If you travel as much as I do, you probably get a lot of rental cars. My main focus when picking a company is price. Saving even $50 per rental adds up when you rent dozens of times a year, and I usually save that much or more by shopping around rather than booking directly with one company.
Booking directly through a rental car company has its benefits, but it usually costs quite a bit more—sometimes double or even triple versus booking through a travel site. The main benefit to direct booking for me is time saved by skipping lines through rental car company loyalty programs. In the past, I’ve weighed the time savings versus the extra cost, and the time saved usually wasn’t worth the extra money.
That was before I started using Costco Travel. Costco Travel is easily accessible through the Costco mobile app and offers discounts on three car companies: Budget, Enterprise, and Alamo. You can add your account details for any rental car loyalty programs you’re a member of right in the app. The company I usually choose is Budget because I like their Fastbreak program.
Another perk to using Costco is that all three companies allow you to add a second driver for free if you book through Costco. This is usually only offered at an additional charge.
Here is a breakdown of the three programs which can be added at booking:
Alamo Insider: This seems to be more of a typical rewards card. I don’t think it allows you to cut the line, but Alamo does offer a feature called “skip the counter” (available at some locations only; must check in online). I have never used it.
Enterprise Plus: You can sign up for this program for free. Some locations offer a Plus line that is usually shorter than the regular line. I have also never used this.
Budget Fastbreak: With Fastbreak, your car comes ready with paperwork on the dash and keys inside. At some locations, the shuttle driver will know which car is yours and drop you off at it directly. One location I went to had a Fastbreak display at the counter, and I had to locate my paperwork there. The spot number was on the paperwork’s jacket.
I usually go with Budget if the price is similar to the other options and use my Fastbreak membership to get in and out quickly. Sometimes Budget is much more expensive, so I choose one of the other two.
I do always check the rate versus other travel sites and if another site is significantly cheaper I go with that and deal with the line. Otherwise, I book most of my rentals at Budget through Costco.
The other great thing is only the person making the reservation has to be a Costco member. I have booked for friends on my account for the same price.