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Make booking your next car rental easy

Image: Iceland Public Roads Administration/Wikimedia Commons

Image: Iceland Public Roads Administration/Wikimedia Commons

Wednesday, January 15, 2014, 11:26 AM

If you’re going on a road trip, you may be looking into renting a car. We’ve all heard the horror stories though (the car wasn’t there, you got the wrong vehicle, you didn’t get the best rate). 

Fortunately, there's a lot you can do to make your next rental booking a pleasant one. 

Decide what you need: Exactly what kind of trip are you planning on taking? You may be taking the family to Florida, camping in the back country, or driving to visit the next city over. 

Minivans are the best all-purpose vehicle. They have middling fuel economy but can take more passengers and luggage. They're ideal for family road trips. SUVs are better for camping or winter driving. Though they have less cargo space and higher fuel consumption. A small car is the cheapest option. They're good for small groups and have the best fuel economy, making them ideal for intercity travel. If you're unsure what vehicle to get, most local rental agencies will give you a tour of what's on the lot. 

Give yourself enough time: When it comes time to book, doing so at the last minute doesn’t guarantee a better rate. Rental companies carry a limited stock, so you may end up paying more during periods of high demand. 

Pick up the phone: To save the most money, you’ll want to book through the call centre. You'll have a better opportunity to haggle over the phone than online, but keep an eye out for internet sales just in case. 

Timing matters: The best times to pick up your car are mid-week and Saturdays, in the early afternoon. Mondays and Fridays are always the busiest. If you’re worried about getting overbooked, rental companies usually give priority to customers who have reserved the furthest in advance and are going out the longest. 

Plan ahead: Despite your best efforts, sometimes the car might not be there when you arrive. The previous renter may be late returning, which means the agency will have to get another car for you. If you need to be somewhere, phone ahead and leave a good time buffer so you're not rushing. 

Make sure to check next Wednesday for part 2, which will cover picking up, how to deal with issues, and how to avoid unexpected costs. 

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