Car Rental Tips and Tricks

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Preview: Best Deals on Rental Cars in Orlando for Rest of 2011

If you take a look at the taxes and other fees you’re billed when you rent a car at an airport, you might wonder whether a better deal might be available offsite, where many of the extra charges do not apply. In cities such as Las Vegas, for example, rentals are often less expensive at some of the larger hotels, which generally have at least one full-service office of a national brand on-site. Our research team set out to determine whether similar deals could be found in the Orlando market off airport property.

As in past years, we began by obtaining quotes from the Web sites of all the car rental companies in the Orlando airport–for economy cars, midsize vehicles, and minivans–for Saturday-to-Saturday one-week rentals during every month from June through December, including Thanksgiving and Christmas. We also got quotes for companies located near the airport, at major hotels around International Drive, and on Disney property–more than 300 quotes in all. To get the very best prices, we also used car-rental discount codes available at MouseSavers.com.

Although there are more than two dozen combinations of car rental companies and locations around Walt Disney World, our research indicates you’ll only need to look at the following to find the best car deals:

  1. Let’s first look at economy cars. As it turns out, Alamo and Dollar locations at the airport are the two least expensive choices for every week throughout the remainder of this year except for holiday weekends. So your best strategy may be to start by checking out Alamo (Codes: AD4538JCD and 7014139) and Dollar (Code: KISS2) at the airport. (Note: The discount and coupon codes for Alamo have to be entered at the same time in order to get the discount. Also, be aware that you won’t see the complete discount until you’re almost done booking on the Alamo website.) For holiday weekends, check out Budget (Code: W810011).
  2. For midsize cars, the airport location of Dollar (Code: KISS2) provides good value in June, August and December, while the airport location of Alamo (Codes: AD438JDC and 7014139) wins out in September, October and November. Going on the July 4 holiday weekend? Check out Budget at the airport for the best rate (Code: W810011).
  3. Looking at minivans? The airport location of Dollar (Code: Kiss 2) will do right by you in June, August, September and October. However, if you’re going on either the summer or winter holiday weekends, call the Enterprise at the Royal Plaza DTD, which can save you, for example, over $600 vs. Budget over Christmas. 

 

Except for certain holidays (see above), renting a car at the Orlando airport is always cheaper for than offsite locations.  Most likely, competition among on-site agencies keeps prices at the airport low–it’s difficult to charge significantly more than a competitor when that competitor is 20 feet away and smiling at your customers! Off-site car rental locations, on the other hand, typically have little nearby competition, so they can charge higher rates.

For families, whatever markdowns may be available off-site may not be worth the cab fare and hassle of shuttling kids and luggage back and forth. However, if you’re planning on renting around Downtown Disney, factor in a $52 cab ride each way from the airport for family of four. (Orlando’s public bus service, Lynx, is $2 a person from the airport to Downtown Disney, but you also have to factor in a long walk—a mile to the farthest car rental place.)

If you’re staying at a hotel with a car-rental office, it doesn’t hurt to call and ask about specials for guests. But in general, the airport is a pretty good deal, unless you’re looking at minivans for the holidays.

What have your car rental experiences been like? What are your tips?

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Posted on June 18, 2011

33 Responses to “Car Rental Tips and Tricks”

  • My kids will be 6 and 7. Will they need a booster seat to ride in a car rental? I am not sure of the carseat laws in FL. Thanks.

  • We found that Costco membership really pays off for our Orlando car rental. With the Costco code I got better rates than I could find anywhere PLUS a second driver is FREE — that is a huge savings if you want two drivers. No coupon required but you do need your membership card at car pick up. This was with Alamo.

  • We will be in Disney July 15 to 20. Tried every discount from mousesavers.com, Entertainment book, Sams Club, BJ’s, & AAA, yet couldn’t get a car under $350 with taxes/fees. I never did this before, but I bid $24/day for a full-size car at Priceline.com and it was accepted (by Hertz)for a total cost of $205.68 including all taxes & fees! Had to prepay, but I don’t think I could do any better unless I waited until last minute, which is too stressful for me! Of course I haven’t actually used the rental yet- I will let you know if any problems after July 20!

    • Keep us posted!

      • by BRENDA CREMA on August 2, 2011, at 10:01 pm EDT

        Well, back from Disney and unfortunately the car rental was a slight blemish on the trip. Not a Priceline problem per se- I was happy with the price and the process, but I will never “knowingly” rent from Hertz again. We rented a full-size car, but received a Chevy Malibu which is listed on the Hertz and Pricleine website as “standard” size (Chvey Impala is supposed to be fullsize and is definitely bigger). We were quite cramped in the rear seat of our Chevy Malibu Sport, but still had a great time at all the parks once we all piled out!! The Hertz rental agent insisted our car was “full-size”, and was very pushy about purchasing insurance. I would definitely still suggest Priceline for a good price if the size of car does not matter!!

  • by Sarah (Duchess_99) on June 18, 2011, at 1:36 pm EDT

    I’ve recently strayed using Priceline, which has turned out to be great! If you sign up for their discount emails, you periodically will get rewards dollars that will add a dollar amount to your pet day bid. For example, I received one that added $4 to my per day bid for a standard size car or higher. I bid $12 for a total bid of &16 per day, which got accepted. The fees are a bit higher on Priceline…I actually paid more in fees that for the rental. But I still got a standard cat for 5 days for just under $100…awesome! The lowest rate I found online was around $250. Also, they guarantee that you will be renting with one of 5 major companies, all of which are on site at MCO.
    This was my second time doing this and now Priceline is the only way I’ll rent a car when going to WDW.

  • Car rental pricing can vary so widely that it can be frustrating to find the best deal. For an upcoming trip (Aug 27-Sep 3) with just my 4 year old son and I, we purchased plane tickets through hotwire.com. At the time of booking, I was offered a rate of $9 for an economy sized car for the week.

    Right now, they are offering $14 per day for the same trip booking just the car rental.

    Either way, it’s a good deal, but if you are buying plane tickets, it might be worth renting a car at the same time.

  • by John E. Levis on June 18, 2011, at 6:03 pm EDT

    As my wife and I need ECV’s we need an SUV. Normally we drive to Orlando. We’re flying down in September as we were able to get a good deal on airfare and we have a comped villa. Best we were able to get for the SUV for the week was $450. Guess with the good airfare and the comped villa it evens out! :-(

  • The best piece of advice I got (from the WDW Today guys) is to sign up for the VIP club of whatever rental company you’re using. It’s usually free and saves you a ton of time on check-in. We rented a car a few years back and the shuttle dropped us at the rental car building–it looked like the fall of Saigon. Lots of folks with luggage waiting in a long, hot, sweaty line, about to lose hope. We literally walked right up to the VIP clerk, showed our card, signed our papers and drove off. It was like rental car FastPass!

    • by John E. Levis on June 20, 2011, at 7:54 am EDT

      I agree! We belong to Hertz Gold and we just get right on the bus, no rental counter, and are dropped at the lot where we walk to our car.

    • 100% agree. We were at LAX for Avis. Two drop-off points one for advantage members and one for everyone else. The line for advantage members zero, the one for everyone else was out the door. I signed for their advantage program on my smart phone while in line, walked over to the first drop-off point, walked straight to the counter, gave them my new advantage number off my smartphone, and THEN got upgraded!

  • I always go national. Because of the time my flight arrives (Late afternoon FL time) they are usually all out of the cheapest cars I can use my discount codes on, so as a club member they upgrade me to the ‘Emerald Aisle’. The ‘Emerald Aisle’ program lets you pick any car in the aisle so I usually wind up with something better than I reserved for the same price.

  • In addition to combining codes with coupons…one tip I just figured out is to play around with pickup and drop off times if you can. I saved over $60 on a weekly rental just by adjusting my pickup and dropoff times withing the same day. Most sites default to 12pm pickup and dropoff. By adjusting these times, you can save money.

  • I’m in the throes of booking a car for the upcoming [last] shuttle launch and WDW “side trip”. (How one day for a launch and four days of theme parks works out that way is positively magical. ;-) Unfortunately, the launch is July 8th–the end of the 4th of July week. Prices are all crazy. I’ve got “placeholder” rental at National, but will watch for Alamo Insiders discounts every week until we head out. Even Alamo’s AP discount was stingy this go round.

    In May, we were able to get a four-day rental of a full-size car for $125 including all the fees using this strategy. Not bad. But I do like having the safety net just so I don’t obsess about them running out of cars.

    Go Atlantis!

  • We got a standard size rental from Alamo for $130 including allow fees for 10 days in May. Because our flight came in late, we stayed overnight and had an early morning pick up time. We used the kiosk saving us at least 30 mins in line and walked out to an overflow of cars that allowed SUVs and minivans to be in the standard row, and mid size cars in economy. $130 for ten days for an SUV, How will I ever beat that again? Carrentalsavers.com also has some great codes.

  • I am trying to book a car rental for Punta Gorda, Airport in November. I am finding the rates quite high. What are my best options?

  • Quite Different blog.And well executed for every point.such nice tricks. I’ll try to come again for this kind of information. ! !

  • Thanks for these cool tips! There are lots of factors to be considered in renting cars and you discussed the needed and important points to take into account.

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