Getting the cheapest car rental rates is a little more involved than finding the cheapest quote.
You need a backbone and a print-out of your quote -- now let's proceed to the counter to pick up your car.
Before we go any further, I do hope you made sure you booked directly with the car rental company and your quote includes taxes and is represented as your "out the door" price. We need to at least be able to start from there.
Okay, we're back, waiting our turn for the "counter duel." Ah, we're up and ready to get the cheapest car rental rates! Hand them your quote. They'll ask for your driver's license and then they ask for a credit card.
NEVER give them a debit card with the little Visa logo on it (they have direct access to your bank accounts) and DO NOT let go of your credit card until you ask "why." They may say it is for your convenience so you don't have to come in to turn in the car and lot staff will be waiting with your receipt -- okay, fine, but confirm nothing goes on the card until you turn in the car.
If they say they have to put a $200 (or whatever) "hold" on your card -- RED FLAG! Now, are we dealing with some podunk car rental place -- is there another option nearby?
I have walked out, and walked in to their nearest competitor before, without a reservation, and taken a chance rather than put up with this tomfoolery, in order to get the cheapest car rental rates!
Their nearest competitor usually would love to accommodate you once you give them your quote from next door and tell them your story. If you there is one, and you feel too lazy to walk out, then tell the counter person a "hold" is unacceptable and you will walk next door if they don't agree to waive their "hold."
There is no logical reason for them to put a "hold" on your credit card. You booked the car with your credit card number, they already have it on record. Authorizing them to take any money from your credit card for any period of time (they usually try to say the "hold" will be refunded after varying amounts of time -- one month, two months) is well, foolish.
You have agreed, once you take the car, that the total amount will be charged to your credit card once you RETURN the car!
I've had them say, "Well this is just insurance that you'll return the car." How ridiculous! If I don't return the car, they have my credit card number and my drivers license information. They'll be comin' after me for a lot more than $200! It just doesn't make any sense.
It's usually small town or run down car rental places that try to play this game. I don't know for sure how exactly the game runs on their part, but if I owned a business and I could put a "hold" of a few hundred dollars on each and every client's credit card and got away with not having to refund it for a month or two, that sure would help my cash flow picture! For all I know, they get use of that money, if only temporarily.
Regardless, say "no."
But we're far from done. If you want the cheapest car rental rates, we have a few more counter hurdles to jump before we're out of the woods.
Just get used to saying "no," or "no thank you," if you're real polite.
Next they are going to try to sell you insurance. This one always amazes me. Does anyone actually fall for this? I hope none of you will! You can't if you want to get the cheapest car rental rates. If you own a car, then you already have car insurance! Check your policy, but most car insurance policies cover car rental. If yours doesn't I'd be shopping for a different policy.
If you don't own a car (and I'm happy to say, we don't. Haven't missed it at all. Though I don't know how long we can get away with it now having our place in downtown Vancouver and a "home-base" back in my little hometown in the Colorado mountains. We joke that until we get an old army jeep to go 4-wheelin' and get us to airports, we'll have to rent a u-haul truck to go to the nearest car rental place! We are actually also toying with seeing what kind of deal a car rental place would make with us ongoing -- but that's another story for another page!), then your credit car benefits include car rental insurance. Again, check your benefits. If your credit card doesn't include car rental insurance, I'd be shopping for a different credit card!
Just say "no."
Next they are going to try to sell you the full tank of gas they've put in the car. Now this one can be tricky. In order to get to the cheapest car rental rates, you've got to be careful here. They'll have a display on the counter showing the market price of gas and the price per gallon they propose to charge you, pointing out that it is less.
Some of them list a huge penalty price per gallon if you don't take their offer and don't bring it back full. First, in order to walk out with the cheapest car rental rates, you need to know whether the market price they've listed is accurate, second, AND THIS IS HUGE, if you're at all considering this option, you need to know how big the gas tank is, and what the total will be!
Nine times out of 10, I do NOT take this "offer," because I'm trying to walk out the door paying my original quote, so I'm usually willing to err on the side of caution and take the gas matter into my own hands.
In general, like I said, "just say no" at the car rental counter to get the cheapest car rental rates. But you must know your situation going in. Remember backbone!