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Here’s a quick post on 2 ways to save on one-way rental cars. They’re almost always more expensive (substantially so), so it’s good to have a couple strategies to fall back on.
You can check out a more comprehensive guide to saving on rental cars here. And subscribe to our newsletter for more travel tips like this.
How to Save on One-Way Rental Cars
There are plenty of occasions that warrant a one-way rental car reservation. While they’re not always more expensive, odds are they will be.
1- Use Rental Car Rewards (Points, Free Rental Days, Etc.)
I’m looking to rent a car in Phoenix and take a quick drive through the Grand Canyon and Antelope Canyon. I’ll drop the car off in Las Vegas. This is a good example of one-way prices being higher than a round-trip rental.
A round-trip rental at the Phoenix airport costs ~$95 for one day.
But a one-way rental between Phoenix and Las Vegas costs ~$97 more for the same day!
Fortunately, car rental agencies have loyalty programs, too. You can earn free rentals through special promotions and by earning points.
For example, National gives you a free rental day after completing a certain amount of trips. These come in super handy for expensive one-way trips, like the one above! For this reason, I’ve almost exclusively used free days for one-way rentals in the past.
Just take care to read the fine print of your rental car awards. Some agencies (like Hertz) won’t allow you to redeem for one-way rentals. It’s too good of a deal!
2. End Your One-Way Rental as Soon as Possible
Because one-way rentals are more expensive, you’ll often find that the hiked-up rate applies to every single day of the reservation. In other words, it’s not just a “one-time” fee for dropping the car off at a different location. It’s more like an (arbitrary?) fee that snowballs until your reservation ends.
For this reason, it can be a good idea to return your reservation quickly. You could save HUNDREDS.
Real-life example: I flew to Sarasota for a wedding, but I flew back from Punta Gorda (an hour south) because the flights were UNBELIEVABLY cheap. So I:
- Reserved a 1-day one-way rental from Sarasota to Punta Gorda
- Reserved a 5-day round-trip rental at Punta Gorda
I picked up my car from Sarasota, drove straight to Punta Gorda, and exchanged cars just a couple hours after I’d landed. Here’s an example of how much you’ll save by doing this.
A 5-day one-way trip from Sarasota to Punta Gorda costs $741.
But a 1-day one-way rental from Sarasota to Punta Gorda costs $80.
And a 5-day round-trip rental from Punta Gorda costs $408.
By exchanging cars straightaway, I only paid the exorbitant one-way fee for ONE day instead of five. In the example above, you’ll save $252 with this strategy.
You’ll save on expensive one-way rental car reservations by:
- Using rental car rewards for those particular days
- Exchanging your one-way rental car at your destination as quickly as possible if you plan to have the car more than a couple days
I’d love to hear your tips for saving on rental cars! And you can check out our guide for the best credit cards to use for car rentals here. They’ll save you a bundle in insurance costs alone (like $15+ per day)!
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