to a company and are only meant for employees), while you likely won’t get checked for an employee card, if you do get into an accident or require any sort of insurance claim, you will NOT get covered since you’ve effectively voided any coverage. Use at your own risk.
The Case Study
A sample example is usually the best way to exemplify which code does better than others. Through the table below, you’ll see how these companies price their rentals. Some offer deep discounts on these codes while others don’t offer much of a promotion on codes anymore or only make it seem like you’re getting a discount when you really aren’t.
Lastly, what you need to put into consideration is that this is only one example. This search was done 3 weeks out from the rental and this is an airport location in the US. Rates and discounts will vary depending on days of the week, how far out you’re booking, and where you’re renting from. For instance, I was able to find insane rates via Europcar in Ireland that even the lady working the desk was shocked to see.
- Location: Denver International Airport (DEN)
- Dates: Saturday February 24 – Tuesday February 27
- Duration: 3 days
- Car Type: Midsize/Intermediate
The Price Comparison Table
Looking to do your own price comparison for an upcoming trip? Make a copy of my spreadsheet to save you time.
Direct link to Google Sheet
- Thrifty’s codes have become practically useless which is sad.
- You’ll notice that Thrifty and Dollar’s prices are the same – that makes sense because they’re pretty much the same company.
- A lot of these discount companies are going the way of discounts through pre-pay. Pre-pay only if you’re absolutely sure you’re going to rent with the company you choose and you’re not going to make any changes. You’re better off with paying later if you think there’s a chance of anything changing.
- Fox Rent A Company is insanely cheap but I’m skeptical. I personally haven’t used them before so proceed with caution.
How Else Can I Save On Car Rentals?
Didn’t find a code here for your needs?
There are always not-so-secret codes that the car rental companies post themselves. I usually share these on my travel deals page or you can go to the car rental company pages themselves to see what promos they are running.
Rent outside the airport
Airports are always going to be more expensive to rent than going into the city. That’s because airport has additional taxes and fees on top. Rental companies also increase the rates in exchange for the convenience of renting a vehicle right when you land. You might be better off taking a cab into the city and renting from a smaller location.
Watch out for sneaky fees and add ons
I’ve noticed that some car rental companies like to add insurance coverage and other add ons automatically when you make bookings online. When you confirm your booking and when you sign the papers at the counter, make sure you read all the inclusions and pay attention to anything they might’ve snuck in. Prepaid gas is something that is quite common.
Don’t pay for insurance you don’t need
Where rental companies make money is in the additional insurance such as loss damage waivers (LDW), collission damage waivers (CDW), or personal effects coverage. Thing is, if you’re already covered under your own car insurance, you have something like CAA/AAA membership, or you have an awesome credit card, you really don’t need to pay for extra insurance.
Don’t pre-pay for gas
I would say do it if you know you’re going to be really tight on time but otherwise it doesn’t make sense to do this.
How it works is that they’ll charge you for a full tank at a slightly inflated market rate on fuel. This means that even if you have half a tank left, they’ll charge you for full fill up. Don’t do it if you can avoid it and make sure you decline it.
General Car Rental Tips
Read the fine print for tax, fees, and information
Where car rental companies get you is in the fine print often times. I can’t even count the number of times when I’ve seen a killer deal on a rental only to find that there are a ton of added fees on top or you realize it isn’t unlimited miles.
I typically don’t worry as much for the big rental companies but if you’re booking from a smaller unknown/local rental company, make sure you read the details.
Don’t reserve a car under a card you’re going to cancel
This turned out to be an issue for me in South Africa with Europcar. I totally wasn’t thinking about this at the time but as part of the churning that I do, I ended up cancelling a card that I made a reservation with. During check-in they asked for my ID including the card. I of course, didn’t have the card on me anymore. Luckily, the manager on duty made an exception for me to allow me to keep my reservation but if things played out differently, I would have had to create a new reservation which undoubtedly would have been much more expensive.
Research all the rental companies
The big players don’t necessarily always win. Especially if you’re travelling outside North America, there are a lot of other companies that you might not’ve heard of.
For example, Jucy is huge in New Zealand but I never would have known if I didn’t do my research. Similarly, Iceland was the same in that all the big companies were ridiculously expensive and so we ended up booking with Blue Car Rental which was completely unknown to us but had excellent rates.
If you’re interested in Dollar in the UK, they have good rates as well.
Don’t discount loyalty
You have to put value in loyalty programs and what will make your life easier. I’ve been with National for a long time and I belong to their Emerald Club program. While their prices may not always be the lowest, I find myself booking with them often because they’re the only car rental company where I can go out to the aisle and pick the car I want. This is HUGE.
The worst is when you go out onto the lot and realize they gave you a crappy car and you have to go back inside to ask for a change. It’s time wasted and most of the times you just don’t want to have to deal with that.
Additional Car Rental Deals That I’ve Found
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