The thing about a one-way car rental is, is when you’ve got to do them, you’ve got to really do them. Here’s at least how to do it cheaply.
In my opinion, one-way rentals are like the red-headed children of the car rental industry since they’re usually more expensive than normal rentals. Coupons rarely help get the cost down, but corporate codes provide the most reliable savings.
The downside of using these corporate codes we culled from FlyerTalk is that most car rental agencies are more likely charge a drop-off fee and/or charge for mileage — this was particularly true of the Avis codes I tried.
Normal retail customers will often get a higher daily rate, but on the flip side will include unlimited miles. Basically, the final cost will depend on how far you plan to drive, so watch the fine print.
Though Hertz is a personal favorite 99.9% of the time, I don’t play favorites with one-way rentals. Generally, after running a basic search, I’ll start applying discount codes and coupons into the cheapest rates I find. It’s a good modus operandi to operate on, and National seems to consistently give one of the best rates once a corporate code is applied.
(For one-way rentals, National came in second most-expensive in a search, but this held up oddly enough. This is also backed up on FlyerTalk.)
In particular, the Big 10 university code (redacted) seems to yield the best rates, often taking a quote down hundreds of dollars. OSU states that its specifically for "[Big 10] faculty and staff, including immediate family (spouse and children residing in the same household), retirees and their spouses, on university business and personal rentals."
The only downsides are that the staff can check your eligibility and the fact that it includes rental insurance (I’ll explain that in a second).
I ran a quote on National for one day in January from a local branch in Anaheim, California to another local branch in San Francisco. On no code, I was looking at $195 to rent the car. After using the Big 10 code, the base rate dropped down to $30.32 with no drop-off charge and unlimited mileage.
Another Big 10 code (redacted) intended for personal rentals and no insurance also left me with $30.32.
In fact, codes that include no insurance are preferred, so opt for your normal car insurance or for a credit card that has rental coverage.
(The real reason why you don’t want insurance included is because if you get into an accident while you’re on the road, and you’re not eligible to use it, you could find yourself in a super, sticky mess.)
I decided to rent the car because I actually did need it and sprung for the leisure code. Though I’m not actually affiliated with the Big 10, I didn’t get questioned at the counter — chances are, who’s ever at the counter won’t care.
In the end, you’ll have to abide by your personal judgment on whether using these codes if you’re not eligible for them is ethical.
My final total was $32.75 (not including gas) for what ended up being a 407-mile (655 km) drive between Orange County and San Francisco.
The full list of one-way discount coupons are below; be sure to check things like included mileage and drop charges. And for sure, let us know if a code isn’t working!
|Citicorp (Leisure Travel)
|Car and Driver Magazine
|Car and Truck Magazine
|Travel and Leisure Golf Magazine