Clark Howard: Check rental car rates before taking off

Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

ClarkHowardWhen it comes to leisure travel, re-shopping your rental car or hotel the week before your trip can save big bucks.

With rental cars, the most common pattern is that when somebody books an airline ticket, they also book their rental car. But rental reservations are, as a general rule, fully changeable and you pay no money upfront, just at the time you rent the car. So I routinely shop the rate again about seven days before my trip.

For example, my family and I recently went to Denver for a ski trip. I originally booked the car for a week at $273 a good while ago. But when I re-shopped just before the trip with another company, I found a rate of $99 including junk fees. That was a lot of money back in my pocket!

Anecdotally, I’d say I save money at least 90 percent of the time by using this method. I can’t say it works 100 percent of the time because there are some times when it’s actually more expensive. In that case, I just stay with my original booking.

One more tip on the rental cars. Use your built-in camera on your phone to make a visual document of the car as you walk around looking for dents and nicks. Do this in addition to — not in lieu of — having the damage noted by hand before you take off. It’s just another way to protect yourself if there’s a dispute about damage.

When it comes to hotels, you can usually change or cancel your booking at least up to 72 hours before your scheduled arrival. If you re-shop the week before your travels, you will be stunned how much you save.

If the hotel turns out to be more expensive when you re-shop it, that’s when you change to a booking on Hotwire or Priceline.

-by Clark Howard, Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs

Find more answers to your consumer questions, plus Clark’s new book “Living Large in Lean Times,” at ClarkHoward.com. Listen to his radio show live 1-4 p.m. Monday through Friday on WSB 750 AM and 95.5 FM.

4 comments Add your comment

Ole Guy

December 29th, 2011
5:18 pm

Depending on your destinations, many hotel vans will provide transportation, generally within a specified distance of the hotel. Also, many hotels have arrangements with area cabs whereupon rides, to area destinations, can be made available. Of course, it’s always a good idea to “take care of the cabbie”. If you do a little map-questing between hotel and your desired destinations, and ask a few questions regarding cab availability, a car rental may not even be necessary, or may simply be required for a few days of your planned stay. Inasmuch as most car rentals have weekend specials, the cab approach, during the week days, might prove beneficial.

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jack b mitchell

December 31st, 2011
11:05 am

mr.howard my name is JackB.Mitchell.i am a WW2 veteranand I live in cumming ga.at 5560 Shady Grove RD.my phone # is 770-887-8906.I have envented a toilet flapper that will flush any standered 3.5 or 1.6 gpf toilet with only one gallon of water,also the old 4.5 gal. Kohler toilets.The flapper is patented pat.#AAT1026. I own the manufacturing and distribute this product from cumming. I would like for u to come see the product and see a demonstration.This is the only weighted flapper in the world and its patented.I watch you on T.V. everyday,good show. Respectfully,Jack B MitchellEnter your comments here

jack b mitchell

December 31st, 2011
11:05 am

mr.howard my name is JackB.Mitchell.i am a WW2 veteranand I live in cumming ga.at 5560 Shady Grove RD.my phone # is 770-887-8906.I have envented a toilet flapper that will flush any standered 3.5 or 1.6 gpf toilet with only one gallon of water,also the old 4.5 gal. Kohler toilets.The flapper is patented pat.#AAT1026. I own the manufacturing and distribute this product from cumming. I would like for u to come see the product and see a demonstration.This is the only weighted flapper in the world and its patented.I watch you on T.V. everyday,good show. Respectfully,Jack B Mitchell