We devote thousands of hours of research to help you get Big Travel with Small Money. You support us by signing-up for credit cards through partner links which earn us a commission. Here’s our full Advertising Policy.
I’ve written a series on ways to spend less on car rentals and about using AutoSlash to monitor your rental reservations for price drops.
It can be more difficult to save money on 1-way car rentals. That’s when you rent a car at 1 location, but return it to another.
Note: You should only use the codes if you’re qualified!
I’ll explain how some folks are using these codes to reduce the price of a 1-way rental.
What’s the Deal?
With 1-way rentals, car rental companies have to factor in the cost of (eventually) getting the vehicle back to where it belongs. So you often have to pay hundreds of dollars more just to return your car to another location!
Many car rental companies add a drop-off fee or mileage charge to 1-way rentals. And some build the extra cost into the base rate of the rental.
For example, the base rate for a 4-day economy rental in Austin (drop-off and pick-up in same location) with National Car Rental in May is ~$210. With taxes and fees, you’d pay ~$304.
But renting the exact same vehicle on the same dates 1-way between Austin and Las Vegas costs more than double! The base rate is ~$594, and you’ll pay ~$794 including taxes and fees! Ouch!
However, some organizations, like universities, large companies, or travel discount clubs offer their members discount codes with different rental companies. You can find lists of corporate codes on MapHappy and on FlyerTalk.
Note: You should only use a code if you’re eligible! That said, check with organizations you belong to because they might have a code you’re unaware of.
I tested 1 of the corporate codes listed on those sites for the same rental from Austin to Las Vegas. On the National Car Rental website, I entered the code in the “Contract ID” box.
The base price of the rental dropped to ~$161! With tax, the total comes to ~$241! You’d save ~70%!
And, oddly, the rental now includes 9 additional drivers for free!
You could save a LOT of money using corporate codes. But there’s a catch!
These Codes Aren’t Meant for Everyone
Most of the codes published online are only meant for use by members of certain organizations or company employees. For example, the code I used in the example above is meant for Ohio State University faculty, staff, students, and retirees.
That said, rental car companies don’t often ask for proof of eligibility or identification. And if you’re a member of some car rental loyalty programs, you don’t even have to speak to anyone at the counter to pick up your rental.
This method is risky because if you’re caught, they could deny your rental! And you’d be stuck without a rental car reservation. If the company finds out, they may also charge you the regular price.
But there’s another reason to be very careful if you choose to do this.
Watch for Included Insurance
Some of these codes include car rental insurance. Sounds like a great deal, right?
You actually want to AVOID codes that include insurance. That’s because if you get into an accident or have to file a claim, you’ll likely be exposed for using a corporate code you did NOT qualify for.
And that could lead to huge out-of-pocket expenses and other headaches! I wouldn’t want to find out what legal action the car rental company would take in this case.
If you choose to go this route, it’s better to use your own personal insurance or primary rental insurance from credit cards like the Chase Sapphire Preferred.
It’s up to you to decide whether you’re willing to accept the risks involved using corporate codes you don’t qualify for. I would NOT take the risk (even to save several hundred dollars), but many folks use this technique with great success.
As always, do what you’re comfortable with.
This method is risky because you might be asked to prove that you’re eligible to use the code. And if you can’t, you could lose your rental!
And you should avoid codes that include rental insurance, because if you have an accident, you could be in a lot of trouble.
I’ve never used 1 of these codes and I don’t recommend it. But you should decide for yourself what you’re comfortable with.