Ways to save BIG money on rental cars

May 16, 2011 6:37:53 AM PDT
It's not just airlines that are tacking on extra fees these days. Car rental companies are too. Extras and taxes can push your rental rate up 30 to 40 percent.

Consumer Reports ShopSmart checked the fees at nine companies, including Enterprise, Hertz, Avis, and Dollar.

Watch for the EXTRAS: They include a child safety seat, satellite radio, emergency roadside assistance, and even an EZ Pass!

Lisa Lee Freeman from Consumer Reports Shopsmart tells us, "Car-rental companies don't make it easy to find the charges on their websites. But they certainly do a great job of loading on the fees when you return the car."

Adding a driver is another 13 to 30 dollars a day - $100 a day if the second driver's under 25! A lost key can cost $375.

And the fee for picking up at one place and dropping off at another? "The lowest drop-off charge we found was $50," says Freeman. "But believe it or not, in some cases Avis charges as much as 1,000 dollars to drop off a car in another location."

To save money, fill up on gas before you drop off, return your vehicle ON TIME, and before you leave home, check your car insurance policy and credit card protection so you don't double-up on insurance.

And here's my FAVORITE tip: Rent your car using AutoSlash.com.

After you make your reservation, the site continues looking for sales from all the major car rental companies. If it finds a better deal with any of those companies - Autoslash will cancel your existing reservation, make a new one, and send you an updated confirmation.

I used Autoslash to reserve a rental car back in March and since then the price has gone down FOUR times: From $114.19 all the way down to $69.30! That's for FOUR days over a holiday weekend. Pretty good, right?