How to save money with a Costco car rental
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You’re probably familiar with Costco Travel – it can help save you money and get extra perks for vacation packages. But Costco members can also use the travel program to find great rental car deals.
A few of us on the MMS team religiously book a Costco rental car because of the consistently great prices. Plus, reservations are flexible, so you can cancel at any time without paying a fee. I’ll detail how it works.
How does Costco car rental work?
You can book rental cars online or by calling Costco at 866-921-7925. No credit card information is required at the time of the reservation because you pay when you pick up the car.
When you book through Costco, you can link your car rental loyalty number to earn points and skip to the front of the car rental line.
Which rental companies are included?
If you’re booking a rental car, you can use Costco Travel to quickly compare prices and book with these four major rental car companies:
Is it available internationally?
You can rent cars in other countries, but only a handful:
And while they are not technically “international,” it’s worth noting that you can rent cars in Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
The 4 benefits of Costco car rental
Here are the top Costco car rental benefits that make renting through Costco Travel a no-brainer – though you can read our post on the best websites for cheap car rentals to see its competitors.
Easy comparison shopping
Similar to online travel agencies like Kayak, Priceline, Orbitz, etc., Costco displays each rental company side-by-side for a very easy and convenient price comparison.
My favorite thing about searching for rental cars this way is that taxes are included in the displayed price. Often when you navigate to a specific rental car website, the results page will list prices before their exorbitant taxes and fees. You may very well select a car in your price range only to find out that it’s hundreds more at the checkout page.
No need to prepay
As stated above, you don’t need a credit card to reserve your car. That’s because you don’t have to pay until you pick it up. Super handy if you’re like me and change your plans fifteen times before you finally lock-in your travel arrangements. You can make prepaid reservations with a quick call – sometimes prices are lower with prepaid rentals – but the freedom to change and cancel at will is worth a lot to my family’s travel style.
To reserve your car, you will have to log into the Costco website.
Low rental prices
Costco is probably the most competitive outlet for renting cars that I’ve found. They’re almost always the cheapest, though it’s never a guarantee.
When you book through Costco Travel, you also can add your reservation information to AutoSlash (read our review here). It’s a free service that’s an amazing way to save money if prices drop – one of the best and most effective money-saving tools in the travel world.
A free additional driver
A big perk of booking through Costco Travel is you get a free additional driver at certain locations. This benefit can save you ~$13 per day, depending on the rental car company. Do note that some companies, like Hertz, will waive the additional driver fee if you’ve got various memberships like AAA.
Your additional driver does not have to be a Costco member.
How much can you save with Costco car rental
Great question! Let’s take a look. To compare rental car prices, I researched three sample trips using:
- Chase Travel Portal
- Costco Travel
Keep in mind, Hotwire does not always tell you the name of the car rental agency and the exact car model until you pay for the rental. The benefit is it partners with several more rental car companies. Note that Hotwire reservations are not as flexible as Costco Travel, so while the company might have the cheapest price, you might not be able to cancel or modify your reservation.
Here’s what I found for three sample trips.
7-Day rental in Maui
I checked a week-long rental in Maui in July 2021. The cheapest option I found through Costco Travel was a full size car for $332 for the week with Budget. The second cheapest was through Hotwire, also a full size car for $378 through Enterprise. The Chase Travel Portal’s lowest price was a midsize car for $415.84 through Budget.
In this instance, Costco is the winner. But it’s always best to compare prices because the best deal depends on your dates of travel and the type of car you’re looking to book.
One-way rental from San Francisco to Los Angeles
I checked a four-day one-way rental from San Francisco to Los Angeles in June 2021. This is a popular route for road-trippers looking to drive along the beautiful Pacific Coast Highway.
In this instance, Costco has the cheapest price at $492 for a compact car through Alamo. Hotwire charged $527 for the same car through National. Chase had an identical price of $527 for the same car through Enterprise.
Costco Travel is the winner again.
Weekend rental in Montreal
I checked a Friday to Sunday rental in Montreal in July 2021.
The majority of the rentals for this example were cheaper through Costco Travel. Costco offered a compact car for $98.04 through Avis, Hotwire charged $156 for the same car through an unknown rental agency, and Chase charged $173.02 for a compact car.
In every example, Costco was significantly cheaper. Just remember that your results may vary based on the vehicle type you’re interested in. You may find a convertible or premium car cheaper through Hotwire. Then again, Costco is probably still the cheapest option.
Which credit cards can help you save even bigger on car rentals?
The best credit cards to use at Costco are not the best ones to use when renting a car. That’s because there are several travel credit cards that come with primary rental car insurance.
When you use one of the best credit cards for a car rental and decline the rental company’s collision damage waiver (often called CDW or LDW), you could save $15+ per day, depending on what the rental company charges for its in-house coverage!
Primary rental insurance covers theft or damage to your vehicle but not damage to other vehicles and property or injuries. For liability coverage, you’ll have to rely on your own personal auto insurance or purchase a supplemental policy from the rental car company.
Here are our favorite cards that offer primary rental car insurance:
- Chase Sapphire Preferred® Card
- Chase Sapphire Reserve®
There is no activation required when renting with these cards. Just decline the CDW and rent with your card, and you’re covered. You’ll even earn bonus points since these cards give you extra rewards when spending on travel purchases!
It’s also worth noting that you can get primary rental car insurance with the best American Express cards, such as The Platinum Card® from American Express, but you’ll have to register your card and pay a small fee before each rental. If you’re renting even for a couple of of days, it’ll still be cheaper than buying insurance from the rental agency. Read about Amex Platinum travel insurance for all the details.
FAQ on Costco car rental
Is renting a car from Costco cheaper?
It depends on everything – your dates, location, and desired rental car category. But based on my experimenting, Costco is almost always the cheapest option. And remember, you’ll get a free additional driver through Costco Travel.
How do you cancel a Costco car rental?
Canceling a car with Costco Travel is as simple as canceling with any other online travel agency. You can navigate to your trips in your account and cancel there, or you can call Costco and have someone cancel for you. You’ll have to read your specific agreement concerning fees, but unless you’ve booked a prepaid rental, canceling should be free.
How old do you have to be to rent with Costco?
You must be over the age of 25 to book a rental car through Costco Travel. For anyone under 25, check out my post about how to get the lowest rental car prices.
Costco members can find great rental car deals with Alamo, Avis, Budget, and Enterprise through Costco Travel. Besides cheap prices, booking through Costco Travel means you get a free additional driver at certain locations, which will save you money.
I compared rental car prices on Costco Travel, Hotwire, and the Chase Travel Portal. The results showed Costco travel prices were either the cheapest or very competitive with the other sites. Remember that Costco Travel reservations are flexible, so you can cancel at any time without paying a fee.
Don’t forget to add your rental car reservation details to AutoSlash to see if you can save even more money.
Do you book rental cars through Costco Travel? I’d love to hear more about your experience in the comments below.
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