Dirt Cheap Central Presents:

Tired of Overpaying for Car Rentals?
Here’s Where to Find the Cheapest Places
to Rent a Vehicle Anywhere in the World

Dirt Cheap Central Presents:

Tired of Overpaying
for Car Rentals?
Here’s Where to
Find the Cheapest
Places to Rent
a Vehicle Anywhere
in the World

Discover where you can rent a car in the U.S. and internationally at extremely affordable prices, no matter where you’re headed.

Here’s a simple and direct question: How much money would you like to save on your next car rental? 10%? 25%? Much more?

As you can imagine, taking care of your transportation needs can be an expensive part of any domestic or international trip. But this article will help you find good ways to save money and get on the road easily without breaking the bank!

Let’s explore some of the most inexpensive options to help you plan your next journey.

1. Car Rental Price-Comparison Sites

Car rental aggregators

The meta search engine sites save you time and money—no matter where you plan to travel, when you plan to leave, or what kind of vehicle you’re interested in. They provide a great way to start your research and get a ballpark estimate of what you should expect to pay for your trip.

These powerful aggregators help you instantly compare rates in real time from different car rental websites.

After choosing your target city and preferred pick-up and drop-off dates, you’ll get an overview of all the options available to you, with an easy way to sort results from the cheapest to most expensive.

2. “Opaque” Booking Sites

The opaque booking model

If you are looking for the most aggressive discounts, and the lowest rates possible, then consider using sites that offer “opaque” bookings.

Under this model, the identity of the car rental agency is hidden until your order is complete.
The rental agency’s name is not revealed until after you finish making your reservation.

For travelers who don’t care much about which brand or agency they do business with and only care about getting deeply discounted rentals, this can be a great way to get the cheapest overall cost.

3. Discount Deals on Car Rental Booking Platforms

Major car rental booking websites

Third-party car rental booking services allow you to compare rates, vehicle options, and locations from multiple global and local car rental companies.

These supermarket-style websites specialize solely in this travel sector, so they can offer the easiest way to get affordable offers from every major car rental company that meets your needs and budget.

Some of these platforms offer helpful benefits, such as exclusive deals, best-price guarantees, free cancellation options, 24/7 phone support, and more:

4. Official Car Rental Brand Sites

Industry brand logos

The big companies are the most experienced, powerful, and trusted players in the entire international car rental industry.
These global giants operate thousands of brand-backed agencies with highly visible and easily recognizable logos, which can be found worldwide.

The big-name providers offer premium service, a wide vehicle selection, worldwide coverage, and superior reliability. But value and discount brands in this highly competitive market typically offer lower costs and a better deal—as long as you have standard needs.

After shopping around a little, you may discover it’s cheaper to book directly through the car rental company’s own website, as opposed to any broker or “middleman” sites. From time to time, there may be an in-house promotion, special rate discount, or attractive deal available on the brand’s official site that’s not available anywhere else.

In addition, many of these companies operate rewards programs that let you earn points, deep discounts, or other perks just for being loyal to their brand:

5. Discount Deals at Online Travel Agencies

OTA discount deals

Today, online travel agencies (OTA) are among the most popular go-to sources for booking all types of travel products. Following the “one-stop-shop” model, these massive reservation platforms offer everything from airline tickets and accommodation options to car rentals and admission tickets to major tourist attractions.

These massive third-party booking websites are the largest companies operating in the online travel market—and, as such, they have strong bargaining power with every player in the industry.

This unique position often translates to special reduced rates, discounted vacation packages, and other exclusive, negotiated perks that bring massive savings to the end customer.

If you need to order multiple travel products—like flights and a hotel, combined with a rental car—then it might pay off to book everything together and purchase a bundle or combo package on one of these websites, which may save you a great deal of money:

6. Consider Cheaper Alternatives

Bike rental service

Driving a nice car is convenient and fun, but it is not your only option. If you’re short on cash, then you may want to skip the traditional option and consider some of these more affordable (or even completely free!) transportation alternatives that could save you big bucks:

  • Peer-to-Peer/Car Sharing: Zipcar, Turo
  • Local public transit
  • Taxis, Uber, or Lyft
  • Bike rentals
  • Walking (Hey, it’s healthy!)

Finding Cheap Car Rental Deals – A Few Practical Tips

When you’re planning a big trip—either domestic or abroad—a lot of attention goes into finding the lowest airfare and best hotel deals. However, other aspects can also put a pretty sizable dent in your travel budget if you’re not careful.

Renting a comfortable and reliable vehicle is a great way to get around your destination flexibly, without relying on taxis, ride shares, public transportation—or the worst and least safe option, hitchhiking.

If you want to enjoy the freedom of exploring a city without limits, going on an exciting road trip and stopping at some spectacular scenic lookouts on the way, or driving independently to any destination you want on your own schedule, then having the means to do so is essential.

Your own car can take you to some pretty amazing places that are simply not as accessible any other way.

Whether you have modest needs and want the most economical options, or you’re interested in other key aspects, like fuel-efficiency, sufficient space, driver and passenger comfort—or even style—finding the best transportation solution is a critical component of your trip-planning process. It can have a huge impact on your budget if not chosen wisely.

There are so many travel sites out there that offer the same rental vehicles by the same famous brands from the same local agencies—and all at different rates. As such, the consumer’s goal becomes clear: finding the best available rate for the car they want to rent.

Regardless of whether you’re interested in a small, midsized, or large automobile—or even a unique solution, such as an SUV, minivan, luxury car, or pickup truck—nobody wants to pay more than absolutely necessary for exactly the same product.

There is no universal formula or “right” way to find the cheapest rate possible under any circumstances. However, here are a few practical tips to help you book your desired vehicle at a lower price:

  1. Price-comparison tools seem to work great when you want to find dirt-cheap flights and hotels, but they’re not as effective or thorough when it comes to renting a car.

    So, feel free to use these metasearch websites to get an initial taste of general market prices in your target area, but be sure to check more travel portals and the official car rental agency websites to get a more comprehensive overview of your options.
  2. As you probably know, there are many rental cars out there in all shapes, sizes, makes, models, technical configurations, and costs. Finding the perfect vehicle at the right price can often feel like looking for a needle in a haystack.

    Therefore, before starting your search, form a basic game plan to help you shop around more efficiently. As you begin your research, make sure that you have at least a general idea of your needs.

    Don’t forget to factor in issues like budget, number of passengers, how much luggage you’re taking, driving conditions in your destination, the season of the year, specific must-have features, etc.

    Make sure to use each search platform’s filtering options, so you can evaluate only the results that truly meet your criteria.
  3. Each company offers a variety of car classes to choose from. These range from budget to luxury, and everything in between. Small, economy vehicles will always be cheaper than their medium-sized or large alternatives.

    If all you need to do is get from Point A to Point B, and you’re looking for a low-cost solution for 1-2 passengers, then resist the urge to spend money on a larger or fancier car model.

    Besides, in some cases, you may find yourself automatically “upgraded” to a higher class for free, simply because the provider didn’t have an economy automobile available in their inventory at the time of your reservation.
  4. Have you ever noticed how everything is crazy overpriced at airports? There’s no doubt that picking up your set of wheels at the airport right after your flight has landed is obviously the most convenient option.

    However, this convenience can come with a whopping price tag. Airport pickups tend to be more expensive and may involve surcharges or additional fees on top of the regular per-day rate.

    Always compare these costs to off-site locations—which can be much cheaper—and make sure that you factor this into your final decision.
  5. Everybody knows the big car rental agencies—such as Enterprise, Hertz, and Avis-Budget—that have been in operation worldwide for decades. Name recognition is indeed a powerful advantage, which they enjoy when travelers consider where to spend their hard-earned dollars.

    However, sometimes, the small local suppliers are the best choice for your trip’s needs—and not only because they’re cheaper. Do a Google search to become a more informed consumer and get a better understanding of how the local market works, who the key players are, etc.
  6. In many parts of the world, a vehicle with an automatic transmission can be more expensive than one with a manual transmission. If you’re a well-trained driver who can handle both types easily, then consider going for the less convenient but cheaper manual option.
  7. There’s no doubt that online search tools which offer nationwide and international coverage can save you time and money—at least, in theory. However, bear in mind that not all information is necessarily accessible through those platforms.

    Make sure to run a simple local Google search for your target travel location, such as: “cheap car rental in (city name)”. See what these agencies have to offer and feel free to get additional details by email or phone. Sometimes, the best deals and the most affordable rates are hiding in small local businesses.
  8. Car rental agencies usually operate in convenient pick-up and drop-off locations, such as airports, the city center, or other strategic tourist and business districts.

    However, sometimes, those that are located in less popular areas and do not enjoy the benefit of having a “captive audience” are forced to offer significantly cheaper prices to attract customers.
  9. Looking for more ways to save on your next rental vehicle? Websites like AutoSlash may help you. These sites shop the industry’s marketplace and find discounts, coupon codes, and membership perks to get you the best deal.
  10. Are you a member of a big club, union, or organization, such as Costco, BJ’s Wholesale, AAA, AARP, USAA, the military, the government, etc.? There’s a good chance you’re entitled to a decent discount or some other favorable terms that can help you pay significantly less.
  11. Always remember the key factors that influence the cost of renting a car, such as the type of vehicle, location you’re driving to/in, the time of the year, and the current supply and demand.
  12. Do you work for a big company? Call your HR department and ask if they have any special arrangements with rental companies available to you.
  13. Rental providers make good money by upselling you extra products and services, like insurance, GPS, satellite radio, toll passes, and infant car seats. If you really need these add-ons, then that’s perfectly fine. But if not, then avoid them to lower your bill.
  14. Do you travel frequently? Is there a major booking website or car rental brand that you’re loyal to? Subscribe to their newsletter to get email updates about special discounts, upcoming sales, and other exclusive offers.
  15. You probably know the old saying, “The devil is in the details.” Be sure to always read the fine print to avoid unpleasant surprises. Make sure you understand what’s included in your reservation, and what services or extras may incur additional costs.

    Pay close attention to issues like insurance, mileage caps, taxes, surcharges, additional fees, breakdown service, gas charges, tolls, vehicle usage restrictions, etc.
  16. Coupon codes can help you save even more, so be sure to check the search platform, OTA, or auto-rental company’s official homepage, as well as third-party coupon portals, for active promo codes.