16 Tips For Saving On Rental Cars This Summer According To An Expert — Including A 2-Minute Trick That Can Save You 30 Percent

It's no secret that car rentals, gas prices, flights, lodging — okay basically everything — are super pricey at the moment.

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Inflation is a bitch when all you want to do is get out and enjoy the summer.

That's why talking to people like Scott Keyes, founder of Scott's Cheap Flights, is more important than ever — he's made a living out of finding money-saving tricks the travel industry doesn't want you to know about.

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For this article, Keyes is sharing some car rental tips, but typically, Scott's Cheap Flights is all about helping people find cheap airfare — they track price drops from your local airport so you can buy when rates are low.

Their services are totally free, or you can pay extra for their Premium or Elite memberships, which give you access to more deals and the coveted "mistake fares." (Mistake fares happen when an airline accidentally lists a flight at an obscenely cheap rate — think $63 roundtrip to Chile.)

In addition to being a cheap flight guru, Keyes has been working the rental car market — recently discovering a hack that saved him 30 percent on a rental car. More on that and his other hacks below:

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Saving 30 percent on a rental car is no joke when prices are through the roof. For more on this hack, check out tip No. 2.

1.Rather than waiting until the last minute, book your rental car the same day you book your flight.

Two women booking a trip on their laptop

Historically, rental cars were so cheap and easy to find that people booked them at the last minute, almost as an afterthought. Those days are long gone.

Keyes suggests travelers "book your rental early — ideally as soon as you book your flight."

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2.Then, watch for price drops and be ready to cancel and rebook when you find a better rate.

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The secret to scoring a deal on your rental car is this: Checking for price drops. You see, unlike flights, you can cancel and rebook a rental car as many times as you want with no penalty. Recently, Keyes was able to save 30 percent on a rental just by checking rates weekly and rebooking at the lower rate if the price dropped.

"Like airfare, car rental rates are extraordinarily volatile. But unlike airfare, you don’t have to prepay for car rentals. What this means is that if you book a car and, next week, the rate gets cheaper, you can cancel, rebook, and save the difference," he said. This is why booking your rental car early is so important. "Even if rental rates are high, you’re still in a win-win situation. If rates go up, you’ve already locked in a lower fare. If rates go down, you can cancel for free and rebook cheaper."

3.Most rental car companies have similar pricing — but you'll find consistently lower rates at Costco Travel.

Person hands the keys to a woman in a rental car

Hertz, Budget, Enterprise ... Keyes says they're all pretty much the same, with none offering "reliably has cheaper rates than the other."

The standout company in his experience is Costco Travel, a site he says "consistently has the best price."

"You automatically have access if you’re a Costco member, and it also includes extra perks like a free second driver. Best of all: reservations are free to cancel, so you can book a car today and if the price drops tomorrow, just cancel and rebook for a cheaper rate," he said.

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4.Check out Turo, the Airbnb of car rentals.

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Turo is a car share company that connects travelers with locals willing to rent out their cars. And, according to Keyes, "The huge quantity of cars available there keeps prices much lower."

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5.You might be able to save money by reserving a car for longer — even if you don't need it.

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Like some hosts on Airbnb, which offer a discount for month-long bookings, rental car agencies often offer lower rates for full-week rentals.

"Sometimes agencies will give discounts on rentals that are a week or longer — if your trip is only six days, it’s worth checking if the rate is actually cheaper to rent for seven days," said Keyes.

6.And, remember rental car rates are often lower during the middle of the week.

Woman putting on her seatbelt in a car

Again, if you have the flexibility, Keyes notes that "Oftentimes rates will be cheaper during the middle of the week thanks to less demand than the weekend."

So, that means picking up the car on a Tuesday and returning on Friday will likely be cheaper than a Thursday to Sunday rental.

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7.If you have the flexibility, book your trip during the destination's "low season."

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Every destination has a high and low season. If you have the ability to book your trip anytime, you can book during the low season when the cost for lodging and rental cars drops.

"Typically, rental cars will be cheapest during low travel seasons (and, conversely, most expensive during high seasons like summer and Christmas)," said Keyes.

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8.Pick up your rental car from an off-airport location.

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As you can imagine, most people want to pick up their rental car right at the airport. Because of this, car rental companies up the price for at-airport pick ups and drop offs.

To save a buck (sometimes a lot of bucks), compare prices with an off-airport rental location.

"There are usually other rental locations within 10 miles of the airport, and the prices there can be markedly cheaper; worth hopping a cab to get there if the rates are $50 cheaper or more," said Keyes.

9.Signing up for car rental loyalty programs will help you score perks like a free additional driver, upgrades, and eventually, free rentals.

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It might take a while before you can earn enough points to get a free rental, but other perks like upgrades and a free additional driver are often immediate. Plus, signing up is free!

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10.But, keep in mind it isn't usually worth it to remain loyal to one specific car rental company.

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Unlike most loyalty programs, it doesn't pay to remain loyal to one specific agency. Keyes says "the key is to make sure you stay loyal to the cheapest price rather than one agency. Only renting from one agency is a recipe for overpaying for rental cars (not to mention flights and hotels)."

11.That said, make sure to exploit any membership you're part of.

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Every little bit helps.

"Many rental agencies give perks like a free second driver for members of AAA, AARP, government employees, veterans, or Costco members," said Keyes.

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12.Before you pay for insurance, check to see if your credit card covers it.

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Auto insurance is a pricey add-on that might not be included in the online rate. Rather than paying an additional per-day rate, do your research ahead of time to see if your at-home car insurance — or, more likely, your credit card — offers rental car insurance.

"Some credit cards (for instance, the Chase Sapphire Preferred) offer primary auto insurance on rentals, allowing you to waive the expensive add-on the agency tries to tempt you with at checkout," said Keyes.

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13.And plan ahead so you can say no to all the pricey add-ons the agent will try to sell you.

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Often the rental rate you secure online doesn't include things like GPS, car seat, or an additional driver. Plan ahead by bringing a car seat from home (they fly for free), signing up for a loyalty program so you can enjoy the perk of a free additional driver, and if you're traveling abroad, getting an international phone plan so you can use your phone as the GPS.

14.If you're going to put some serious miles on your rental car, it might make sense to pay extra for a hybrid or electric car.

Woman on her phone while her car charges

As we all know, gas prices are currently through the roof. In some cases (like if you're driving across the country), Keyes says "Paying extra for a hybrid or electric could make sense." Especially if the cost for the upgrade is minimal.

That being said, he notes that for most travelers "it will be most economical to just book the cheapest car that suits your needs."

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15.And if car rental prices are really high, you might want to look into renting a truck from Home Depot or Lowe's.

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It sounds wacky, but Keyes notes that "Home Depot, Lowe’s, and other home repair stores often have pickup trucks available for rent. These trucks tend to have set day rates, rather than inflated dynamic prices like at car rental agencies. Prices vary by location, usually starting at $89/day."

When you're going to Hawaii in December (along with everyone else) and rental car rates are through the roof, $89 a day doesn't look half bad.

16.Or, for that matter, check out U-Haul rates.

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Renting a moving truck may seem a little next-level, but it's a tried-and-true workaround when rental car companies are out of cars or are charging exorbitant prices.

Keyes noted that "if you’re really in desperate straits, you can rent U-Hauls (or other brands like Penske and Budget) for your vacation. Though of course seating is limited, for solo or couple travelers, it can be a cheaper (and memorable) option."

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Have any tips he missed? Share them below!