Unlike the airlines, car rental agencies won't charge you a fee if you cancel. You can use this to your advantage, because just like airlines, rates will fluctuate without rhyme or reason. Just browse several different agency sites, choose the best deal, and lock it in. Then simply continue checking the web periodically. If you locate a better deal, cancel your previous reservation immediately and lock in the cheaper one. Remember, this will cost you nothing, as they don't impose a penalty.

Some other things to keep in mind when renting:
– If you plan to drive a long distance, it is best to rent from a national outfit (Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National or Thrifty). Even though a better rate may be secured through a local agency, if you break down or get into an accident they usually lack the support services of the major agencies.

– Ask about discounts that frequent-flier programs, credit card programs, and AAA club membership may bring you. Make sure you understand the total rental cost, including all taxes, surcharges, and fees, so there won't be any "sticker shock" at the counter.

– If your first drive will be from the airport to a hotel for the night, take a hotel shuttle van to the hotel instead. The next morning, catch the shuttle back to the airport and call the car rental agency for their shuttle. Doing this could save you as much as a day’s rental price.

– In many major cities, you can also pick up the car at the downtown location. If this option is available, getting your car downtown will often let you avoid airport location surcharges.

-Decline the CDW insurance if you pay using a credit card that provides insurance coverage, or if your personnel automobile policy covers it. Just verify that either of these methods will cover you.

Steve Smith & Christine Johnson

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