Car Rental Crash Course

New flat rate offer from Thrifty and Wal-Mart might ease renting woes

Reginald A. Wilkinson, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction in Columbus, Ohio, Wilkinson flies often on business and prefers to rent cars rather than take shuttles to his destinations. In addition, Wilkinson regularly takes vacations with his wife, LaRon, and daughter Brittany. “I rent cars about once a month, and I pay for them myself about half of the time,” he says.

As a result, Wilkinson is always looking for the best car rental deal. “Normally I search over the Internet using the site www.usairways.com, which compares the rates of all the car companies,” he says. “I’ve gotten daily rates as cheap as $19 in small markets, but larger markets are more challenging.”

A new offer from Walmart.com and Thrifty Car Rental could offer better rates. The two companies have entered into a partnership in which Walmart.com serves as the exclusive provider of Thrifty’s nationwide flat rates of $29.95 per day for compact-sized vehicles and $39.95 per day for intermediate-sized cars, anytime, anywhere. Customers will be offered a lower rate if one is available at the time of booking. Wilkinson says he likes the idea. “If I’m not happy with the rate I get somewhere else, I might look into it.” Use the info below to determine if this deal could help you save money.

Save On Holiday Travel. Often, car rental companies raise their prices during busy travel seasons, and if you’re headed to a big city it can really cost you. For example, if you flew into Chicago’s O’Hare Airport on Christmas Eve, rented an intermediate-sized car from the Thrifty located in the airport and returned it on the 26th, you’d pay $94.99 per day. Walmart.com could save you around $55.

  • Know where you’re going. If you want to rent a car to drive from New York to Los Angeles, Walmart.com may not accommodate you. “A lot of places limit your mileage to nearby states and you can’t drive out of a certain region,” says Chris Payne, spokesperson for Thrifty Car Rental headquartered in Tulsa, Oklahoma. So check with the location in which you plan to rent to see if long-distance travel is allowed.
  • Know how long you plan to stay. If you want to rent a car for a week, opting for a daily rate might not be your best bet. Most rental companies will offer a flat rate for weeklong travel that averages out to be lower than most daily rates. For instance, in Orlando, Florida, renting a mid-sized car from the Alamo located in Orlando International Airport for seven days, the rate would be $199.25 — about $28.46 per day. Their daily rate is normally $39.15.
  • Determine what kind of car you need. Thrifty flat rates only apply to compact- and intermediate-sized vehicles. So if you’re planning to pack the whole family into a minivan or an SUV for the weekend, the Walmart.com deal won’t help.
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Log on to sites such as www.expe dia.com and www.usairways.com if you want to

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