In my many years of traveling, I’ve been fairly brand loyal to certain airlines and hotel chains and have derived a lot of benefits from that loyalty. But I’ve never seen much value in being loyal to car rental companies. Most of them had only paltry (if any) loyalty programs until fairly recently, and the products that they offer are fairly interchangeable. Instead, I always booked with whatever car company had the cheapest price for my given trip. In the process of finding the cheapest rental, I’ve used Priceline and (the old version of) Autoslash to great success, and have even found excellent car rental discounts though companies like Aloha Rents in Hawaii.
The past year or two, I’ve increasingly found that this strategy doesn’t really make sense for me now that I’m usually traveling with kids. And I don’t think it necessarily makes sense for many families who travel out there either.
To my great surprise, I now find that I’m making almost all of my rentals exclusively with Hertz, a company I rarely used at all over the past decade because it is usually so much more expensive than competitors. But Hertz is actually a great choice for families, particularly for those of you out there who have AAA memberships. Here’s why I made my choice — and why the same choice may be helpful to your family too.
1) Hertz Quality
I’ve had some sketchy rental car experiences in the past. Hertz, however, is the gold standard when it comes to rental cars. You can expect a clean and well-maintained vehicle and a location that is convenient to the airport rather than something off-site. This provides some good peace of mind when traveling with precious cargo and often saves you time in your travels.
2) Significant Discounts on AAA’s Website
I rarely booked Hertz in the past because it was often double or triple the price of competitors. However, if you book your rental on AAA’s website, they offer significant discounts in addition to many coupon codes to bring the price of your rental down even further. I almost always beat the rack rates for “cheaper” car rental companies like Enterprise or Budget just by checking this site.
3) Free Car Seat Rental
AAA members get one free car seat with their Hertz rental — a benefit that can really pay off for traveling families. I like to travel light, so I often rent car seats at my destination. At $8-12 per day, a free car seat from Hertz can really save you a bundle over some competitors, depending on the length of your trip. When you get a free car seat, you can often swallow a higher Hertz base rate, but still come out ahead over other companies.
4) Free Hertz Gold Plus Rewards Memberships
You used to have to pay a fee to join what was then called the Hertz #1 Club Gold program, which allows you to skip the counter and pickup your car more quickly. The program has a new name and is free to anyone who signs up. This is a great time-saver when traveling with antsy kids, plus you can accrue points to redeem on future rentals. MommyPoints has a great post on why Hertz points can be really valuable for traveling families.
5) No Charge for Spouses to Drive
It is great to score a cheap rental on Priceline or at some of the budget lesser-name car rental agencies, but you will often find that only one person can drive the car unless you pay a significant daily fee. Hertz always allows members of its Gold Plus Rewards program to have a spouse drive for free. This is a great value if you are traveling as a family and want to share driving duties with your spouse.
6) Current Promotion
Hertz is currently running a triple points promotion from February 1-April 15, 2014 (registration required) that can help you accrue points more quickly. I have two trips requiring car rentals within the promo period, so it goes without saying that Hertz is getting all of my business this spring!