Checking for the Best Car Rental Rate for a Canadian Vacation

Recently, I’ve been helping a friend try to book a family vacation in Alberta. The hotels were booked first because there is very little available in the Canadian Rockies on short notice. Then the flights were booked a few months ago. Now it’s time to book a rental car. The prices are all over the place, though, so we started experimenting to see what we could find.

Renting a Car From an Airport Location May Cost a Lot More

We’d heard that if you rent a car directly from an airport location after you land you may be paying much more than someone who rents from a city location. For a one or two day rental that may not matter because taking a cab to a hotel may eat up any price difference. But for a multi-week rental, the difference may be large.

For example

Avis.ca offers a two week rental of a Full Size car from YYC at $1310.47.

The same rental picked up from their 115 9th Ave SE location, but dropped off at YYC is $762.51.

You could also save another $71.40 by pre-paying. That’s risky though if your plans change or there is some problem with them not having the car you paid for available at the time you need it.

So the premium for picking up your car at the airport location is over $500!

Renting a Car Through Costco Travel Can Save Hundreds of Dollars

If you are a Costco member, you can book cars online using the Costco Travel part of the website.

If you are not yet a member, you can still check the rates. If it’s going to save you a lot of money, it may be worth joining Costco to get their rate.

  1. Go to Costco.ca
  2. In the blue horizontal links list near the top of the page, hover over Travel and then select Rental Cars.
  3. Enter your Pick-up and Drop-off Locations.
  4. Select your pickup and drop-off dates and times.
  5. Click the “I am least 25 years of age” check box.
  6. Click the Search button.

(If you are under 25 in Canada and trying to rent a car you will likely have to pay a significantly higher rate. Not all companies will rent to younger drivers at all.)

Sticking with my Avis example, the Costco rate for pickup at the YYC airport for a Full Size car is $892.

That’s much better, more than $400 better, than the $1310.47 quoted on the Avis website.

The Costco rate for pickup at the 115 9th Ave SE location, is $653.

You can see that it may be worth joining Costco for $55 a year to get these rates.

Renting a Car Through CAA May Save Some Money

CAA members also get some discounts on car rentals. They are also eligible for discounts on some items like children’s car seats and GPS units. The discounts vary depending on various factors.

A Full Size rental from AVIS from YYC would cost $1051.

Apparently, though, I can’t rent from AVIS through CAA at an alternate location in Calgary.

I can rent a Full Size from Thrifty in downtown Calgary, though, for $541.27 That’s lower than the above two examples, but it’s also not from the same company.

The CAA car savings are significant if you are picking up the car downtown but are not that great if you want the car at the airport.

Renting a Car with a Corporate Discount Code May Save Money and Improve Convenience

Fortunately for my friend, she works for a large corporation which has negotiated a company discount with two car rental companies.

Using her corporate discount rate, she could…

Rent a Full Size car from AVIS at YYC for $496.28.

Wow.

There are some perq’s to working for a major corp!

Out of curiosity, I also checked what it would cost to pick the car up at the downtown Calgary location.

It would be $762.51.

It costs more to pickup from downtown than from the airport!

We went ahead and booked her car using her corporate rate for the airport. I hope if we get to travel next year we can get a good rate too, but I suspect we’ll be using Costco.


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