Car Rental Dilemma

Mark and I do not have a need to rent a car all that often.  We rented one from Hertz in 2005 to drive home from Florida after a cruise we went on with our kids.  We didn’t rent again until October 2017 when we needed to get from the Dallas Love Field airport to College Station, Texas and back.  We used Hertz again, booked from a sale offered by Priceline for $99.  We had no issues on either of these trips.

I have been planning a trip for my daughter and I for October where we will fly into the Dallas Fort Worth airport and we will need a car to drive to and from College Station, Texas.  I really wanted to snag a good deal on this car rental.  My goal was $100 with unlimited miles.

Since I have been blogging, I have been doing a lot of  reading and research on travel products and deals.  I started noting all the great ideas and deals regarding car rentals from my blog friends at  Your Mileage May Vary  (aka YMMV) and other travel websites and programs that I follow.  If you like to travel and haven’t read their blog – DO IT!  They know so much about EVERYTHING!

Things to consider when Booking a Rental Car:

  • Getting a Membership with the car rental company you rent with for additional discounts and points or using one you already have
  • If you have a AAA Membership be sure to use it for additional discounts/perks
  • Check to see if your Auto Insurance or your Credit Card offer Rental Coverage as this will help you avoid additional fees during the rental process (If your credit card does have coverage, make sure you pay for your booking with that card!)
  • Try using Vendors like Priceline or Kayak to look for discounted fares
  • Watch for Flash Deals by the Car Rental Dealers
  • Use Autoslash to watch the fares for additional discounts after booking
  • See if you can pair Rebates offered on Ebates or Ibotta for savings on the back end
  • Look for offers from Airlines or Hotels that you have memberships with to score some points and/or  discounts

Those are the easy things.  But there are a lot of Car Rental Companies out there competing for your business.  How do you know which one to choose.  I tried reading reviews, but soon realized the people who post reviews are usually angry customers who have had an awful experience.  What I read were a lot of people who had gone through less than ideal, almost shady scenarios while renting cars.  That was when it happened……the terror started to creep in.  What if I choose wrong?  It’s just going to be my daughter and I traveling this trip and I don’t want ANY drama.

  1. When I started actually pricing out the car rentals, the fares were all over the place.  I tried to utilize a deal I read about on YMMV Enterprise $12.99 a day for weekend rentals , but it wasn’t available at DFW for our travel dates.
  2. Then I priced the booking through both my Delta and Southwest airlines Apps.  Turns out Southwest Rapid Rewards has a special right now that gives you extra discounts and double points if you have Rapid Rewards and book through them.
  3. I also got a quote from Priceline that wasn’t anything particularly appealing, but a few days later they sent some juicier prices directly to my e-mail.

So now I have some decent prices to choose from, but I am back to which company do I go with. Sigh.  Because  all those bad reviews were swirling in my head, I tended to want to stick with Hertz.  Known and Trusted!  But they were very high. I did sign up for a new Hertz Gold Plus Membership through a great link from a AAA e-mail I received this week.   AAA – Hertz Gold Plus Membership Bonus Offer   I’ll be all set next time if Hertz has a better offer in play.

I read some more articles on the top car rental companies.  Seems each article had completely different results.  Enterprise, Alamo, National and Hertz were the ones that always seemed to make the cut.

The e-mail from Priceline had several $7/day Deals. But they were with companies I didn’t recognize.  RED FLAG!  So I used my “phone a friend” lifeline and messaged the folks at YMMV asking for their list of places they would avoid.  I value their opinion since they travel way more than I do and rent cars frequently.  As I anticipated, the 2 companies Priceline sent that had the $7 deals were on their AVOID THESE list.  Heavy sigh.

By now, I have worked myself up into a dither over renting a dang car.  Some of the pitfalls I read about in reviews were bait and switch type scams that even the big car rental companies would sometimes pull.  Like saying the price you paid in full when reserving the car wasn’t a “Guaranteed price” and charging you more later.   Some companies even charged you later for insurances or extras that you opted not to take.  These unscrupulous activities are what give me anxiety about pulling the reservation trigger.

ABC Morning News & Better Business Bureau article regarding Payless Car Rentals

After a lot of deliberation, I got it down to these 2 options.

Alamo through Priceline at $105.97

Alamo through Southwest Air for $124.34

Of course the final choice couldn’t be simple.  I had decided to stay with one of the big guys for this trip to feel more comfortable.  I chose Alamo for both options.  They were the best priced of the major players and both offers listed Unlimited miles.   However, neither one lists clearly that the rental price is “Guaranteed” which leaves me somewhat vulnerable to price changes later on.

I went ahead and signed up for a Membership with Alamo, but both of these offers negate any points earned with them.  Still on future trips, I will be ready to go.  I know that I am leaving some $67 offers on the table that are missed savings, but for this particular trip I think the peace of mind of using a more reputable company trumps the dollars saved.

Although the price is nearly $20 cheaper for this rental at Priceline,  if I rent through Southwest I would get double miles for the booking.  That would be 1200 miles for a 3 day rental.  Since I expect to fly Southwest more frequently on these Michigan/Texas adventures, I am leaning toward the Southwest price for the miles.  Yet if I go with Priceline, I am very close to my $100 budget. Hmmmmm.  This is what happens when you over think things, you just can’t choose.

I finally made the reservation through Southwest with Alamo!  I am looking forward to earning those miles and having an uneventful car rental experience.  Fingers Crossed.