I don’t rent cars nearly as much as I used to. There are several reasons for that, like that we prefer to use public transportation if we can and the availability of UBER and Lyft to get from an airport to the city. The astronomical cost of hotel parking fees also makes renting a car more expensive than just the price of the car itself.
There are some trips where renting a car is necessary, like our road trip through the Southwestern U.S. and our multiple trips every summer to visit Schlitterbahn in New Braunfels, TX.
To find the best price for a rental, I always use AutoSlash. For this trip, I saved over $180 from the original price to what I ended up paying for the car. Honestly, I saved even more because our arriving flight was late and I didn’t have to pay for the extra hours’ charge figured in the price for the rental.
I didn’t know when I reserved the car, that it would be the source of the best upgrade I ever received.
The best-priced rental for our trip ended up being with Dollar Car Rental. I’m a member of the Dollar Express Rewards program and provided my membership number when renting through Priceline.
Now I’m not loyal to any rental car company, but it’s a good idea to sign up for all the rental car programs because it saves you the time at the counter of answering all the questions about insurance and refueling options.
Dollar doesn’t have the pick any car policy that other companies have so I didn’t have any pressure to pick the best car from the aisle. The lowest price I could find for a rental was for a Mid-Size car which Dollar describes as a Mazda 3 4-door or similar.
It was well over a year since I rented a car from Dollar so I stopped by the rental desk before heading to the lot. There was only one person in line so I decided to wait inside with air conditioning instead of having to possibly update my information in the parking lot.
When I got to the friendly agent, I explained my situation. She looked up my rental and had to call the lot for them to release the car to the counter. We had some small talk about the reason for our trip. She was fascinated that someone would fly to Texas for a waterpark and how most of the people renting cars in Austin are there for business trips.
Then out of the blue, she says, “We have some cars available for upgrades, would you be interested in either a Camaro or a Jeep Wrangler?”
That didn’t fully process and I think I said something like, “For free?”
She said, “Yes, for no extra charge.”
It was about then that I started rambling about how my wife would be so happy if we got a Jeep but she’d be jealous because unlike at home, I’d be the one driving it (Sharon can’t reach the pedals on a Wrangler, so she has extenders on her Jeep)..
I also mentioned how much more gas it uses than a smaller car but she said it was a 2019 model with a fuel-saving mode which switches off the engine when the car is stopped.
Upgrade sold. She gave me the keys and showed me the way to the lot. As of now, Sharon had no idea we rented a Jeep, as she was sitting on the other side of the rental car building with our luggage.
I could barely contain myself as we walked to the Dollar section of the lot. What was the first car in the row? It was our Jeep Wrangler, but only I knew it at this point.
Sharon looked it and said almost unconsciously “Kermit Green Jeep Jeep!” I chuckled as we started to walk around the Jeep and then I clicked the remote.
I don’t think she believed it until I swung open the back and started to load our luggage into it. For the next 10 minutes, she was looking at all of the things different from 2017 to the 2019 models. This one had door handles instead of pushbuttons and a backup camera, something she’s been wanting since she’s had her Jeep.
We sat in the Jeep playing with all the controls, tuning in our favorite SiriusXM stations (even if that’s not necessary anymore) and figuring out how to do everything in a car that’s like the one we own, but slightly different.
Not to say that I loved driving a Jeep Wrangler for a few days, but I did take a minute to have a photoshoot in the hotel parking lot. 🙂
When I returned the car, I had to laugh at the receipt from Dollar where it listed the color of the Jeep as MOJITO!
I’ve had some pretty good upgrades over the last few years. Most of them were because the car rental companies were out of cars like when we got a Dodge Charger to drive on our Southwest trip and a Jeep Cherokee when we went to the Jeep-boree in Tennesee. For our first rental from Sixt as platinum members, we were upgraded to a Chevy Tahoe.
However, this was a situation when they had plenty of cars available but the agent decided to give me the upgrade. I’m not complaining. I’m just wondering what would have Sharon said if I decided to take the Camaro instead of the Jeep (Note from Sharon: It would have been stuff that’s unprintable on YMMV because this is a family friendly blog LOL!).
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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary