How to get the best deal on a rental car in Canada?

I could go on and on about how not owning a car is one of the secrets of our financial well-being (I will do that in a later post), but today’s task is slightly different.  Today I need to book a rental car for a few weekend errands, so I will share with you how I go about getting the best deals on rental cars.

  1. Start early.  Make the reservation as well in advance as possible.  The best deals can often be found early, so try to book a month or two in advance when possible.
  2. More is better.  There is no penalty for not showing up at the rental counter, so feel free to make a couple of reservations.  For the sake of good karma and good relationships if you are a frequent renter, do try to cancel those that you won’t use.
  3. Know the restrictions.  As a Canadian renter, here are some of the extra fees I look out for: (1) extra charges for travelling to the US, (2) extra fees for a secondary driver, and (3) insurance fees.  For me personally, this means that my preferred companies are Hertz, Budget-Avis, and Enterprise, none of whom charge fees for travel to the US or for a spouse as a secondary driver.
  4. Search large.  Especially if the reservation is during a high-travel period, I like to use a search helper like AutoSlash which will keep an eye on coupons and suggest lower pricing when it comes up.   I also do a Kayak search to find which specific locations have the best prices (they sometimes vary by 50% based on location).
  5. Use fidelity to your advantage.  I have an Enterprise Plus membership where I accumulate points for free days.  I also love the fact that Enterprise hires smart, ambitious, customer-focussed individuals – it makes the process of renting less painful.

Voilà (as we say in Québec)!  I regularly get 3-day weekend rentals for less than $60, and am the envy of my friends with the latest wheels.  And the hero to my children who throw Cheerios wantonly all over the back seat (sorry, Enterprise!).

Do you have any additional tips to share about getting the best rental car price?

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