How To Get the Lowest Car Rental Rates

Reserving a rental car for your Europe trip is a different animal than booking air tickets and requires a Vandifferent strategy. The main difference is that most car rental bookings can be canceled or changed without cost. The idea, of course, is to get the car category you want at the lowest price. Since you can cancel and get a 100% refund, and there is no fee to change your rental (at least you can with Gemut.com), there's no reason not to book as early as possible and lock-in the current price. If, in the weeks and months ahead, rental rates increase, you're sitting pretty. On the other hand, if rates go down and better deals become available, you simply cancel your old booking and make a new one.

Of course, if you book online with one of the major travel brokers such as Orbitz.com or Travelocity.com, the strategy doesn't work; with these services, you usually pay for the rental in Europe, and your price is guaranteed in euros, not dollars. In such cases, you really don't know the precise cost until your card is charged in euros at the time of rental and converted to dollars at the prevailing exchange rate. (Of course, if you pay with most major credit cards, you can add 3 percent to the total because it's an overseas transaction—and beware of the rental company in Europe that offers to charge you in U.S. dollars; that will add another 3 to 5 percent to the total bill. See our story on Dynamic Currency Conversion.)

Our advice, therefore, is to immediately book a car guaranteed in U.S. dollars as soon as possible. If your plans or rates change, you can adjust accordingly at no cost. The only downside of this strategy is that you must pay in advance, but with Gemut.com it's 100 percent refundable, and you can cancel right up to the time of rental.

Why the Big Guys Are Better

Steer clear of companies such as Payless, Thrifty, Advantage, and Budget. They have only a handful of rental outlets, almost entirely at major airports. If you're deep in the countryside and have a breakdown, there is no easy way to swap cars. Better to stick with our major suppliers such as Avis, Hertz, and Europcar, companies with a vast network of rental stations and a larger selections of vehicles.

Historically, the best car rental deals are offered between January 1 and March 31.

Book your rental car in Europe with Gemütlichkeit's travel department and get the best rates, personalized, knowledgeable service and our unique at-the-rental-counter safety net that ensures our customers get what they are promised. We book with all the major companies in more than 35 countries. If you have questions about rentals in Europe, or simply prefer to deal in-person, phone us at 800-521-6722.