How to Save On Rental Cars

Rental cars offer convenient and fun means of transportation in tens of thousands of locations around the country.


Numerous expenses such as security deposits, fuel, insurance and additional mileage are associated with rental car pricing. Learning how to save on rental cars provides many benefits including more money available for food/entertainment or to simply keep in your pocket. Each rental car company offers special pricing promotions at various times throughout each year.

Alternate ways to find deals on rental cars are also available via site aggregators and special credit card promotional bonuses. Major players in the rental car industry are highly competitive with each other and pricing wars between them only benefits you as the consumer. Read ahead for valuable information about how to save on rental cars in 2021.

Rental Car Price Increases and the Need to Save in 2021

Saving on rental cars is more important in 2021 than it has been in recent decades. Many travelers are recovering from extended quarantine periods caused by COVID-19 restrictions and excited to be back on the road. Quarantine also brought financial challenges for people across the U.S due to unemployment and nationwide company shutdowns. Saving money by any means possible (including on rental cars) is crucial in 2021.

Industry Impact

When discussing the major players in the rental car industry it is important to mention how events of 2020 impacted their market status. Even more important to mention is how 2020-related changes in the rental car market are now residually affecting you as a consumer. Base prices for renting cars in mid-2021 are higher than normal. Discounts and deals are available when you know where and how to look. Many travelers are experiencing sticker shock when jumping into car rentals without doing adequate pricing research first, however. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act provided two trillion-dollars in relief funds across the board. Most of the money designated to help rejuvenate the travel industry went to airlines and businesses who put more money into political lobbying. The car rental industry, for whatever reason, did not pursue lobbying with the same fervor as its travel-industry companions and was therefore left largely unsupported by the CARES Act.

Ways to Still Save

To survive the financial challenges of 2020 many rental car companies had to sell off portions of their fleets as used vehicles. Now that COVID-19 restrictions have lifted and travel across the U.S. is resurging, the remaining supply of available rental cars still cannot meet the demand in mid 2021. Ways to still save on car rentals are available, however. Booking last-minute or booking far ahead often gets you lower prices on car rentals. Most rental companies also offer time-sensitive promotions with discounts for customers who book rentals by (or on) certain dates. Picking up and retuning the vehicle within specified timeframes is also required to receive these types of discounts.

Popular credit cards also offer special car rental discounts and promotional deals. The Capital One car insurance rental rewards program along with the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Hertz Amex Platinum cards all provide discounts on car rental services. Discounts on car rental insurance are provided by certain American Express programs as well. 

Top 4 Major Players in the Car Rental Industry

Many top car rental companies offer packages with discounted pricing and promotional offers. The most popular companies with consumers today offer a combination of flexible booking, quality customer service and as large a vehicle selection as possible, all things considered. The top 4 major players in the car rental industry today are:

  1. Hertz.
  2. Enterprise.
  3. Alamo.
  4. Avis.

1. Hertz.

Hertz is one of the top car rental companies today because of its history of reliability and quality vehicle selection. Currently Hertz is posting two featured offers on its website. Double points are currently available for select rentals, including free rental days when vehicles are picked up from a neighborhood location. The second featured offer gives a twenty-percent discount off base-rate prices to drivers fifty years and older. Additional savings offers are also available with Hertz through AAA.

2. Enterprise.

Enterprise is another popular rental car company with consumers due to its long history and experience in the industry. Enterprise is also reliable and known to list last-minute specials and promotions as ways for consumers to save. Currently, Enterprise is offering a fifteen-percent discount on its base rate prices for 3-day rentals in Guam. A free single upgrade promotion is also running at participating locations along with special discounts for active/veteran members of the U.S. military and U.S. government workers.

3. Alamo.

The Alamo Insiders program sends special deals on prices to members via email. The company offers travel guides, hacks, tips and vacation stories to help consumers choose the best destinations. Travel agent and tour operator programs are also available to enhance your car rental experience. In addition to special Alamo Insider promotions, Alamo also offers featured car rental deals and discounts directly on its website. Plan Ahead specials, free upgrades, Last Minute specials and discounts for both leisure and business travel plans are all available directly from Alamo today.

4. Avis

Avis is a popular choice for both personal and business travelers in 2021. The company offers special car rental packages for leisure and corporate/business rentals. Business rentals include small, midsize and car rental affiliate programs. The proprietary Avis Pay Now program helps you save up to thirty-percent on base prices, with rentals backed by the Avis Best Rate Guarantee. Frequent renters who enroll in the Avis Preferred program receive accelerated rewards, 700 rental points (minimum starting points), no blackout dates and expedited service.

Alternate Ways to Save on Car Rentals Today

Car rental companies offer discounts for certain situations, which are not necessarily posted online as specific promotions. For example, upgrades to larger vehicles are granted at no extra charge when your booked vehicle of choice is not available. Sometimes free fuel and extra mileage are also granted when your selected vehicle is not available at your scheduled pickup time. 

The American Automotive Association (AAA) provides rental car discounts to its members, which are highly useful for frequent and infrequent travelers alike. Site aggregators such as Expedia, Kayak, Travelocity and RentalCars.com also provide numerous options for saving on rental car prices in 2021.