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For many people, renting a car is only done when they are left without access to their own car or truck. They rent a car when they fly or take a train somewhere for business or pleasure. They are forced to rent a car when they have been in an accident, or if their vehicle is having service issues. The fact is, there are many other times when renting a vehicle makes sense. So much sense in fact, that the rental car can in some cases end up paying for itself.
- You are taking a long trip with the family, and are worried that your 10 year old minivan isn't up to the task. Nothing can ruin a summer vacation faster than car trouble. Being forced to waste valuable time on finding a reliable mechanic in the beach town 500 miles from home can be a trying experience. You can forgo that risk by renting a car.
- Your leased vehicle is approaching its mileage limit, and the lease does not expire for another month. Lease penalties for excessive mileage can range from $0.05 per mile to $0.20 per mile. Instead of taking that 200 mile business trip in your leased car, spend $30 and rent a car; it will basically pay for itself in offset excessive mileage.
- You are planning on selling your 4 year old car, but not until you return from your annual family camping trip. In this example you need to not only consider the miles you will be forgoing, but also the additional wear and tear from driving on backroads that you will avoid.
- Your son or daughter just finished his first year at college and has accumulated a fair amount of "stuff" that won't fit in the family sedan. If you do not want to make the roundtrip drive, many rental car agencies allow 1-way rentals at no additional charge. Be sure you confirm there are no additional charges for 1-way rentals before you book.
- Your best friend from high school is flying out with her family of 4 to visit you and your family of 3 making your practical wagon not so practical, at least for the long weekend they will be in town.
- You have a sales call at a company located over 200 miles from your home. You have the option of driving your SUV that gets 20 miles per gallon highway, or renting a car that gets over 30 miles per gallon. With gas prices approaching $3.00 per gallon it makes sense to rent a car for the day.
The rental car industry is full of competition. As such, car rental prices are quite reasonable. Avis, Budget, Thrifty, and Dollar are four of the best rental car agencies. Remember to compare prices between companies and check prices over a period of time as specials vary, and prices can fluctuate wildly from day to day. If you know you will be taking a trip the first week in August start searching for car rentals at least four months in advance.
- Avis' fleet offers numerous options, including many vehicles that qualify as SmartWay-certified. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) certifies vehicles in its SmartWay Certification program based on its rigorous air pollution and greenhouse gas emission standards. Avis also provides their navigational device, the where2, in vehicles. It is based on the Garmin Nuvi 780. To save time while you drive you can also rent their eToll technology for use in certain markets. For those reasons and more, in 2010 Avis was once again recognized as the top car rental brand for customer loyalty. Book online and receive a Free Upgrade.
- Budget.com has a fleet of approximately 100,000 vehicles. Of that fleet more than half are rated 28 miles per gallon or better (highway) by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In addition, customers looking to save money on rentals can take advantage of Budget’s Pay Now rates; special, Think Fast promotional discounts or seasonal one-way rates; or "Hot Deals," Budget’s monthly e-newsletter packed with money-saving offers exclusively for subscribers. Get $20 off a car rental with Budget!
- Thrifty.com offers many of the same features that Budget and Avis does. They offer GPS-enabled navigation via the Garmin nuvi 660 at most popular locations, the Pass24 pre-paid toll product in the Dallas, Houston and Denver areas, as well as the states of California and Florida, and 75% of Thrifty’s U.S. and Canadian fleet of over 140,000 vehicles has a miles-per-gallon of 26 mpg or better (highway) as rated by the EPA. Do not overpay. Come to Thrifty.com. Book Smart.
- The foundation of Dollar Rent A Car is built on a philosophy of exceptional customer service. Dollar has more than 260 suburban and airport locations in the United States. All Chrysler car rentals at Dollar locations are equipped with driver-side airbags and approximately 98 percent also have passenger-side airbags. The rental car fleet at Dollar is tailored for leisure travelers in the most popular vacation destinations. For example, Dollar offers Jeep four-wheel-drive vehicles at ski country locations, convertibles in sun states and a large selection of minivans for family vacations.
When choosing a rental car it is important to consider all your options. At a minimum you should compare prices at the four companies mentioned above. In addition to price, other things to consider are: how convenient the rental office is located, the features the vehicles have (GPS, carseats, airbags, etc...), free add ons like roadside assistance, and the models in each company's fleet.
A final bit of advice: when renting a car or truck locally, try to avoid renting from an airport location. In addition to not only having lower rates, off-airport locations have taxes and fees that are 45% lower on average than airport locations because airport locations generally have added taxes on tourists and business travelers that are used to fund municipal projects.