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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- 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.
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!