How I Saved Hundreds of Dollars on One Car Rental

S eeking a car to rent during my time in Canada to explore Banff National Park and Jasper National Park in Alberta; and Yoho National Park and Mount Robson Provincial Park in British Columbia, I narrowed my search down to Hertz and viewed the rate offered by the facility of Calgary International Airport, which was at least $330.00 — but I was able to secure a rate of only $76.62 in Canadian dollars, which turned out to be $56.72 in United States currency.

How I Saved Hundreds of Dollars on One Car Rental

The conclusion of the flight operated by United Airlines from Chicago to Calgary — which was scheduled to be at 10:26 in the evening — meant that if I stayed at a hotel property near the airport, I really did not need a vehicle to rent that evening. I would instead rent it early the next morning.

Options of renting a car at Calgary International Airport seemed expensive to me — until I found that I could rent a car from Hertz for only $76.60 using general rental car search engines; but I could not find it at the official Internet web site of Hertz…

…until I realized that the rate was offered at a location off of the airport itself at Horizon Auto Centre.

Although the Hilton Garden Inn Calgary Airport was one of the least expensive lodging options near the airport at the time when I was booking my reservation, the Hampton Inn by Hilton Calgary Airport North was less expensive by only a few Canadian dollars — but it is located north of the airport; and Horizon Auto Centre is located south of the airport.

I like to walk and I walk a lot; so the 34 minutes walking 2.7 kilometers between the Hilton Garden Inn Calgary Airport and Horizon Auto Centre was no big deal to me. With that conclusion, I booked both the lodging and rental car reservations.

I awoke the next morning and left the room in which I was staying at 7:30 in the morning in order to arrive at Horizon Auto Centre slightly past 8:00 — just after that facility opened. The weather was perfect for a walk: not too hot and not too cold, with no breeze. The only complaint I have about the walk is that there are few sidewalks along the way; but I was able to walk down side streets which had little vehicle traffic. I never felt unsafe, as the buildings in the area was comprised mostly of businesses and offices.

Upon arrival at Horizon Auto Centre, I opened the door and approached the small counter at which there were no other customers, where I was cheerfully greeted by a tall man behind the counter. He announced to me that the economy class car which I was to rent was already upgraded to a different car class: a 2017 Chevrolet Cruze with only 3,141 kilometers clocked on it. The car was so new that the sunroof was still sealed in plastic inside of the cabin.

We chatted for a while. Although the neighborhood did not seem bad — rather, it was an industrial area of sorts — he told a story of how he left the back door open for only five minutes whereby someone who was high on drugs snuck in and stole empty aluminum cans to sell, amongst other topics.

I double-checked everything from the car to the contract: $76.60 in Canadian dollars for a fully-loaded car with unlimited kilometers for the week — including all taxes and fees.

I drove the car back to the hotel, packed my belongings, and checked out shortly after for my adventures in the Canadian Rocky Mountains.

One week and 2,614 kilometers later, I returned the car with no problems to a different representative behind the counter, with whom I also engaged in conversation — including asking me where I was staying for the night, which I told him. We checked the car together and I signed the receipt. I could not have asked for a better experience or service — until I was ready to walk that 34 minutes back to the hotel.

“Would you like for me to drive you?”

“What?” I replied, stunned.

“I will drive you back to your hotel.”

“That is okay — I can walk.”

“No — come on. It is not a problem.”

He put up a closed sign that he will return in a few minutes on the door. “One of the other employees should be here any minute,” he explained. “We will use the car you rented.”

I let him know that I overfilled the tank with fuel; and that it should still be full when he returned. He was appreciative of that.

Seven minutes later, I was at the hotel.

What About Rental Car Rates Today?

I just checked rental car rates from Wednesday, June 21, 2017 through Wednesday, June 28, 2017. Here are my findings at the time this article was written.

Calgary International Airport

Click on the image for an enlarged view. Source: Hertz.

An economy class car will cost $812.07 for the week if it is rented from the Hertz rental car facility at Calgary International Airport. Although the car could be rented for $585.01 if the rental was paid in full in advance, I do not count that because…

Horizon Auto Centre Calgary

Click on the image for an enlarged view. Source: Hertz.

…the same vehicle class rented from Horizon Auto Centre costs $378.78 without having to pay for the rental in full in advance.

That is a savings of $433.29 — or approximately $327.25 in United States currency — without any discounts or coupon codes applied to the reservation.

Summary

This advice does not qualify for the Stupid Tip of the Day series of articles because it is not an obvious tip; and results can vary by location and may not be duplicated reliably, as there may not always be a viable alternative available. Regardless, searching for nearby locations of rental car facilities near the airport — but not officially considered near the airport — can literally save you hundreds of dollars on your car rental.

To procure that rate of $76.60, I applied the American Automobile Association counter discount program — or CDP — code, as I am a member. I also took advantage of a discount of ten percent for the week as offered by Hertz from the part of the official Internet web site which offers discounts and coupons — and I earned Gold Plus Rewards frequent renter loyalty program points in the process.

Horizon Auto Centre — which is located at 3318 32nd Street Northeast in Calgary, Alberta T1Y 6B9 — receives my highest recommendation. The facility is closed all day on Sunday; but it is otherwise open every day at 8:00 in the morning and closed at 5:30 in the afternoon Monday through Friday and at 4:00 on Saturday.

To summarize, what I did was:

  • Choose a flight which arrives late — they are often less expensive than during prime hours of travel
  • Reserve a room at a hotel property near the airport which offers free shuttle service
  • Rent a car the next day from a facility near the airport but not on the airport premises or just off the airport premises
  • Enjoy the rental vehicle
  • Reserve a room at a hotel property near the airport which offers free shuttle service
  • Return the car that morning — or the afternoon before, if that is more convenient — in enough time to check out of the hotel and catch a flight

Photograph ©2017 by Brian Cohen.


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5 thoughts on “How I Saved Hundreds of Dollars on One Car Rental”

  1. Charles R says:

    Good tips. I’m renting in the LA area next month and talk about expensive. For 2.5 days the cheapest is $220 out of LAX – I need to rent right away at the airport. After monkeying around with options, I’m renting for one day, turning it in the same day at a different SoCal airport location where I’m staying and then doing a new rental for the final 2 days. Savings for this split option: $65, leaving a still expensive $154 rental cost for an economy car. A weekly rental is almost always cheaper, but I won’t be there that long.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Thank you for imparting your experience, Charles R

      …and although I did not specifically include it in this article, you are correct: a weekly rental is almost always less expensive.

      I have been frustrated with some trips in the past where I rented a car just one day shy of a week and compared the rates to an actual week. The difference can be significant…

  2. Jennifer says:

    And, though it has been years, I’m still bitter about the time I rented for a week and my plans changed and I absolutely had to leave a day earlier, and when I returned the car they charged me the daily rate x 6 days….a huge price difference over the weekly rate. I pleaded, begged, cajoled, threatened…they smiled and pocketed the money and now had a car to rent earlier than planned. I would understand if one was in the habit of gaming the rates, but this was a legitimate flight change emergency. Sheesh.

    1. Brian Cohen says:

      Do you still use that car rental agency, Jennifer?

      Had you communicated with the corporate office and detailed what had happened to give them a chance — especially if it was an emergency?

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