You probably don’t want to hear this but car rental companies have been milking you for years. The industry secret in travel is that the listed rates are grossly inflated. This is where discount codes come into play which can come in the form of official ones and corporate ones.
Over the years, I’ve been keeping my own list of codes that I’ve used that worked and this has ended up expanding to a large collection. If you’re looking for a deep discount, look no further, these are seriously the best car rental coupon codes organized in one spot.
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Where do I get the best deals on hotels?
- For the best prices on hotels and flexibility, I’ve been a huge fan of Booking.com. With their Genius program, which most people don’t know about, I can get instant savings of 15% with many properties in their inventory. They also sporadically send out coupon codes to their members which is pretty sweet.
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Best car rental discount codes in 2021
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. It’s been updated in 2021 to make sure they’re the most up to date and valid to get the best cheap car rentals.
Are you a first timer here? This is a pretty exhaustive post so I know it’ll feel pretty overwhelming if it’s your first time here. Take your time to go through it. If you’re in an absolute rush, jump straight down to my picks for the best codes for each company. Lastly, if you have a specific affinity to a car rental company, make sure to look out for the articles that focus on car rental promo codes by company.
Most Recent Deals
Check back here recently for the newest car rental deals.
Europcar: Join the NEW Privilege Loyalty program for free and get 10% Off. 3 rentals get you a free weekend as well. You also get a one-car category upgrade when you hit Executive level.
Hertz: Weekend rates start at $12.99/day with code: WKEN1 with Hertz.
Thrifty: Save 10% when you prepay at US airport locations. Ends July 5, 2021.
Coupon and promo codes by company
Since we often get company-specific questions, I wanted to break things down by some of your favourite ones. These have been revamped for 2021, all tested, vetted, and the most complete set of codes you’ll find.
- Top Budget BCD codes
- Official National rental car discount codes
- Official Enterprise promo codes for car rental
- Avis coupon rental codes and AWD codes
- The best Hertz discount codes
- Dollar car rental promo codes
Official car rental discount codes
All car rental companies issue their own discount codes or general promotions that are accessible to the public. They’re not a secret but sometimes they can be a bit hidden on their website or only shared through their newsletters.
The below is a list of all the official coupon codes and promos that everyone is free to use with no risk of improper usage.
Corporate car rental coupon codes
Use corporate discount codes for car rentals at your own risk. A more complete disclaimer is at the bottom of this post.
You’ll notice that Enterprise, National, Alamo, Budget, and Avis are explicitly not on the list. These unfortunately had to be removed and is outside of my control.
To learn how to apply the discounts, head over to the coupon code listings by company.
Discount rates, if not provided, are calculated based on the case study parameters that you’ll see in the next section.
Corporate Codes (expand to view)
Get a copy of all the car rental codes in a spreadsheet
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Case study to see how corporate codes compare across companies
For the codes in the table above, the actual discount calculations aren’t disclosed so it’s really hard for me to say what kind of saving you’ll definitively get. Instead, it makes more sense to go through a case study to figure out relative savings.
By using the table below, you’ll see how these car rental companies price their rates and how deep of a discount some of the corporate codes provide. It’ll be also interesting to note how some companies leverage car rental coupon codes as a hook with shallow discounts while for some others, car rental prices are cut by more than half with the use of promo codes.
Keep in mind that this is only one example. It’s 100% likely that your situation will be different based on class of car you want, dates, location, how close you’re booking in advance etc.
You’ll notice that I don’t even have Europcar here. For my 7 day road trip through Southern Ireland, I decided to get a quote without codes and I was shocked to see how cheap it was. Even the check-in staff was surprised in Dublin how discounted it was.
Case study parameters
- Location: Salt Lake International Airport (SLC)
- Dates: November 9 – 16
- Duration: 7 days
- Car type: Standard Class
- Payment option: Pay Later (Pre-pay not considered)
Price comparison table
Use the sort feature to look at the differences in pricing for the exact same rental with the use of the corporate codes.
Which car rental company gives the best deal? (expand to view)
Observations on the current state of car rental coupon codes
- There have been some changes in the car rental coupon space in the past few years with some codes disappearing and a few new ones popping up but overall I can’t say things have changed a whole lot.
- There’s an emphasis for some companies to shift customers towards pre-pay but this is never a good idea since you want to the flexibility to be able to cancel or even have multiple bookings in hand. If one fails, you have a back up (or many).
- Fox Rent A Company has really good rates even without the use of codes.
Which coupon code is the best?
If you look at the comments, the countless times this has been asked. This is a bit of an “it depends” kind of question but if I had to pick, here are the best codes for many of the major car rental companies.
How else can you save on car rentals?
Car rental coupon codes aren’t the be-all and end-all. There are other factors you need to consider when renting a car for your upcoming vacation. Here are a few things you should consider.
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 above in the highlighted box or on my travel deals page.
Alternative to car rental coupon codes
These are search engines similar to Kayak and Skyscanner but for car rentals. They look at all car rental companies and provide the best rates so you don’t have to look at each one, one at a time.
This is also highly recommended as a great starting point for your search because then you have an idea of what else is out there before trying out one code at a time.
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), collision 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 a travel credit card, you really don’t need to pay for extra insurance.
Don’t pre-pay for gas
Only do this 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.
Make back up plans
One of the best tips someone every gave me about car rentals and the use of promo codes is to always have multiple reservations in hand. If one fails because they ask for your ID or they flat out reject your reservation because the manager thinks it’s too cheap, you always have another one ready to go with another car rental company.
This hedges your bets so-to-speak and it’s a great best-practice for all of you travel hackers out there.
Don’t reserve a car under a card you know you’re going to cancel
This turned out to be an issue for us in South Africa with Europcar. I totally wasn’t thinking about this at the time but as part of the credit card 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. By the time my trip to South Africa happened, I didn’t have the card 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. This is particularly true when you’re looking for a car rental outside of North America. Sure, companies like Avis, Enterprise, and Hertz have locations internationally but there are many more local-based companies that you most likely haven’t heard of. Many times, these local market companies can be much cheaper than the big brands.
Here are a few examples from other countries that I’ve rented cars from:
- New Zealand – I rented from Jucy my first time to New Zealand and Hitch on my latest 3 week New Zealand itinerary. I managed to find a code with Hitch and saved a ton of money. Other companies to consider are Gorental, Lucky, Apex, USave, Ace, and Omega.
- Iceland – All the big companies were ridiculously expensive and so we ended up booking with Blue Car Rental on our 8 day Iceland Itinerary which was completely unknown to us but had excellent rates. They didn’t have car rental coupon codes but it didn’t matter.
- UK – The regular players are there but don’t forget to check out Dollar in the UK as they have good rates as well.
Lastly, it may also make a difference to look at the local country’s car rental websites. For instance, Enterprise.com is usually where I naturally go to search but if you’re renting in Canada you should look at Enterprise.ca and if you’re travelling to the UK, you should use Enterprise.co.uk. Prices can be different on the regional sites even though you’re looking for the same cars.
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 a huge time saver on top of knowing that there’s less chances of me being ID’d.
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 something different. This is a waste of valuable time when you’d rather be hitting the road right away to explore the new destination you’re in.
Recently, a reader, April, let us know that there have been instances where customers that have prepaid have also been charged another rate after returning the car. In effect, customers have been double-dipped on by car rental companies.
If you do end up pre-paying for a rental to save money, double check your credit card statement to make sure nothing looks out of place or you’ve been charged twice.
Even if you haven’t prepaid, still check!
Take photos of your car before you leave the lot
This is an easy one to forget because you just want to grab and go but it’s good practice to take photos of the exterior so that you have proof if they say you damaged the car but it was there to begin with.
In addition, there’s usually a slip of paper that comes with your car when you pick it up that indicates damage. If there’s anything noticeable, I always grab the parking garage attendant and make sure they mark it up.
Check to make sure everything works
This happened to us on our 8 day Iceland Itinerary where we initially drove off with our SUV only to realize that the cigarette adapter wasn’t working. We don’t smoke but we use that to charge our devices and for road trips.
Lesson – check all of the electronics, air condition, windows, and all of the other basic car functions while you’re in the lot.
If something doesn’t work, you can easily switch cars.
Do they care about rim curb damage?
This is something that I’ve encountered more times than I wish to admit.
During our 1 week Cape Town itinerary, I managed to curb the rims of our car on a turn. I swear this happens every time I drive on the opposite side of the road.
I panicked but since the damage was pretty minor, I didn’t say anything upon returning the car. In the end, I didn’t get charged for it and it never came up afterwards.
Usually, when you drop off a car, you park it in a lot, they check the odometer, and print you a receipt. Car rental agents are incredibly busy and need to move the line as quickly as possible and things like small curb damage aren’t easy to spot.
Upon talking to many agents over the years, what they’re mainly concerned about are windshield cracks and primary body damage. Small scuffs and curb scratches aren’t what they care about so you can get away with that if it happens to you.
Disclaimer on using car rental corporate codes
There’s inherent risk in using car rental coupon codes that belong to companies you don’t work for.
Corporate discount codes are generated for employees to use and by using them as a non-employee, you expose yourself to some risk. Here’s what could happen:
- They ask for your ID and you don’t have one – They could cancel your reservation which leaves you to make a new reservation on the spot which will be many times more expensive.
- They discover fraudulent use of a code during your rental – Since you haven’t returned the car and they haven’t billed you yet, they could revoke the code which means paying regular price.
- You get into an accident and your code includes insurance coverage – Whether it’s LDW, CDW or something else, if they find out during the claim process that you’re not an employee, they could null all coverage.
- You get into an accident and you leverage your own insurance – There’s no proof of this but in theory your own insurance company could null coverage if they find out your use of a corporate code.
Simply put, you should know what you’re getting into when using one of these corporate coupon codes. Whether it’s ethics or risk, you need to make a calculated decision and be okay with the outcome. If you’re not comfortable using corporate codes, look for promotion codes that aren’t tied to a company and you won’t expose yourself to any risk.
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Frequently asked questions
Almost every single rental agency has some form of coupon codes whether they’re official or for corporate use.
This is a grey area. Corporate car rental codes are created for employees of the associated companies and while you’re not supposed to used them, most staff don’t check for ID which means that you can use them without much risk. That said, be aware that car rental companies are checking ID more frequently this year because of the car rental shortage.
There’s no definitive answer here as it really depends on the location in the world, dates, and class of car. Overall, Avis offers significant discounts if you use the right coupon codes.
In most years, they don’t but with the shortage of car rentals this year, they’ve been more diligent to check ID. In some cases, they’ve also flagged this for loyalty program members to check ID so be prepared.
Yes, companies like Fox Rent A Car offer great listed rates that aren’t inflated.
Yes, there is currently a rental car shortage in the United States with companies reducing their fleet by as much as 50% during the pandemic. It’s advised to book as soon as possible. Also, it’s a good idea to call the rental car branch directly to re-confirm your booking ahead of time.
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