Northwest Travel Planning
Transportation - Car Rental

Finding and Booking

Comparison shop on your chosen route/ itinerary. This is well worth doing as you can find a huge price variation among competitors. Since penalties for canceling a car reservation usually only apply at the last minute, a good strategy is to make a booking on a good rate, and continue to watch for a better deal.

Looking around on various web sites is the only way to know if you are getting a good rate. You will go to the same web sites, where eventually you will make your reservation, so bookmark your favorite web sites as you go. Try the following types of web sites.

  • Rental agency home pages:
    Look for member discounts, special deals, and discounts for booking online as offered on the agencies' web sites.
    Alamo Rent a Car
    Budget Rent a Car
    Dollar Rent a Car
    National Car Rental
  • Web-based ticket sales robots, on reseller and consolidator's pages.
    Such as Travelocity.
    Travelocity gathers rates from over 50 rental agencies. You can customize your requirements on its search facility and see what factors contribute to or save on costs. You can also narrow your search to airport locations.

Rates might be affected by the following:

  • The season.
  • The location of pick-up and drop-off.
  • Car type and optional extras like ski racks.
  • One-way or two-way travel.
  • More than one driver.
  • Rates might be higher for those under 25 years of age.
  • Special rates, for example corporate rates, members of American Automobile Association (AAA) or American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

Make sure you compare the total cost and not just the daily rate, by watching out for extra fees which might increase the price by 30% or more:

  • Insurance, such as Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) will be offered as an option. Check whether your own auto insurance will cover you when you rent a car, and if it is valid in all destination countries. Check also whether your credit card provides primary or secondary (other insurance must be used up before it kicks in) coverage.
  • Taxes. There are often special taxes, such as "state car rental tax" aimed at the travel industry, in addition to the standard sales taxes (which companies are usually obliged to disclose).
  • The cost of gas if you don't return the vehicle with a full tank.
  • Late return. You might be charged for the whole day.
  • Collision damage and liability insurance. Check to see whether these would already be covered through your regular auto insurance or credit card.
  • Airport fees. Picking up and dropping off the vehicle at an airport could add 9% to 12%.
  • Late Cancellation. Usually there are no fees, but check for exceptions.

To find the extra costs at, click "verify rate", then click the small print for "taxes and fees", and do the addition yourself.


You must be 21 to rent a car. Some companies will require you to be older.


If you do have contact with a "live person" in any part of the process, it is always a good idea to ask:
- if they have any special deals, or if the price will be cheaper if you change your travel dates
- how new are the cars, and how well they are maintained
- how do you get roadside assistance if something goes wrong with the car

For least hassles pay with a credit card.

Companies will shift their fleets from winter to summer destinations around the USA. There are great deals to be had, to under $10 per day, by "helping" them in this shift. For example during March and April pick up a vehicle from a southern state and drop it off in a northern state.

E-mail newsletters by which airlines alert customers about their special deals, can also include deals on car rentals.

Driving within the US and Canada
Click here.

Driving across the border
Click here.

*See also each state or province for more on transportation.

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