(In a similar vein to this question on hotel room upgrades and this question on flight upgrades...)

Most regular car rentals agencies have various categories of car - Budget/Economy, Compact, Midsize, Fullsize, etc. The names vary from agency to agency and around the world, but the principles are similar.

Generally the "better" the category, the better the car - larger, more luxury, etc.

What tips or tricks can you apply to get a better car or better benefits than you originally booked? This might result in a "better" car, or perhaps something else such as a free satnav included, free miles included, or some other perk that improves the overall value for money equation.

Some of the tips I've noticed are:

  • Being a regular renter with that agency, e.g. status with Hertz Gold Plus Rewards.
  • Turning up to a smaller (often in-town) rental location when they only have a few cars left, which can bag you a free upgrade (although this can also backfire and you can get a dismal car!).
  • To be honest I think that only having a high "status" with the company is a reliable thing, other options is just either luck or poor management of the rental company.
    – Grzenio
    Commented May 10, 2013 at 13:18
  • What do you mean by "poor management"? Commented May 10, 2013 at 16:48
  • I mean that someone in the company could have made a mistake and gave the car you ordered to someone else.
    – Grzenio
    Commented May 15, 2013 at 19:20

3 Answers 3


The most usual case when the rental companies will upgrade your car to the next better class is when there are no cars of your class available, so if you rent from an off airport office you're more likely to get a better car then when you rent from a larger office like the ones at major airports.

  • Actually, I think "more usual" is having status with them. But yes, I take your point, good tip. Commented May 8, 2013 at 13:59

I once booked a compact (i.e. cheapest available) car at Avis in Germany via Internet, and included a satnav option. Because they didn't have (or didn't want to bother with) a portable satnav, I got a Ford S-Max with a builtin one.

  • Given the cost of renting a satnav, are you sure the cost of renting the compact plus satnav wasn't more than the higher grade car? Commented Jun 8, 2014 at 18:58
  • @DJClayworth: In this case definitely not, I think the satnav was just 6 EUR/day. But yeah, of course that has to be factored in: some rental companies try to lure you in with cheap basic rates and then gouge you on each and every extra. Commented Jun 8, 2014 at 20:27

In these days of internet bookings, it's easy to forget that most of the big companies have teams of people paid to take sales calls. Most of these people have quite a lot of discretion about giving you discounts, freebies, upgrades and other goodies. So, after you've found the car you want, you should call their sales line, and get a quote. Then ask them if they can help you out, if there's any way they can give you a discount etc. Remember, it's in the salesperson's interest to make that sale, as they have to hit their sales targets. They're not allowed offer discounts, until you ask them for one. So, a little bit of negotiation can win you some goodies. Make sure you get on the preferred customers programmes too.

The other trick was already mentioned - book the cheapest car, and then arrive late in the day at the lot. 4 times out of 5, you'll get a bigger car. One time I even got an automatic (rare here in Europe). Of course, you should bear in mind that bigger cars use more fuel, so you might end up spending more money in the end.

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