A Little Negotiation…Five Ways to Pay Less for Your Rental Car

Public Bus in Ireland

Specifically NOT what I wanted to take

The Ireland leg of my trip stressed me out a little when I thought about transportation; the country is large, the towns are spread out and the real gems lie outside of the major cities. I knew from the beginning of my RTW trip that I wanted to rent a car in Ireland…the only problem? I was traveling solo and the online quotes were far out of my budget.

My first solution crashed and burned (though thankfully not literally). Manual cars are MUCH cheaper to rent than automatics so, while I was staying with my friend David in Edinburgh for Fringe, I asked him to teach me how to drive a manual.

This was a horrible idea.

I didn’t do too awfully, but pretty close. To my credit, I was not only learning a new skill on the opposite side of the road, but I was in a friend’s car and, quite frankly, it freaked him out.

We quickly abandoned the plan after a questionably successful first lesson.

Another check online indicated that the rental cars were still well over $1400 US for three weeks. Not going to happen.

Instead I decided to wait until I landed in Dublin airport and I would just inquire at the desk. I figured if I had my credit card in hand someone was bound to give me a decent deal, right?

A quick check at the Budget counter indicated the price was still out of my range. With a sigh of resignation I thanked the man and began to walk away.

As I turned away I heard a slow and steady “weeeeell.”

I looked at him, he beckoned me back with a “Perhaps we can do better.”

My first thought? Wait…so this is negotiable?!  If five months in Asia taught me anything it was negotiating skills!!

I slid back up to the desk and these are the five tricks I used to drop the price to a more than half original quote with a great deal on full coverage insurance too!

Five Ways to Pay Less for Your Rental Car

  1. Travel Off-Season: Rental cars are a hot item during the peak season and sometimes the companies are able to completely sell out their lots. Off-peak is a whole different ball game. The companies are eager to rent out as many cars as possible because there is just not a lot of business coming in.


    I was traveling barely off-season (September), but it was just enough to make the rental car companies eager to rent. The huge price flexibility in my car was largely because I was traveling in off -season and because I was renting for three whole weeks as opposed to just a few days.

  2. Negotiate: If you’re standing there at the rental car company and they are that close to renting you a car, they’re going to negotiate. A lot. Don’t openly take the first price they offer, in fact, don’t even take the second!

    I didn’t know that the price was flexible when I walked up but they clued me into that immediately by their language once I showed them I was prepared to walk away.

  3. Stay Polite: This should be a given. If you berate the employees they will likely keep the price high just to spite you. Instead, try the exceedingly polite tactic – sugar often works…add in a bit of humor and they’re even more agreeable.

    Each  time they initially came back with a new price I sincerely thanked them for their efforts, and commented “I so appreciate all you have done to make this more affordable for me, unfortunately it is still out of my budget; thank you so much though.”

  4. State Your Bottom-Line: This one could be argued as a weakness in the negotiation, I found it a strength though. Decline the offers until they lower the price enough to give you a better idea of how much it should really cost. Then name your price as a third lower than what you guess you’ll end up paying.

    Once I declined their initial offers the car rental guy was staying steady around the $850 mark. I figured that I could get him closer to $700 so I gave him a bit of my background, joked with him about a backpacker’s budget, and told him my transportation budget wouldn’t allow me to go higher than US $600 on the car.He stayed steady on his offer of more than $800 so I moved on to the next tactic.

  5. Walk Away: I love the walk-away. Truly. This is particularly handy when you are with another person because you can combine the walk-away with the “good-cop/bad-cop” routine (ie. the person walking away says something along the lines of “let’s go, this just isn’t a good deal). Again, thank the person for working with you, state that it is out of your budget and, quite literally, pick up your bags and walk away. If they let you walk away, move on to a new car rental company, you know their bottom-line and can come back. More than likely though they will call you back.

    Once the rental car gentleman stuck to his offer of more than $800 I picked up my bags, thanked him, and blatantly told him I was going to see if the other companies would give me a better deal. Still eager to actually close the deal and not willing to call my bluff my good man called me back over yet again, picked up the handy calculator and we got down to the end of our negotiations.

After my last walk away we bandied back and forth a few more times until I slapped my credit card on the table and indicated I was ready to rent if he would just agree to a nice round figure: $700 US.

My Rental Car

Minutes later my petite red Nissan Micra was waiting for me in the parking lot and I had a lovely automatic rental car for an agreed $720 US – less than half the original quote! I gave myself a pat on the back, turned on the tunes, and braced myself for driving on the wrong side of the road!

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48 Responses to A Little Negotiation…Five Ways to Pay Less for Your Rental Car

  1. AliceWonderland42 May 26, 2010 at 3:32 am #

    Well, another way of finding to hire cheap cars, it's checking the online comparison sites. It really worked out for me. This is how i found car rental Raleigh, the only company i will ever hire a car from. It's always a good thing to try to check the internet… at least it's more comfortable than negotiating the price.

  2. Conrad April 29, 2010 at 8:59 am #

    Interesting. Guess I never really thought about haggling with your rental car provider. Thanks!

  3. cheap car insurance April 5, 2010 at 11:30 pm #

    All the five points said by you to pay less for our rental car were very useful and thanks for posting this informative post.

  4. ShannonOD January 7, 2010 at 7:48 am #

    Thanks Steph! (for the RT too on Twitter ;-) It definitely helps that
    you're husband's already pretty good at it – just let him know that if it's
    off-season he can likely get a better price in person than online! As for
    the car insurance – you pay by day – so the price of the car we negotiated
    was just one part of the price, then they told me it was $10 a day for full
    comprehensive on the car – I whittled them down to $7. Because I was driving
    on the other side of the road (and Irish roads are notoriously bad) I opted
    to bit the bullet and pay for comprehensive :-)

  5. Stephanie January 7, 2010 at 4:20 am #

    Excellent tips! Thank you so much for sharing them. I have to admit that I'm a little bit intimidated by “negotiation,” but – thankfully – my husband is a pro at it so I usually leave that part of our trip-planning up to him.

    P.S. How exactly does the whole car insurance on rental cars things work? That always confuses me…

    • ShannonOD January 7, 2010 at 2:48 pm #

      Thanks Steph! (for the RT too on Twitter ;-) It definitely helps that
      you're husband's already pretty good at it – just let him know that if it's
      off-season he can likely get a better price in person than online! As for
      the car insurance – you pay by day – so the price of the car we negotiated
      was just one part of the price, then they told me it was $10 a day for full
      comprehensive on the car – I whittled them down to $7. Because I was driving
      on the other side of the road (and Irish roads are notoriously bad) I opted
      to bit the bullet and pay for comprehensive :-)

  6. Stephanie January 6, 2010 at 9:20 pm #

    Excellent tips! Thank you so much for sharing them. I have to admit that I'm a little bit intimidated by “negotiation,” but – thankfully – my husband is a pro at it so I usually leave that part of our trip-planning up to him.

    P.S. How exactly does the whole car insurance on rental cars things work? That always confuses me…

  7. ouadamantite January 4, 2010 at 7:14 am #

    Inchirieri de masini Bucuresti, Inchirieri Auto Baneasa si Otopeni. Parcul nostru auto detine cele mai bune solutii la preturi imbatabile. Daca doriti sa inchiriati o masina de la aeroportul Baneasa sau otopeni va sugeram sa folositi rent a car baneasa.

  8. ShannonOD December 23, 2009 at 9:05 am #

    You definitely should!! I was really surprised too…I couldn't believe it
    when the guy let me bait him like that ;-)

  9. Chris December 23, 2009 at 9:58 am #

    Very interesting post!
    In my RTW in Asia I also learned to negotiate but I did not know that was also possible in Europe!I Will definitely apply your strategies.

    • ShannonOD December 23, 2009 at 4:05 pm #

      You definitely should!! I was really surprised too…I couldn't believe it
      when the guy let me bait him like that ;-)

  10. Chris December 23, 2009 at 2:58 am #

    Very interesting post!
    In my RTW in Asia I also learned to negotiate but I did not know that was also possible in Europe!I Will definitely apply your strategies.

  11. ShannonOD November 10, 2009 at 4:40 pm #

    Thanks, it still amazes me that they let me do it! You'll have to pop back in and let me know how it goes if you ever end up in this situation :-)

  12. John Bardos - JetSetCitizen November 10, 2009 at 2:00 pm #

    Great article. I love to negotiate but I never expected to get a deal on a rental car. I will definitely try the next time I need a car.

    • ShannonOD November 10, 2009 at 11:40 pm #

      Thanks, it still amazes me that they let me do it! You'll have to pop back in and let me know how it goes if you ever end up in this situation :-)

  13. jetsetcitizen November 10, 2009 at 7:00 am #

    Great article. I love to negotiate but I never expected to get a deal on a rental car. I will definitely try the next time I need a car.

  14. ShannonOD November 9, 2009 at 8:59 pm #

    Lol! I'd like to think that I did pick up some skills! I can't wait to see how you guys fare – though I expect well after Morroco! Seems like they were pretty bargain-y there too!

  15. ShannonOD November 9, 2009 at 9:03 am #

    You are most welcome my dear :-)

  16. lisandravazquez3 November 8, 2009 at 10:59 pm #

    This is great… I'm totally going to use this if I ever need to rent a car. Good info! :)

    • ShannonOD November 9, 2009 at 4:03 pm #

      You are most welcome my dear :-)

  17. lisandravazquez3 November 8, 2009 at 3:59 pm #

    This is great… I'm totally going to use this if I ever need to rent a car. Good info! :)

  18. Forks and Jets November 8, 2009 at 1:09 pm #

    Ha, we are in Asia right now… We are the grasshopper learning the kung-fu of negotiation from the masters. Looks like you are a master now!

    • ShannonOD November 10, 2009 at 3:59 am #

      Lol! I'd like to think that I did pick up some skills! I can't wait to see how you guys fare – though I expect well after Morroco! Seems like they were pretty bargain-y there too!

  19. ShannonOD November 5, 2009 at 5:40 am #

    Surely worth a try though! You'll have to pop back in an let me know how it goes :-)

  20. ShannonOD November 5, 2009 at 5:39 am #

    Right! I just would never have guessed that you could bargain like that in the West – was surely glad to find out differently :-)

  21. Anil November 5, 2009 at 12:13 am #

    It's funny how flexible a price gets when you start to walk away :)

    • ShannonOD November 5, 2009 at 12:39 pm #

      Right! I just would never have guessed that you could bargain like that in the West – was surely glad to find out differently :-)

  22. Anil November 4, 2009 at 5:13 pm #

    It's funny how flexible a price gets when you start to walk away :)

    • Forks and Jets November 8, 2009 at 6:09 am #

      Ha, we are in Asia right now… We are the grasshopper learning the kung-fu of negotiation from the masters. Looks like you are a master now!

  23. Peter Loh November 2, 2009 at 1:04 pm #

    Another great post, Shannon!

    I hope I can swing this in Mauritius in January, but I somehow doubt it as it'll be high season… :(

    • ShannonOD November 5, 2009 at 12:40 pm #

      Surely worth a try though! You'll have to pop back in an let me know how it goes :-)

  24. ShannonOD November 1, 2009 at 7:21 pm #

    I really feel like it leaves me out though of foreign travel that I can't drive stick. In Australia, when we rented 4x4s to drive around Frasier island, I couldn't give it a try because it was manual! It's on my to-learn list while I'm home! DId you rent the manual in Czech or upgrade to an automatic?

  25. Dave and Deb November 1, 2009 at 4:41 pm #

    This is great advice. I never would have thought that I could negotiate in Ireland, especially at a rental car company. It goes to show anything can be negotiated and what a great deal you got!

    • ShannonOD November 2, 2009 at 2:19 am #

      I was pretty floored myself. Who would've thought?! :-)

  26. Dave and Deb November 1, 2009 at 9:41 am #

    This is great advice. I never would have thought that I could negotiate in Ireland, especially at a rental car company. It goes to show anything can be negotiated and what a great deal you got!

  27. Mary R November 1, 2009 at 2:29 am #

    Way to go! Good for you to dig in your heels and get what you want… funny how I had a similar manual transmission experience myself abroad in the Czech Republic (I guess for our generation, it's normal to be intimidated by a manual)…

    • ShannonOD November 2, 2009 at 2:21 am #

      I really feel like it leaves me out though of foreign travel that I can't drive stick. In Australia, when we rented 4x4s to drive around Frasier island, I couldn't give it a try because it was manual! It's on my to-learn list while I'm home! DId you rent the manual in Czech or upgrade to an automatic?

  28. Mary R October 31, 2009 at 7:29 pm #

    Way to go! Good for you to dig in your heels and get what you want… funny how I had a similar manual transmission experience myself abroad in the Czech Republic (I guess for our generation, it's normal to be intimidated by a manual)…

  29. ShannonOD October 31, 2009 at 7:08 am #

    That's what I figured would be the case – hope you were still able to get out and enjoy the small towns some :-)

  30. ShannonOD October 31, 2009 at 6:57 am #

    I was so amazed that you could negotiate like that! And yeah, a big fail for me trying to re-learn driving, not my best idea ;-)

  31. Amy @ The Q Family October 29, 2009 at 1:30 pm #

    Great job and great advice! Surely you have learned a lot from your Asian negotiation skill. :)

    • ShannonRTW October 30, 2009 at 3:36 am #

      Thanks Amy! I loved that aspect of traveling in Asia, it was a lot of fun most of the time (and a pain in the butt the rest of the time!) :-)

  32. Kirsten October 29, 2009 at 5:11 am #

    You are so right about needing a car to travel around Ireland! Bus Eirann just doesn’t cut it.

  33. Rachel Cotterill October 29, 2009 at 4:52 am #

    Who knew you could do that in Ireland?! Definitely a better plan than re-learning to drive ;)

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