Did you know that taking a different flight may save you money on your rental car? It can, because of the way car rental companies figure out your final bill. Unlike other reservations, like hotels, your car rental is calculated using a 24 hour clock. Here’s how that can make a big difference in the price of your rental.
Say you’re going to land from your early morning flight at 10AM. Depending on the airport, figure it’ll take at least 30 minutes or more to get to the rental car area. Hopefully you’ve already signed up for the rental car program ahead of time, so you can skip the line. The paperwork will say the time you rented the car, either from the counter or when you left the lot.
When you turn in the car will make all the difference in what price you will pay. Using the above example, if you turn the car in before the time you checked it out (let’s say roughly 10:30AM), you’ll pay just for the number of days you had it. But if you keep the car later than that, you’re going to be paying more. How much more depends on the rental company. Companies like Dollar and Thrifty don’t have any grace period. For other car rental companies, if you get there 5 minutes late, you may get a discounted rate but anything more than a hour and you’re paying for the car for a extra day. Many of the other rental companies will give a grace period of 29 minutes before charging you extra. Silvercar has the longest grace period, giving you up to an hour after your rental time before they start charging an extra fee.
How to use this to your advantage
You can take advantage of this by strategically planning your flights. Try to schedule your flight home around the same time or within 2 hours after your arrival time. This will allow for you to get to the car rental area when arriving as well as budget in how early you have to arrive before your flight home. Hopefully you have TSA Pre✓® and don’t have to plan for a long wait at the security checkpoint. By planning your flight times, you can save a full day of car rental fees.
If needed, you can also plan to arrive at the airport a little early to return the car by a certain time. You can spend some time in an airport lounge, get a meal before your flight or just sit in the Starbucks and people watch. After all, there are lots of ways to kill time at an airport.
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