Finding the best car rental deal


Finding great deals for car rentals is not something I’ve spent much time looking into in the past.  Last year, during the Daily Getways (which are coincidentally going on right now), I bought a pile of Hertz points.  Since then, my car rental plan has been simple: Search for the best price.  If the best price is $50 per day or higher, use Hertz points.  If less than $50 per day, then pay. 

Million Mile Secrets has run a nice series on getting cheap rental cars.  For example, see this recent post.  I needed a two day rental, so I tried some of his tricks as well as my own to see where I’d find the best price.  With 5 people travelling together, I needed an intermediate size car or larger.  Here is what I found:

Costco Travel: $206.19

Costco Travel often has very competitive prices for vacation packages, cruises, and rental cars.  I ran a quick search for the dates I needed.  Total cost $206.19.



Ultimate Rewards: $120 (or 9,600 points)

I logged into Ultimate Rewards, selected “Travel… Flights, Hotels, & Car Rentals” and searched for a car.  Total cost $120.


I repeated the search twice.  First, I logged in with a premium card (Ink Plus), and the second time I logged in with a no annual fee card (Freedom).  The price ws the same both times (except the number of points required would be more with the Freedom card since the premium cards give a point discount).


Kayak: $167

I ran a simple search through Kayak. Kayak found a total rate of $167.


Hotwire: $244.25

Hotwire was disappointing.  $250.39 total.



Hertz w/ corporate code: $146.14

Through my prior employer, a corporate discount code was attached to my Hertz account, and it’s still there.  I find that this code gives me better rates than other discount options through Hertz.  Total cost: $146.14.  With no discount code, Hertz offered a rate of $188.73.  Using the discount code that comes with an Amex Platinum card brought the best rate to $178.37.



Avis Preferred

Thanks to my Amex Platinum card, I have Avis Preferred status which offers discounted rentals.  With this status, I got a rate of $201.98.


I then tried using my Ink Insiders discount number (which is available to Chase Ink cardholders) and got the same results.  Without either number, Avis quoted a rate of $242.20, so either discount number saves about 17% for this rental at Avis.  If I pay with a business MasterCard (such as Chase Ink) card registered to the MasterCard Easy Savings program I would save an additional 5%.



Here are the results I found, listed from best to worst:

  • Ultimate Rewards: $120 (or 9,600 points)
  • Hertz with Corporate Code: $146.14
  • Kayak: $167
  • Hertz Amex Platinum discount: $178.37
  • Hertz no-discount: $188.73
  • Avis Preferred: $201.98
  • Costco Travel: $206.19
  • Avis no-discount: $242.20
  • Hotwire: $244.25

The Ultimate Rewards search engine found the best price overall.  This matches Million Mile Secret’s finding (here).  It’s important to note, though, that this was just one very specific search.  I’ve done similar comparative searches in the past and usually I’ve found that the Ultimate Rewards price is no better than the best price available through Kayak.  So, despite these findings, it still makes sense to search multiple sites to find the best price.

In the end, even though the Ultimate Rewards price was really good, I booked through Hertz using points.  With points, I was able to pick an even larger car at no additional cost for this two day rental, and with 5 people and luggage, I think we’ll need it.

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[…] are so many car rental options, it’s hard to know which one is the best. Both Fre­quent­Miler and Mil­lion­MileS­e­crets each inves­ti­gated and com­pared the cost and con­ve­nience of […]


Alamo last minute savings on the Tuesday before comes out was a amazing savings. On trip to Portland all best deals for a 3 day rental ending on Sunday came up around $200 or more. Waited until that Tuesday can be scary but total was under $80 total for a midsized car unlimited miles made for a great little rental. We could have ubered it if rental didn’t go through others may not have that option.

[…] Finding the best car rental deal […]


Oh, the Costco prices:

Avis at LAX: Intermediate-sized (actual Altima), 2 days and 19 hrs. Base $66.93, taxes and fees $26.04, total $93.97

Budget at STS: standard car (Altima but I ended up with a sport-ute) 1 day 6 hrs. Base $79.10, taxes and fees $18.29, total $97.39.

Alamo at LAX: Intermediate car (the Elantra), 2 days 17 hrs. Base $49.11, taxes and fees $22.04, total 71.15.


Just got back from the three-car-renting trip to LAX. Three days in LA (Avis), 1-1/2 days in Sonoma (Budget), 2-1/2 days in LA again (Alamo). All rented through Costco. Tried all sorts of codes and deals (even signed up my company for an Avis Corporate code and THAT code couldn’t beat Costco!)

When I arrived at Alamo from LAX there were some 65 people on line. (ow.) Self-service kiosks were also there, so I thought I’d try one. (Giving a brief thought to: oh lordie, what if it DIDN’T work, and the 15 folks gettin’ off the Alamo bus after me got on line ahead of me? Oh well.)

Put my driver’s license in. Acknowledged the data I had put in with my reservation at Costco. It printed out a loooong receipt, and told me to go out to the “medium” car row and pick one. (A Hyundai Elantra is “medium” sized!? Not in my world! But it was a nice enough albeit very cheap car…) Was in and out of Alamo in about 20 minutes — including inspecting the car and adjusting the seats and mirrors and turning the headrest around backwards. (I have the check-out clerk sign my list of scratches and damage, if any and also take photos all the way around the rental car (in front of the check-in guy) when I return it. I hope that makes them less likely to try to come after me for old damage.

My Ink Bold gives me Avis First (that’s one step above Avis Preferred: yay Chase!) (which had not yet come in, but I had printed the email telling me I was, in fact, eligible and would get my … card or whatever … in a few weeks). I got off the shuttle at the main Avis office (where the lines stretched OUT the door!), and asked the driver if, as a “First” I should have gotten off at the Preferred shed (where there was no one waiting). He said yes, I walked over and got a car immediately.

(The Budget rental up in Sonoma (STS) had a slow but short line (VERY small outfit — joint Avis Budget counter) and the last car she had was a compact with a broken radio and empty tank, so she gave me a small Chevy Captiva (?) instead. Gas-thirsty, but okay to drive.

Corky Putt Putt

Worth looking at Capital One. I just got a full-size for $120 for 5 days from Avis in a location where I’ve paid $70 a day before.


How do you search for off-airport rental car locations via UR portal?


One method to avoid airport concession fees that works for me is to pickup at a local office in the same city but return it to the airport location. Of course that only works in cities with good transit or where you can catch a ride on arrival.


DBest: Yes, you’re right. Doing that can save a lot of money. I’ve saved money that way even when I took a cab from the airport to the off-airport rental location.

Anh Vo

Second asar question on insurance: how do we handle the insurance when using points?


I think you forgot about Southwest Airlines using their discount codes. I often get the lowest rates using their codes.

Also, any system that gives you choice of car can be valuable. I am a big National Emerald Club fan. I have gotten Large and even Large SUV’s for MidSize price – especially at airports during a slow time. Thats a savings you just can’t get in rate quote.


shonuffharlem: I really should take the time to try plugging in all those Southwest discount codes… Yes, car choice is valuable. I do prefer to rent directly from Hertz and National for that reason.

Anh Vo: I rely on my personal car insurance


Yes, I think Priceline will give you the best price!
For example, it costs me $90 for 4 days full size rental at SAN while all other places quote me $200+.


what do you do about insurance when you rent using Hertz points?


Did you go directly to Budget and do the same search? I’ve done that in the past, and on my limited attempts, the rental car company site always beat the chase portal. In fact, don’t they have a BRG?


bonkers: No, I didn’t try Budget directly, but that’s a good idea.
asar: For insurance I just rely on my personal car insurance. I know I would have to cover the deductible.
kv: Thanks


someone needs to do a write-up on car rentals in europe- that would be very useful to many people


I use, they provide you with many coupon codes that you can use, stacking these discounts together usually gives you a really goood price.