Car rental in California: 5 tips to save

I'm willing to bet that a California road trip is high on your wish list, am I right?

To turn your dream into a reality will take a certain amount of organization. The goal is to have a dream vacation without spending all your savings.

To help you out, I am pleased to share my tips on how to make your California car rental as inexpensive as possible.

#1. Use our online price comparison tool

car rental comparison tool USA
Find your California car rental in a few clicks

The first step in planning your trip will be to have an idea of the price of your rental car.

This can quickly become a headache to figure out, as every rental company has its own base rates and ways of dealing with options and inclusions: insurances and deductible, GPS, additional driver, one-way rental fee, etc. 

By using our online price comparison tool, you can receive a quote in just minutes.

How to use our price comparison tool for your California car rental

Step 1:

Select your pick-up city and enter your travel dates.

Step 2: 

Refine your search by indicating the type of vehicle (compact, standard, SUV, minibus, luxury, etc.), the number of people, or the rental company.

Look over the offers and choose the one that suits you the best.

Step 3:

Choose the branch (downtown or airport) and your options.

Book or ask for a quote by email.

When you use our online price comparison tool, Authentik USA offers:

  • Free cancellation
  • Our Best Price Guarantee. We are so confident that we will reimburse the difference, plus a 5% discount, if you find a better price somewhere else.
  • Complete transparency: no hidden charges!

#2. Book early

California car rental - San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge
Get a head start on finding the best price for California car rental

Booking your rental as early as possible can provide significant advantages.

The first, of course, is a lower rate than if you book at the last minute. To be sure of getting the best price, I recommend booking your California rental car at least 1 month in advance, but preferably more if you are going to travel during the summer months.

Booking early can also help you save on your flight to the U.S.

Another advantage is having a greater selection of vehicles and options (for example, GPS rental or child's car seat).

When you book at the last minute, you have to settle for the "leftovers".

#3. Forget about a GPS: use Google Maps offline

Smart phone as a GPS in California rental car
A simple tip that can help you save on your California car rental

Why pay €18/day ($20) to rent a GPS when you can have the same thing for free?

It is possible to use Google Maps offline, if you don't want to use your data while travelling.

Simply download your maps ahead of time onto your phone or tablet.


  • Open Google Maps on your smart phone or tablet.
  • Type "california" in the search bar.
  • At the bottom of the screen, select "Download".
  • A rectangle will appear on your screen. Place it over the area you wish to download. You will probably have to do this several times in order to cover the entire area you are interested in.
  • Click "Download". Obviously, you will need to be connected to the Internet to do this.

Even if you plan to use your phone's data during your trip, I suggest downloading a few maps. 

This could save you in the case of a poor Internet connection, because Google Maps will then establish your route using your downloaded maps.

You wouldn't want to miss out on any of the top sights because of an Internet problem!

:billet_euro: emoji Amount saved during a 15-day road trip: €270 ($305)


#4. Choose your rental car for its gas consumption

California rental car driving in Joshua Tree Park
What model do you want for your California car rental?

While gas is cheaper in the U.S. than in Europe, you could make substantial savings by choosing a vehicle with lower fuel consumption.

At the moment, the price of gas in California is about €1.07/liter. ($1.21/liter)

To give you an example, during a 15-day California road trip, you will drive at least 2,500 km. 

There are many categories of vehicles to choose from. To save on your California rental, you should take this aspect into account.

Here is an idea of the gas budget for different models.

Categories of rental cars in California


For a sub-compact like a Ford Fiesta, average gas consumption is about 7.6L/100 km.

2,500 km will cost €203.69 ($180.42) in gas.


 For an SUV like a Ford Escape, average gas consumption is about 9.6L/100 km.

 2,500 km will cost €257.30 ($290.49) in gas.


 For a deluxe SUV like a Chevrolet Tahoe, average gas consumption is about 13L/100 km.

  2,500 km will cost €348.43 ($393.38) in gas.

:billet_euro: emoji Amount saved during a 15-day road trip: up to €145 ($163).


#5. Bring your child's car seat

Little girl in car seat in California rental car
Save on the price of your California rental car by bringing your car seat

If travelling with young children, here is another expense to add to your California car rental.

Expect to pay about €12/day ($13.50/day) to rent a child's car seat.

In California, children aged 8 and under must be seated in a child's car seat or booster seat.

If you bring your own, it won't cost you a thing! And most airlines will let you bring your car seat for free :;): emoji

That said, make sure that your car seat meets federal safety standards (NHTSA).

Child car seats with an ISOFIX or LATCH system are authorized by car rental companies and the government.

If your seat does not have a LATCH/ISOFIX system or it is not certified FMVSS, you will not be covered by the rental company's basic insurance or additional insurance options.

In that case, you will need to rent a car seat with your vehicle. This option will be payable in advance or at the rental office, depending on the rental company. 

:billet_euro: emoji Amount saved during a 15-day road trip: €180 ($203.22)


That concludes my 5 tips to save on your California car rental.

€150 here, €200 there... It's worth it to pay attention to the details and keep that money for activities or souvenirs!

If you have any other tips, be sure to share them in the comments below :;): emoji

Karolane Lessard

An enthusiast of both our vibrant cities & great oudoors, my life revolves around travel & adventure. It's a no brainer that I have to share the wonders & secrets of my neck of the woods with other travelling souls. Enjoy the journey!


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