Driving for me is like yard work. I like to do it. I just don’t like to HAVE to do it.
From a business owner perspective, it’s often cheaper for me to fly and rent a car – even within the state of Florida – than it is to drive what my wife not-so-affectionately calls “my little toy car” at the IRS-allowable 55.5 cents a mile.
Rental cars are the one piece of the travel puzzle to which travelers seemingly would have little incentive to be brand loyal. After all, a 2012 Chevy Cruze is the same whether you rent from Avis or Thrifty, right? But here’s why I think that’s not necessarily true – the benefits of loyalty cards.
Rental car loyalty cards are free (and you know I love “free.”) Sure, they offer occasional discounts or free upgrades that are nice, but they’re infrequent enough that it doesn’t justify paying a few more dollars per rental. However, loyalty cards can be incredible time-savers. For example, on a recent trip to Reno, Nevada, the line at Budget Rent-A-Car was at least 30 deep. I stepped right up to the Fastbreak counter, told the clerk my name, the clerk handed me the keys and rental agreement (everything was already filled out online) and told me to enjoy his free upgrade to a Mustang (score!). I was on my way with still 30 people in line. When returning, it’s as easy as filling out a quick form and dropping it and the keys into a drop box and heading straight to your plane without waiting for someone to check your car in.
As always, I start my search on Kayak.Com to see what the rates are, but if it’s close, I’m going with Budget, my preferred loyalty partner. Why Budget? In addition to its Fastbreak program being super easy, Budget also allows for a second driver on the rental for no additional charge. Most companies make you pay for that – and dearly.
If you feel lucky (well, are ya, punk?) then give Fox a try. The company is big on the West Coast and expanding elsewhere and is almost always the cheapest rental – by a lot. It’s grab bag on what you’ll get. I’ve gotten jalopies with so much damage that the pre-inspection form is completely covered with scribbles, but I’ve also got pristine cars with less than 1,000 miles. You just never know.
I’ve haven’t traveled via bus since a high school trip, but it’s something I’m starting to look into after the emergence of a number of companies, like RedCoach in Florida, looking to class up an experience dominated by Greyhound. These luxury bus lines offer first-class seating, wi-fi and movies – and all for almost unbelievable fares. The usual catch, of course, is multiple stops, but sometimes you can find a direct route for just a few dollars.
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