You buy your flight, book your hotel, and think you’re done…until the rental car, food, fees, etc. all come to bite you in the butt. This post is about one of the typically non-points areas of a trip – rental cars.
Full disclosure, rental cars CAN be booked with points through the Chase Travel Portal (and likely elsewhere), but most people will be using their precious points for flights and hotels, preferring to pay cash for a rental car. With that in mind, I am going to show you how to 1) Definitively waive a young driver fee, and 2) Be sure you’re getting the cheapest price possible.
Waiving the Young Driver Fee
I think the young driver fee is one of the most absurd things out there. Paying an extra $15-25 a day for being young and spry is an absolute waste, and no one should have to do it on their vacation. Have you seen my grandma drive? Heck, there should be an OLD driver fee. Needless to say, I hate this thing, and I’m sure most of you do as well. So, I do everything I can to get around it.
Option 1: USAA
USAA is traditionally designed for families of military members – but anyone can sign up for a basic membership, and a basic membership can get you rental car deals (among other things). As a benefit to its members, USAA always waives young driver fees in addition to giving you rates that typically are better than Hotwire/Expedia/etc.
To start, head to USAA and sign up for an account. You will be required to give your SSN, but USAA is a banking site and has all the top security of any other online application. Your credit will NOT be touched/pulled as part of the process.
Once you are in USAA, you can search for rental cars by going to “Products” on the top bar, then “Shopping and Discounts” and “Travel Deals.” The rest is pretty self-explanatory, so I won’t bore you with more – but you should be able to see the all-in cost for your rental right there. I like to keep this tab open as I compare these prices to other places, which I’ll detail below.
Option 2: AAA or other “groups” you may belong to
Some people out there might belong to AAA or other clubs through their insurance. Some of these groups, including AAA, will waive young driver fees for their members as well. In my experience, the costs seem to be in line with what USAA delivers, but occasionally they can get some awesome savings in random areas (see bottom of this post for how well AAA did for our Hawaii trip this summer!). This might be the most convenient option for someone who already belongs here and doesn’t want to sign up for USAA or other sites in this process.
Are there other options you know of to waive young driver fees? Other places I haven’t included in this post? Let me know, I would love to add it to give readers more options!
How Do I Know I Have the Cheapest Price?
If you are under 25, your cheapest price is likely going to be through USAA or AAA, where you are getting a discounted rate and also the waived fee. Even if you are 25+, I still recommend starting with any clubs you may belong to, just because they usually have the biggest clout/benefits with rental car companies. After searching there, sometimes it can be worth it to spend 10 minutes checking other places just to make sure you got the cheapest rate. The comparison process can be endless, but I think 3 sites is probably sufficient (and the point where the savings start being worth less than the time you spent searching). Here are my three go-to sites:
Check #1: Autoslash.com
I like Autoslash a lot because, if you book through them, they automatically rebook you when a cheaper price becomes available for your dates. This can save a ton of time and money, making you more confident in the price you pay. That gnawing feeling of “could I have found a better deal elsewhere?” bugs me to no end, so that’s why I love Autoslash. I have found that for drivers 25+ years old, this is usually where I get the cheapest rate – but it’s worth checking a few more places just to be sure. They do allow you to enter your “membership clubs” like Costco, USAA, etc. but I have found cheaper rates for those memberships directly through their respective websites.
To get a booking, you have to enter in your destination/time, and then they send you a “quote” within 15-30 minutes. You then book through the link and options in the email.
Check #2: Costco Travel
Costco is great for anything from men’s socks to guacamole and (apparently) rental cars too. Who knows how they do it. Navigate to Costco Travel, enter in your date/destination, and then whether or not you are over 25. For under-25 rates, you have to call in…that annoys me, so I don’t do it. However, the time calling in may be worth it if you can’t find good under-25 rates through USAA, AAA, etc. Regardless, they can sometimes have great rates and customer service is always top notch for any problems you might have. Cancellations, no-shows, etc. – they’ll take care of it all, so that’s a definite non-price benefit.
Check #3: Orbitz/Expedia/etc.
Last but not least, it’s important to check these “deal” sites just to make sure you aren’t missing anything. I’ve never had these be cheaper than the membership clubs, but it can’t hurt! Worst case scenario, you get the satisfaction of smirking at the computer and knowing that you just beat the site that says, “We can get you the cheapest rentals, GUARANTEED!!!” Ha. You showed them.
So, Who is Cheapest?
It honestly depends on the place, length, time of year, etc. For our trip to Maui this summer, we found the following prices for a 7-day, basic economy rental in Maui:
- USAA: $264 (no young driver fees)
- AAA: $188 (no young driver fees, but prepaid so no free cancellation)
- AutoSlash: $233 (plus $15/day young driver fee)
- Costco: $242 (plus $15/day young driver fee)
- Orbitz: $275 (plus $20/day young driver fee)
$188 for a week in Maui, with no young driver fee?! I’ll take it, AAA.
Comment below to let us know where you’re going and which method turns out to be the cheapest for you!