The Costco car rental program is competitive when compared to other travel rewards programs and offers flexibility in booking and fees.
The Costco car rental program is only available to Costco members (age 25 and up), so not everyone may be aware of the great discounts they offer. While Costco doesn’t rent out cars themselves, they partner with well-known rental companies to offer discounts to their members in the U.S. and some countries around the world. While the discount only applies to drivers over 25, some under-25 drivers may be able to qualify for the discount in certain locations. (Note, they may also have to pay an underage driver fee, which could cancel out any savings.)
If you’re a Costco member planning to rent a car for your next trip, you should definitely take advantage of this under-utilized benefit. Not only will you gain peace of mind by reserving your rental in advance, you’ll also enjoy a lower price, lower fees and flexibility in travel plans.
See related: Costco vacation packages: Bundle purchases to save big on travel
Everything you need to know about a Costco car rental
Why book a car rental through Costco?
Beyond the obvious benefits of booking travel through the Costco Travel portal, there are benefits of booking your car rental through Costco as well.
First, it’s super easy to compare car rentals by price and location using the portal. Just as you can easily compare flights online, this portal presents comparison charts – so you can choose which deal best suits your itinerary and budget. You can also compare different “classes” of cars they have to offer, as well as any extra perks per car rental location. (Perks may include unlimited mileage or the ability to add another driver free of charge).
Another benefit is Costco members may also reserve a car for a friend or family member (as long as the friend or relative is also a Costco member). This can be a great time-saving tool in a pinch.
Finally, Costco members can make changes to their reservation, free of charge, through the portal. This means if there’s a sudden change in plans or a need to cancel, you won’t have to pay steep fees. Note that the rental must have been booked through the travel portal in order to get this benefit.
What types of car rentals are available?
Costco car rentals are available from four major car rental companies: Alamo, Avis, Budget and Enterprise. You can book in many parts of the world, including the U.S., Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Spain and the U.K.
Drivers who want a specific vehicle should be aware that the color, make and model of the car (including mini-vans and full-size vans) are subject to availability at the time of pickup and cannot be guaranteed through a reservation. However, similar cars will be provided based on your request.
How to book a car rental with Costco
Booking a car rental through Costco’s Travel portal is simple. Members 25 and over can click on the “Rental Cars” tab in the Costco Travel portal and enter the zip code where the car rental will be picked up and returned. Note that the default chooses the same location for pickup and returns, so if these are different, a different location must be entered manually.
To compare prices, select all applicable car rental company locations, and a list of options will appear. If you’re not satisfied with the choices that pop up, you can zoom out to find locations in the immediate vicinity. Different filters may also be applied – by rental company or by distance from airport, for example – for more granular control and more options. Up to four locations may be compared to each other, via the map view or list view.
An easy-to-read chart presents a clear visual to compare the cars’ different features, including vehicle types, availability and price.
After you have selected your vehicle type and pickup location, you can then choose among the extras offered, like GPS, Wi-Fi services, satellite radio, child car seat and more, depending on the vehicle. Also note that any extra features will be subject to a fee.
Once you have chosen your desired vehicle, plus any applicable bells and whistles, you can view the final price. While you don’t have to pay for your car rental right then and there, you will need to prove you’re a Costco member in order to get the discount applied. You can do this by logging in to your Costco account or by providing your Costco membership number.
When you get to your destination, you’ll then have to pay with a major credit card. Be aware that some locations won’t accept debit cards, so check ahead for payment options.
Is booking a car rental through Costco a good deal?
Using Costco’s Travel portal to book car rentals can definitely save money compared to booking on your own. From our research, Costco rentals also offer a better deal on intermediate or full-sized cards compared to other car rental travel programs. Here are more reasons why this program is competitive.
Low price finder
Costco’s Low-Cost Finder makes sure that you are offered the lowest price possible. If you have a coupon for an upgrade, but the discounted rental price is lower, you will end up paying the lower price (and vice versa).
For families or groups who need an additional driver for their rental car, Alamo and Enterprise will waive the additional driver fee at all locations worldwide, while Avis and Budget will only waive the fee anywhere in the U.S. For even more convenience, the additional driver doesn’t have to be a Costco member.
For travelers who may anticipate a change in plans, booking a car rental through Costco is a smart choice because they don’t charge a cancellation fee (if booked through the portal).
The Costco car rental program is competitive when compared to other travel rewards programs and offers flexibility in booking and fees. While members are restricted to only four car rental companies, they are the major players, so this shouldn’t limit anyone’s options.
The big drawback to this service is having to become a Costco member, of course. While it might not be worth it to join up just for the discounts on car rentals, using your existing membership to cash in on extra perks is definitely worth it – at home or on the road.