First things first. You may know driving in the winter very well in your own car (particularly if it’s a made-for-winter wonder like a Subaru Outback), but a rental car will be new to you with its own quirks and nuances. So, the first piece of advice: SLOW DOWN. Don’t tailgate. There should be a six-second gap In adverse driving conditions. Do the math: at 55mph, that’s 486 feet between cars.
Before you drive off the rental car lot in winter: Make sure the car has all-season tires in good condition. Check the spare, too. Fill the gas tank when it goes below half. You don’t want to run out if you find yourself in a bad traffic jam or if you get stranded. Fuel means you’ll have heat.
Check to see you have good insurance coverage, either through one of your credit cards or by purchasing it with your contract.
Travel — in any form these days — takes patience. Treat renting a car for winter driving to the ski slopes the same way. Be sure it’s ready to go — don’t just hop in and drive away. Be sure to keep the rental car emergency number handy and a AAA card could come in very useful, too. Consider enrolling in a winter driving school like the one at Steamboat, Colorado.
Many rental car companies offer “ski deals” in the form of promotional codes that are valid during ski season. Here are a few examples of deals you can find online
Hertz: You can sometimes save by visiting the ski deal section of their website and redeeming a Hertz coupon. Over 50? Hertz often offers 20 percent savings. Yes, request a ski rack. They have them.
Avis: Avis offers a variety of online discounts. If you use their “Pay Now” plan, you can save up to 30 percent.
Budget: Save with Budget coupons and offers. Use Priceline to reserve and you can get big discounts.
National: Newsweek ranks National’s Emerald Club as the best loyalty program of them all. Rent a lot? Consider it.
Enterprise: You can often get really good weekend rates at Enterprise year-round, too.
Upgrade at the Counter for Big Savings: A good trick to saving money on car rentals comes from taking advantage of the fact that many car rental employees get rewarded for upsells, even if they end up renting a vehicle for cheaper than its current rate. The main goal is to get the customer to spend more than they intended.
You can reap the benefit of this assuming there is availability. It’s a good trick, but not 100 percent reliable—something to keep in mind depending on how flexible you are with your travels. Worth an ask.
Finally, remember our first tip: SLOW DOWN.