The crummy economy and now swine flu are creating unbelievable deals on air fares, cruises and hotels. So what about rental cars?
Not so much.
I’m finding car rental rates higher than ever, with new fees and taxes piled on top. In some cases, it’s difficult to find a car at all.
In March, The Maui News reported that local agencies had cut their fleets down so much that vacationers were having trouble finding cars at any price.
It’s still possible to dig up a bargain. I just booked a Jeep from Alamo for a week on Kauai for $199, totaling about $250 with taxes and fees. It’s not a bad deal, but in the context of Hawaii, which has typically been inexpensive for car rentals, it’s not great. And it took some research to find it.
I recently priced out car rentals from the Phoenix airport and couldn’t do better than $350, which included a heap of taxes and fees, for which Phoenix is justly infamous. It was enough to make me change my plans.
So, if you’re going to be in need of a rental car, here are a few tips:
• Find all the car rental agencies that operate at your destination, go to their Web sites and click on their “deals” or “special offers” section. This is still the best way to locate the best rates, tedious though it can be.
• Start shopping early. If you see a decent deal, reserve it — but don’t pay in advance. Keep shopping as your travel date gets closer, with an eye out for last-minute deals. If you find one, cancel and rebook. (And do cancel. Don’t stick the rental car company with a no-show, which drives up costs for all of us.)
• Configure your trip for a weekend rental, if you can. Sometimes you can get three or four days out of a weekend rental, which can be considerably cheaper than weekdays, depending on the destination.
• Consider a destination where mass transit is a possibility. Or you can drive to in your own car.