If you are heading to Orlando, you may have been considering having a rental car and how to get the best deal. Here are all my tips for making the most of your car rental.
Do you need a car
The first thing you need to decide is whether you actually need a rental car for your holiday. If you are staying in a villa then you will definitely need a car or pay out for costly taxi journeys daily. Depending on the hotel you stay at, you might not need a car. The Disney hotels all have complimentary transport to and from the Disney theme parks and the airport. If you are staying on International Drive then there are buses that will take you to and from the popular attractions.
I love the flexibility of having a car – quick trips to a supermarket, using drive through or just doing whatever you want, whenever you want.
You can pick up your car from the airport, or you can pick it up from the Disney Car Centre.
You can estimate (and book) your taxi charges with Mears.
“Free” car hire
There's no such thing as free car hire. Some package holidays come with “free” car rental, where you have to pay the insurance yourself. This can sometimes be more expensive than renting a car outright. Be sure to find out how much the necessary* insurances are before you decide whether to use your “free” car.
* see below for the necessary insurances.
Car rental companies will try to up sell your package, and one of the easiest ways to do this is to offer you extra insurance once you are at the car rental desk. You are in a vulnerable position, having endured a long flight and not knowing the state laws. You will need to take “Collision Damage Waiver” insurance as the bare basic, and anything beyond this is an up sell.
Sat Nav & other extras
Car rental companies will charge a fortune for the extras they offer. Sometimes it is even cheaper to buy the items in America and leave them behind. You can order a TomTom satnav to pick up in Walmart (or have it delivered to your hotel/villa) for just $86 – roughly £55. It costs around £6 a day to add a satnav to your rental. Other extras include a child's seat for £5 a day, so do some research to see whether you can bring one with you on the plane to save that little bit extra.
Young driver surcharge
If you are under 25, you will need to pay a young driver surcharge, or book a rental package that has it included. Alternatively, you can use Car On The Drive, who I mention below.
If you are planning on making the drive from the airport to your hotel/villa, you will need some change for the tolls. These aren't expensive, between $0.50-$2. Car hire companies will try to get you to upgrade to a SunPass –
Car on the Drive (mentioned below) will include a free SunPass with your rental. This will allow you to go through the fast lanes at tolls, and the tolls you use will then be deducted from your credit card after the rental.
If you are visiting the theme parks and you don't have an annual pass or you are not staying in one of their own hotels, expect to pay around $17 per day to park.
Where to find great deals
If you are staying in a villa and have a young driver, I cannot recommend Car On The Drive enough. The idea behind COTD is fantastic. You hire a car for them, and they will have it delivered to your accommodation. Then someone from COTD will come and meet you at the airport and take you to your villa or hotel, where your rental car will be waiting for you. At the end of your holiday you will be picked up and dropped off at the airport right outside the check in. What's even better is that COTD do not charge a young driver surcharge, so although their rental is more expensive than using a hire company at the airport, it really makes your holiday! The last thing you want to do after traveling is trying to navigate unfamiliar roads, an unfamiliar car not to mention driving on the other side of the road! Their prices are not advertised on their website, but please don't let this put you off getting a quote.
Car rental comparison websites are a great place to look for low prices. My favourite is RentalCars. You can book your car for a deposit of just £25, they have a lowest price guarantee, there's no credit card fees and you can amend or cancel your booking online. I have never been able to beat their prices on a like-for-like rental, and their customer service is amazing.
Do you have any money saving tips for car hire?