You can kick-start an amazing vacation by upgrading your car rental to a fun vehicle you don’t usually drive, or even to the car of your dreams. Read on to find out how you can earn points and miles while renting a luxury car, and learn some tips about picking insurance and getting rental car perks.
On our travels, we always enjoy driving cars that we might consider purchasing down the road, or simply having a different experience from what we drive at home.
We loved driving Silvercar by Audi’s Q7 up the Pacific Coast Highway this summer from Santa Barbara to San Francisco. Later, we drove a super fun open-top Jeep Wrangler through Ft. Myers and Sanibel Island, Florida. Both totally upgraded our vacations!
See related: Which credit cards are best for renting a car?
Opting for a luxury rental
According to Kyle Sabie, assistant vice president of Enterprise Exotic Car Collection, a division of Enterprise that lets travelers rent and drive high-end cars like Aston Martins, BMWs, Jaguars and Lamborghinis, demand for luxury car rentals is on the rise.
Sabie says customers rent exotic cars for a wide variety of occasions, “from those who want to add a special touch to a big event or special occasion to travelers who want to enjoy their vacation in style with a premium driving experience, business executives entertaining clients to those who need to replace their personal vehicle while it is being repaired.”
Customers of Enterprise Exotic also experience “white-glove treatment” from staff, which makes the driving experience all the more fun.
Silvercar by Audi has designed its service to remove the hassles of car rentals for travelers, in addition to giving them a top-quality car to drive.
“We deliver the service via a sleek mobile app, so travelers don’t have to deal with lines, paperwork and car classes that leave them walking down aisles to be met with the dreaded minivan for a golf guys’ weekend or an ‘upgrade’ to a convertible that doesn’t fit your suitcase,” says Courtney White, head of communications for Silvercar by Audi.
The company strives to treat each customer like a VIP while offering competitive rates and avoiding nickeling and diming you with hidden fees. It also offers add-ons like premium car seats when traveling with children and pet carriers for those bringing Fido along on vacation.
Patti Geroulis of the Travel Sisters blog noted other handy features of a luxury car rental, including parking cameras and other safety features, so you feel more confident, especially when you’re driving in an unfamiliar locale.
Earning miles and points for car rentals
What’s better than driving a luxury car rental? Earning miles and points that you can use for future free travel while doing it. By choosing the right travel credit card, you can score extra points to boost to your favorite hotel, airline or flexible travel loyalty program account.
The Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card, for example, earns 7 points per dollar on car rentals booked directly with select car rental companies, while the CitiBusiness® / AAdvantage® Platinum Select® Mastercard® earns 2 miles per dollar on purchases with car rental companies.
Alternately, because car rentals typically code in the “travel” category of most credit cards, you can opt for a card that earns extra points on general travel expenses.
Options include Chase Sapphire Preferred Card, which earns 2 points per dollar on travel purchases, or the Chase Sapphire Reserve, Ink Business Preferred Credit Card and Citi Premier℠ Card, which earn 3 points per dollar on travel purchases. Even better, Chase Sapphire Reserve grants you a $300 credit per year on travel expenses you pay for with your card, which could help offset the cost entirely.
Lastly, you can start your rental with select car rental companies at some airlines’ websites, like Southwest, Delta and United, to earn additional points on top of any points you might earn by paying with a travel credit card.
Information about the Hilton Honors American Express Aspire Card and Citi Premier Card has been collected independently by CreditCards.com. The issuer did not provide the details, nor is it responsible for their accuracy.
Choosing the right insurance
If you’ll be driving a high-end car, you probably want to be sure you’re covered in case of an accident.
“I’d consider [a card] that provides travel insurance in case you wreck that Porsche,” says Dan Miller, founder of Points With a Crew, a site that helps families travel cheaply.
Many cards provide secondary rental insurance, which means it will only cover what your personal primary car insurance doesn’t pay. This means any car rental accidents must be reported to your car insurance company, which could potentially raise your rates.
Chase Sapphire Reserve is a rare card that offers primary car rental insurance, meaning it pays without any need for your primary personal car insurance company to get involved, though be sure to read the fine print for maximum coverage, as well as exclusions.
See related: Renting a car? Know your coverage at home and abroad
Scoring car rental perks
Geroulis points out that some cards grant you additional perks beyond points, like elite status with car rental companies.
“For example, the Chase Sapphire Reserve gives you elite status with some car rental companies (National Car Rental and Avis), which could give you free upgrades,” she said.
Holders of any World Elite Mastercard automatically are granted elite status with Avis. This can result in perks like automatic upgrades, better selection of cars and the ability to skip lines.
If you hold The Platinum Card® from American Express, you’re granted elite status with Avis, Hertz and National.
“Overall, I would say the best card for luxury rental cars would be the Chase Sapphire Reserve card because you earn 3X points. It also comes with primary insurance coverage, as well as special car rental privileges,” says Geroulis.
Saving on high-end car rentals
While saving on high-end car rentals may be more challenging than driving the cheapest vehicle out there, there are a few tips you can take advantage of.
For example, Silvercar by Audi offers 20 percent off your first rental using code FIRST20 found on the company website. Additionally, holders of Visa Infinite cards who register with Silvercar by Audi get up to a 30 percent discount on select car rentals.
Additionally, you can use cards that offer a credit for travel expenses like Chase Sapphire Reserve or the Capital One® Venture® Rewards Credit Card to help offset your rental cost.
What amazing car do you dream of driving?