Real Deals on Rental Cars
While searching for a rental car for an upcoming trip to New England, I was disappointed to see daily rates of more than $40 for every car rental agency at the Manchester, NH, airport. I realize some towns are just more expensive car rental-wise, and renting at the airport is often a lot pricier than renting downtown. If I had more wiggle room in my travel plans, I could find a better deal somewhere else, I'm sure.
But what if I could find a bargain for the in-airport cars? That's what the Internet is for, right?
I remembered stumbling across a Web site recently that had discount codes for rental cars -- you know, the jumble of numbers and letters that give you, say, 10% off a weekly rental when you reserve online. Maybe all I needed was a code.
I googled "rental car coupon" and came up with a handful of sites purporting to provide codes for discount rentals. I tried a few to see if I could actually get a better deal than I could by going through Hotwire, Priceline, Orbitz or any of the other deal-finding Web sites that had been letting me down by offering only outrageous prices ($93 a day? Are you kidding me?).
The first one I tried sounded so sweet: Rental Car Momma. Momma has links to the big companies: Avis, Alamo, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, National and Thrifty; click on one company's logo, and Momma takes you to a page where you can choose your discount and print out any bonus coupons available. When you're ready to make a reservation, click on the link and Momma fills in the discount code for you. (Isn't she thoughtful?)
Another feature I like on this site is its rental car locator: Momma lists the companies that serve cities all over the world. Click on Europe, select Lisbon under "Portugal Car Hires," and you'll see that Alamo, Avis, Budget and National all have branches there. When you click on the reservations link, Momma fills out the city and the discount code for you, again. I had to experiment.
For my imaginary trip to Lisbon next month, I'd get an adorable Peugeot for three days for only 63 Euros, a significant discount from 114 Euros. That'll help defray my imaginary airline ticket, right?
I was having so much fun trying out Rental Car Momma's features that I almost forgot about my Manchester pickle. Mother, may I get a deal on a rental for my real-life trip?
She was able to scramble up a daily rate of $42.97 for Enterprise... which was what they were showing on their site. It sure beats other car companies' prices, but it didn't seem like an insider's deal.
Next up, I tried out RentalCodes.com, which has links to Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz and National. Click on a company's name and you get a page showing the different types of discounts available, their expiration dates and corresponding codes. Some are for specific kinds of renters (Marines, Beta Gamma Sigma members, American Express cardholders), some have expired, but there are a few available to the general public.
RentalCodes.com indicates where it got the discount code, and I realized that most of the discounts come from the car companies' Web sites to begin with. While there are certainly discounts available, there didn't seem to be any real bargain-basement types of sale prices. Have I spent too much time browsing sales racks at stores, thinking there's always room for a discount?
A Web site I've used to find discounts for non-travel-related goods (sadly, a girl can't live on travel alone!) is Retail Me Not, a clearinghouse of codes and discounts submitted by real consumers. Some of the discounts are official company specials (marked "featured discount"), but the ones submitted by ordinary Joes come with success rate percentages. It's like Trip Advisor for shopping: Rate your coupon, make a comment, submit new coupons.
You can browse the comments, too, to get an idea of when the codes worked and when they didn't. Some people get pretty emotional about their discounts; in a comment about a 10% discount on Enterprise rentals, "anonymous" writes, "This has always been my favorite code..."
Makes me want to have a favorite code, too! So I plugged it in.
Bingo. $38.69 a day.
The only issue? That 10% off is marked "Credit Union Discount." What, exactly, does that mean? Is that a discount for credit union employees, or account holders? I'm not either of those. Technically, would using that discount code be....stealing?
After all that searching for a deal, in the end I went with the plain old, out-in-the-open flat rate at Enterprise. I'd feel funny about using a coupon that wasn't intended for me, sullying my karma just to save $20. Squeamish? Maybe.
What would you have done? Should I have used that coupon?
But back to the bigger picture: Do you know of other online sites with discounts and coupons for rental cars or other travel necessities that I should check out in the future? Please share!
By Christina Talcott |
August 13, 2008; 7:22 AM ET
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