Best Tricks to Save When Renting a Car in Washington DC

Petr Novk

To rent a car in Washington D. C. can be used at both airports and several rental agencies in the city center. Compared to other places in the USA, car rental prices in the capital are rather higher.

Best Tricks to Save When Renting a Car in Washington DC

  1. The Best Tricks for the Lowest Car Rental Rates in Washington D.C.

    Price for car rental in Washington D. C. consists of several components, far from depending only on the number of days and the chosen car rental company. It is also influenced by other factors.

    🗓️ Best Time to Book a Car

    To get the lowest price, I recommend booking your car approximately one to two months before your scheduled pick-up date.

    Some car rental companies give clients the option to cancel an existing reservation for free up to 24 hours before pick-up, for example. You can take advantage of this benefit by making a reservation for the desired date and simply cancelling it if your travel plans change. Free cancellation is also offered by the RentalCars portal, which also guarantees clients the lowest price for the car.

    ⏳ The Season Has an Impact on the Price

    Demand for cars fluctuates throughout the year, with the highest demand in summer and around public holidays. And of course, higher demand means higher prices.

    A well-known rule of thumb for car rental companies is that the price is calculated for every 24 hours of rental. So the pick-up and return time should be the same. If you rented the car at 10am and didn’t return it until 11am, the extra hour would cost you the same as the next day.

    🗺️ Car Rental Location

    This may not always be true, but based on my comparison, the cheaper car rental companies tend to be at airports. Perhaps this is a result of more competition in that location.

    Plus, by choosing an airport car rental, you’ll save money on Uber or a bus to downtown DC. So in the final analysis, airport rentals may be a better value, even if the prices are higher at first glance.

    🏎️ Class of Rental Car

    Economy class cars are the most affordable, with the disadvantage of relatively small luggage space and lower passenger comfort. For longer journeys, cars in the Intermediate and Full Size categories are approximately 10% more expensive.

    For long road trips, where you spend up to several hours in the car every day, I recommend choosing an SUV. You’ll ensure comfort and plenty of luggage space, and you’ll only pay about 25% more than the smallest cars. Convertibles are in the premium class, in Washington D. C. Not many rental companies offer them. In any case, you have to expect a premium of around 100%.

    V are the approximate prices for car rental in Washington D. C. for 24 hours. Their amount is influenced by the current stock availability at individual branches, a non-binding calculation will give you a better idea. It takes about one minute and a few mouse clicks.

    Economy Large SUV Convertible
    Economy Car Rental Car Rental Medium or Large Size SUV Car Rental Convertible Rental
    from $46 from $46 from $55 from $68
    🔁 Update Price 🔁 Update Price 🔁 Update Price 🔁 Update Price

    🔞 Age of Drivers

    Virtually all car rental companies charge drivers aged between 21 and 25 an extra fee to compensate for the higher risk of damage to the vehicle. The amount varies from company to company, ranging between $16.00 and $37.

    Drivers aged 18 to 21 are either not loaned cars at all or are charged up to double the amount.

    ☂️ Car Insurance Included

    Cars rented in Washington already have compulsory liability and collision insurance included in the final price with zero deductible. Always study the rental agreement carefully and make sure that any windshield and tire damage is covered in sufficient amounts.

    If the amount of cover is insufficient, pay for additional insurance.

    🛰️ Extra Accessories

    Additional services and accessories are offered with the car at an extra cost. For added convenience, you can add an extra driver to your contract, with whom you can take turns driving the car. For a second driver, car rental companies in Washington will ask for $13.00 to $15.00 for each day of rental, with the caveat that with Avis, for example, you won’t pay more than $65 for the entire time.

    The names of the other drivers listed in the contract are important, especially for the insurance. If damage to the car is caused by someone not named in the contract, the insurance is not valid.

    I consider the GPS navigation to be an unnecessary addition, which can very easily be replaced by the Google Maps app on your phone. Similarly, don’t buy a modem with mobile internet, instead you can use Airalo‘s eSIM, which you simply install on your mobile phone.

    When travelling with small children, it is worth buying a booster seat or child seat. Rental companies offer them in several sizes.

  2. Find out the Current Price for Car Rental in Washington

    The basic rule of thumb is: Never enter into a contract with the first rental company in Washington. The likelihood that the very first one you approach will be the cheapest is low. Instead, use, a booking portal that compares prices at more than 200 rental companies simultaneously. What’s more, it guarantees customers the lowest rental price.

    You can make a no-obligation rental price calculation for your specific trip using the form below. This includes all major rental companies in Washington D.C. in the comparison. And the more rental companies, the higher the likelihood of the best price.

  3. Cheap Car Rental Brands in Washington D.C.

    You can pick up your car in the city centre or at both Washington D.C. airports. Washington Dulles is the main airport with the vast majority of international flights, while Washington Ronald Reagan Airport serves domestic flights and connections to Canada.

    ◻️ Washington Dulles Airport Car Rentals

    Car rental companies at Dulles Airport include Alamo, Budget, Avis, Thrifty, Hertz, Sixt, National, Dollar and Enterprise. Most of them have branches open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

    The rental companies are located in a separate building, with free shuttle buses from the terminal. From the baggage claim area, go downstairs and use door 2 or 4 to exit the airport. Shuttles depart from platforms Curb 2C and Curb 2D, you’ll find their signage on the curb.

    ◻️ Car Rentals at Ronald Reagan Airport

    Ronald Reagan National Airport is a smaller airport, but the range of car rental companies at this airport is diverse. Alamo, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, National, Thrifty and Sixt are all represented.

    The car rental counters are located on the first floor of Parking Structure 1. They can be reached on foot in 10-15 minutes, just follow the “Parking 1” signs inside Terminals 1 and 2. Alternatively, you can use the free shuttle buses marked “Rental Car/Parking”. In Terminal 1 you can board them from doors 1 and 2, in Terminal 2 use the platform near doors 3 and 8.

    ◻️ Car Rental in Downtown Washington D. C.

    In downtown Washington D. C., all major car rental brands have a branch, most of them around the train station. Namely National, Avis, Hertz, Budget, Sixt and Dollar Car Rental. Car rental agencies are quite often part of hotels, and Enterprise Rent-A-Car counters are widespread.

    Car rental Rating
    Alamo Rent a Car Alamo Rent a Car 8.7/10
    Avis Car Rental Avis Car Rental 8.2/10
    Budget Car Rental Budget Car Rental 8.1/10
    Dollar Car Rental Dollar Car Rental 8.3/10
    Enterprise Rent-A-Car Enterprise Rent-A-Car 8.6/10
    Hertz Rent a Car Hertz Rent a Car 8.3/10
    National Car Rental National Car Rental 8.6/10
    SIXT Rent A Car SIXT Rent A Car 8.3/10
    Thrifty Car Rental Thrifty Car Rental 8.3/10
  4. Tips for the Best Road Trips Around Washington D.C.

    1️⃣ National Parks Around Washington D.C.

    It is not far to the nearest national park. Shenandoah National Park from Washington D. C. is 71 mi, the drive time is around an hour and a half depending on traffic.

    It is considerably further to the Great Smoky Mountains, perhaps somewhat surprisingly the most visited national park in the USA. You’ll spend at least 8 hours in the car, covering a distance of 512 mi.

    2️⃣ Baltimore

    An hour’s drive and 47 mi northeast of Washington is Baltimore. Maryland’s largest city is best known for the historic 1854 frigate USS Constellation. You can see it on your way to the self-consciously named The National Aquarium, which is just next door.

    3️⃣ Gettysburg

    Gettysburg, Pennsylvania is the site of one of the most important battles of the American Civil War, which took place over three days between July 1 and July 3, 1863. Confederate commander Robert Edward Lee suffered a crushing defeat here and had to call a retreat, causing the cards in the war to begin to turn.

    The Battle of Gettysburg is commemorated at Gettysburg National Military Park with several monuments and museums. You can see for yourself the sites where key engagements took place and learn more about a significant moment in American history.

    4️⃣ Great Falls Park

    Great Falls Park in Virginia will be appreciated by nature and outdoor enthusiasts, located 11.81 mi driving distance from downtown Washington towards the northwest. For quieter activities, picnicking, photography, or bird watching can be recommended in the park. I’m not kidding.

    Of the more physically demanding activities, the three overlooks with waterfalls are worth mentioning.

    5️⃣ Luray Caverns

    Luray Caverns is one of the largest and most popular caves on the East Coast of the USA, the complex is located 94 mi driving distance west of Washington D. C. In normal traffic, the distance can be covered in less than two hours.

    The caves were discovered in 1878 and quickly became a popular tourist attraction. One-hour guided tours are scheduled each day. Seats are limited, so I recommend booking yours early.

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