Rental Cars for Less for Your Retirement Road Trips

by Andrea Norris-McKnight

Rental Cars for Less photo

Do you plan to travel in retirement? Hit the open road? Keep your road-tripping costs in check with these tips for reducing the cost of renting a car.

Do you plan on traveling in retirement? You’ll probably need to rent a car occasionally.

Renting a car can be expensive, but there are plenty of ways to reduce the cost. Here are some tips to help you save money when renting a car for your retirement road trips.

12 Ways To Save Money on a Car Rental

With these tips, you should never have to pay full price when renting a car.

1. Book Early

Book your rental car well in advance. Prices often increase as the rental date approaches.

2. Avoid Airport Locations

Renting from an airport location often comes with additional fees, which means higher prices. Look for rental agencies located away from the airport for better deals.

3. Choose the Right Car Size

Consider the car size you need and avoid renting a larger vehicle than necessary. Smaller cars often have lower rental rates and better fuel efficiency.

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4. Skip the Extras

Avoid adding unnecessary extras like GPS systems, satellite radio or heated seats, which can increase the rental cost. If your child needs a car seat, bring your own if possible rather than including it with the rental.

5. Rent for Longer Periods

Weekly or monthly rental rates are often cheaper than daily rates. If you need a car for an extended period, consider renting for a week or a month to save money.

6. Compare Prices

Use price comparison websites or apps like Kayak, Expedia or Orbitz to check multiple car rental agencies and find the best deal for your needs.

7. Look for Discounts and Promotions

Many car rental agencies offer discounts for AAA or AARP members, military personnel or other groups. Check for available promotions and apply them to your booking. (See How To Find and Leverage Senior Discounts.)

8. Bundle Travel Services

If you’re also booking a flight or hotel, check for package deals that include a rental car. Bundling these services can save you money.

9. Fill Up the Tank Yourself

Many rental agencies charge extra for refueling the car after you return it. Fill up the gas tank before returning the vehicle to avoid this fee.

10. Use a Credit Card With Rental Insurance

Some credit cards offer rental car insurance as a benefit. Use one of these cards to book your rental to avoid purchasing additional insurance from the rental agency.

11. Cash In Credit Card Rewards Points

Some credit card rewards points can be used toward rental cars. Use the card to pay for any remaining balance on the rental and earn additional points.

12. Join Loyalty Programs

Many car rental agencies have loyalty programs that offer discounts or free upgrades for frequent renters. Join these programs to take advantage of these benefits

Reader Tips for Saving on Rental Cars

We asked our 50+ readers how they save on car rentals. Read on for their money-saving suggestions.

Rent Older, But Serviceable Cars

Two of the simplest ways to reduce the cost associated with a rental car are to use affiliation cards, such as AARP and AAA. Both offer discounts on rentals.

Consider renting a car from a company that’s not widely known or local.  A slightly older but still serviceable car can be as cheap as $15-20 a day. Also inquire about weekly rentals if you need a car that long. Some companies have special deals for longer terms and for weekends.

If your credit card and your usual auto insurance cover a rental, then don’t pay for the rental company’s car insurance. They will simply ask you to sign a waiver.

Finally, simply ask the rental agency if they have a better deal. Just say, “Can you do any better for me?” Often, the answer is yes.

If the rental company provides a full tank of gasoline, return the car with a full tank, too. Otherwise, they will charge you for gas at a price that is often higher than the local outlets.

Find Rental Cars for Less at Dealerships

Many dealerships will let you rent cars from their fleet at a lower rate than you can get from many of the rental agencies. This usually works better if the dealership is in a higher income community. They may not require a deposit, give you a mileage allowance, or make you buy insurance that you don’t need.

For instance, renting a minivan for a week could cost upwards of $600. There is a Nissan dealership that gave us a rental for $300 for the week with no deposit, no credit card on file and no mileage restrictions. We just had to have the gas tank close to where it was when we picked it up. It worked great!

Look into Car-Share Programs

Sometimes people will pay you to drive their car to or from a vacation spot like Florida, Arizona, etc. If you plan to go to that location anyway, look on Craigslist or other bulletin boards for drive-aways.

For local driving, look into car-share programs, such as They may allow you to use cars in different locations, depending on where they are set up.

Look for Coupons

This may not be a creative answer, but it is easy to do. I have an Entertainment Book membership. The site is filled with coupons, including a whole section on travel. Within the travel section, there are tons of coupons for all the different rental companies, hotels, and even “Park & Rides” at the airport.

Reviewed April 2023

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