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How to get a cheap rental car — Clark Howard style!


Want to get a one-way rental car for dirt cheap?

The calendar can be your friend twice a year!

RELATED: Here’s how your passport could be useless, even if it’s not expired

Do you know this secret of the car rental industry?

Have you ever heard of a re-positioning cruise in the cruise ship industry?

That’s where you get a super-cheap price on a cruise simply because the cruise line has to move the ship back from where it already is to a hot vacation market ahead of a peak travel time.

Not a lot of people know this, but it’s possible to get the equivalent of this in the car rental industry.

Twice a year, car rental companies have to move cars around to meet demand. They will give you a great deal on a one-way rental if you can help them!

Right now, we’re about to enter one of those periods.

What you need to know about re-positioning rental car deals

As peak season comes to an end in Florida, car rental companies need to get their vehicles out of the state and move them up North along the East Coast.

This is the time of year you’ll find rentals for around $15 per day — if you can move their vehicles out of the Sunshine State. Generally, you can rent up to two weeks on one of these deals.

If you want to be really frugal, you can buy the cheapest one-way airfare into Florida from wherever you live. Then you pick your rental up at the airport, and you keep it for up to 14 days. Use it during your vacation and then drive it back up North!

Even at $15/day, these offers save the car rental companies a fortune because they get out of having to hire a transfer driver or dedicating an employee to re-position the vehicle.

So you get a great deal and you save the rental company money at the same time!

In the fall, it works in reverse in the fall. You can get a deal in the North and drive it down to Florida. You’ll get to use it while you’re down there and then you can get a cheap one-way airline ticket back home.

This is the smart way to have a cheaper Florida vacation.

Avis deals

Avis availability is April 1 through May 31. Use AWD code R003500 at checkout to score these deals.

Here are the per day rates:

  • Economy, Compact, Midsize, Standard, Full Size $14.95/day (groups A-E)
  • Intermediate SUV $19.95/day (group F)
  • Standard SUV $19.95/day (group W)
  • Standard Elite SUV $19.95/day
  • Convertible $19.95/day (group K)
  • Minivan $24.95/day (group V)
  • Passenger Van $41.95/day (group P)

This offer excludes pick-up from Pensacola and Jacksonville.

Participating drop off cities include: Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Houston, Indianapolis, Minneapolis, San Antonio, St. Louis, Boston, Buffalo, Hartford, New York, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Richmond, Washington/Baltimore, Atlanta, Charleston, Charlotte, Knoxville, Memphis, Nashville, New Orleans, Raleigh Durham, Albuquerque, Northern California, Portland, Seattle, Southern California, Las Vegas.

Rates are valid for a max of 14-consecutive-days. Taxes, concession recovery fees, vehicle license recovery fee, customer facility charges may apply and are extra.

Optional products such as LDW ($29.99/day or less) — which Clark says you should never get because you may already have coverage through a credit card or auto insurance policy —  and refueling are extra.

Book here.

Alamo deals

Offer valid for reservations picked up between March 26 and May 31 from the following participating Florida locations: Ft. Myers, Sarasota, Naples and Punta Gorda.

Offer valid for reservations picked up between April 1 and May 31 at the following participating Florida locations: Tampa, Clearwater, Ft. Lauderdale, Miami, West Palm, Key West and Boca Raton.

Here are the per day rates:

  • $14.95 applies to Economy, Compact, Intermediate, Standard and Full-Size vehicles
  • $19.95 on Intermediate and Standard SUVs
  • $24.95 for Minivans

Book here.

Clark’s recent cheap car rental experience

Competing car rental agencies will likely roll out rates similar to those you saw above in the weeks ahead. We’ll keep this list updated, so check back often!

But if you want to be ahead of the curve, money expert Clark Howard advises calling around to a few agencies that are located at airports several weeks before a peak travel time to ask if they’re participating in these kinds of deals and where they need their cars moved.

Because of the cheap price, there will be a lot of restrictions on these deals — plus additional taxes and fees. But if you can make it work, this is a real steal.

Last year, Clark snagged one of these deals and would up paying $26.01 for a two-day rental of a Toyota RAV 4 with unlimited mileage.

He was originally quoted $7.99 a day for the vehicle. But then when you add in the junk fees, it soon becomes $26.01.

And get this…he could have had that rate for two weeks if he needed it!

Clark says RentalCars.com is a good website you can use to get an initial sense about whether or not this method of landing a cheap ride could work for you.

Clark Howard pays $7.14 a day for a rental car

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