Flexibility is the key to saving on your next car rental! South Africa has many car rental companies that are very competitive, but if you require a less common vehicle or have complex requirements then you will pay more. Makes sense, right? With car rental growing ever more popular as the price of car ownership increases, we’re taking a look at some of the other great tips that might save you cash on your next rental!
1. Choose Your Car Rental Location Carefully
Car hire operators that are based at airports pay much higher rent than those where land is not at a premium. These locations will naturally pass on their higher fixed costs to customers in the form of higher car rental charges. In fact, some companies charge an additional “airport rental fee” up front, so even with a major franchise you might pay more at the airport than you would at another office down town.
You can avoid higher airport car hire charges by searching online for rental companies within a few miles of your destination airport. These companies often run a free shuttle service between the airport and their operating base. It might be less convenient than renting from a kiosk at the airport, but you can save a ton.
Similarly, city centre hire locations will cost more than those situated a few miles outside the urban centre. It could be cheaper to pay for a taxi to the out-of-town car rental company, or telephone them and ask if they will pick you up, some may be willing to.
2. Skip the Hidden Extras
It’s always annoying when you arrive to rent a car only to find that there is extra insurance to pay if you want full coverage. However, South African road accident rates are notoriously high, so you would be wise to opt for all the protection you can get. But there are other things that a car rental company may try to charge you extra for though. Other extras are luxuries, and you’ll need to decide whether or not you really need them, like adding a second driver, a sat nav or GPS, or a local mobile phone. Skipping these will mean lower costs for you.
One way rental will also cost you a lot more than returning the car to the location you hire it from. Plan a circular route to avoid the need to drop off the car at the other end of the country!
3. Book a Smaller Car than You Want
Booking a car slightly smaller than you want could save you money if you get a free upgrade.
If you need a larger vehicle you can take your chance on one being available as a free upgrade when you arrive. This is a gamble, but companies will usually allow you to pay for the upgrade if no free one is offered. Free upgrades are usually only one class of vehicle higher. So you will be able to upgrade from a C class to a D class, for example, but not an F class without paying the difference. You take your chances with this one, but it could work!
4. Look for Car Rental Loyalty Discounts
If you use the same company for all your vehicle rentals then you will get a better deal, it’s that simple. This might be in the form of a discount, priority service, loyalty points, or free extras. You are also more likely to get a free upgrade if you are a regular customer. Companies usually reward loyalty, and car rental companies are no exception to this rule. And with so many car rental franchises in South Africa (like Avis, Europcar South Africa, and Hertz) it shouldn’t be too difficult to stick with one company.
5. Refuse a Free Upgrade (unless it’s a diesel car)
If you have booked the size of car that you need then refuse a free upgrade to a larger vehicle. A heavier car uses more fuel, so your daily bills will be higher. The exception to this rule is if a free upgrade is for a large diesel-engined car. This will usually use less fuel per mile than even the smallest petrol-engined car. Diesel is also cheaper than petrol in South Africa, so your fuel costs will be even lower.
6. Always Ask for a Diesel Car
Along the same lines as the above, choosing a diesel car rental from the outset might be a good idea if you’re on a budget. Diesel fuel costs about 12% less per litre than petrol. Diesel cars are also 25% more economical in terms of fuel use. Both of these mean savings for you.
Sometimes the car rental company will have both petrol and diesel-engined cars available in the same range. They keep the diesel cars for people who ask for them, but not many people know enough to ask. You know though because you’re reading this!
7. Book a Rental Car with a Manual Transmission
Manual transmissions are the norm in South Africa, but this isn’t true in all countries (particularly if you’re renting a car in the United States for a holiday). If you have a licence to drive a car with a manual transmission then order one, you’ll only get an automatic transmission if you actually specify one. An automatic rental car will cost you a lot more, as well as using more fuel.
8. Use a Car Rental Broker
Use the internet to check prices before you book. Car rental brokers (especially the online ones that provide car rentals from many different companies) are sometimes cheaper than going direct to the car rental companies. You may get free extras such as child seats (a legal necessity for young children) or a sat nav as well.
If you’re a loyal customer to one company, then compare the prices offered by the broker with the price you get by logging in to your favourite car hire company. When you have the best price you should then phone the local branch of your preferred company to check if they can give you an even better deal direct. This is better for them because they don’t have to pay the commission to the broker, so everyone wins!
9. Pre-Pay the Car Rental Charges
If you pay the vehicle rental charges in advance you can get a 5-10% discount. If you pay on a credit card and pay it off within the interest-free period those savings are definitely worthwhile. Of course, you should only do this if you’re able to pay the bill right now, but for some people this is an easy way to save some cash.
10. Hire for Longer
If you are mixing up city stays with long distance driving then it might make sense to hire a car for the whole of your stay since you’re likely to get lower daily rates the longer the rental period, even if you do not expect to use it for the few days you are staying in a city centre. This also cuts down on hassle, since you’ll only have to go through the hiring and signing procedure once, rather than once before your city break and once after.
Car Rental Savings in Summary
Flexibility is everything if you want a cheap car rental deal. Be flexible about the car you want, its transmission and where you pick it up from, and this, in turn, will reduce the load on your flexible friend (your credit card)!
Main Subject: car rental
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