If there was anything that could cheer me up after the my bad luck with Thursday’s flights, it was a rental Camero. I normally rent super-tiny economy cars, but I did splurge once on a Mustang in Pensacola, ironically after another last minute change in flight destination. I had fun with it, but swore I’d never pay again for a specialty car since I didn’t actually think it was worth the cash.
Then I showed up in Colorado and was offered a convertible for $24/day.
At that price, I wasn’t about to turn down a convertible. There’s a 90% chance this was all luck, but here’s how I did it.
This post is totally tongue-in-cheek. Know the best way to guarantee a great car rental at a reasonable price? Rent an Audi A4 and get $25 off your first rental with code RPOKORA.
1. Switch your airport arrival at the last minute. This is key: the Colorado Springs airport is too small to offer a fantastic selection of specialty cars, but at Denver, the sky’s the limit.
2. Book an economy-sized rental car with Alamo. I’ve said in the past I have no loyalty when it comes to rental cars, but that’s an outright lie these days. I only choose between Alamo, National, Avis, and Hertz after hearing one too many headaches that were caused from other rental companies. Alamo is my favorite, when prices and locations are similar, for two key reasons: they are super fast to pick up and return your car, and more importantly (at least in this story), they always overbook small cars. Not just by one or two customers, but by dozens.
3. Arrive at 1:45am. Actually, any late night arrival will do. Essentially, you want to show up after everyone else does and they’ve given away all those economy cars. And compact cars. And midsize cars. The less they have to offer you, the better an upsell offer they’ll make.
4. Walk the rental car aisle before going to check in. It will be very obvious what cars are left at the end of the night (at a big airport late at night, it’s usually not very many). You’ll know when they are trying to trick you into an upsell for that nicer car simply because they don’t have any small cars left. Don’t be fooled: if the economy lane is empty, you’ll get the upgrade for free and won’t have to pay a dime.
5. Smile and make pleasant conversation. “Thank you for accomodating me so late at night. I really appreciate that you’re able to help me at 2am” can go a long way. Decline all upsells pleasantly and use your best smile when you tell them the free upgrade to an SUV isn’t going to work for you because you’re not comfortable driving larger cars…unless you’d rather have the SUV than the convertible.
6. Grin from ear to ear when they tell you that you can take the Camero. Yeah…in case you haven’t guessed by now, most of my upgrade was due to luck. I do get free upgrades with Alamo all the time by showing up late at night, though usually I’m bumped up 2-3 classes and not 15. Worst case scenario? You booked the economy and show up and realize they actually still have economy cars available (see step #4). The agents will still be happy to upsell you on the spot to that midsize or full-size, usually at the same rate available online.
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Share your stories!
What’s the best free upgrade you ever received?
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