I love renting cars from Costco, even though it’s not always cheapest

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  • I love buying affordable food and home goods from Costco, but my favorite membership perk is low-cost car rentals.
  • Costco’s travel system looks through deals from a variety of major car rental companies, including Avis and Alamo, then applies a membership discount to the best deal.
  • Even though I’ve found cheaper rentals on Priceline, I prefer Costco because I always know which company I’m renting from (unlike with Priceline), Costco has the best customer service, and I get car rental insurance for free when I use my Costco Anywhere Visa.
  • You can use the Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citito earn 2% back on eligible in-store and online purchases.

Most people use Costco to buy toilet paper, snack foods, and meat in bulk. While my husband and I are among those who use Costco to stock up on our favorite household and grocery items at a lower cost, we also love one of its lesser-known benefits: car rentals. My husband gets discounts on car rentals through his employer, but even with that perk, renting a car through Costco is typically cheaper.

When looking for car rental options, Costco automatically searches several companies to find the best deal and then applies its membership discount to the lowest rate; we have gotten cars from Alamo and Avis through the Costco Travel site

Although I always recommend shopping around for deals, we’ve found that because of the added Costco membership benefit, Costco’s rates typically end up being cheaper than booking directly through the car rental company. 

Using Costco to book rental cars

In 2016, we used Costco to book two rental cars. The first was a Chevrolet Suburban that we picked up on February 25 and dropped back off on February 29. The total rental price was $332.76, including $81.52 of taxes and fees. That comes out to $83.19/day.

The second car we rented through Costco was a Ford Fiesta. We picked up the vehicle on March 14 and dropped it back off on March 19. The total cost us $256.22, which included $44.81 of taxes and fees, or $51.44/day. 

Both of these rentals were automatic transmission, had air conditioning, and allowed us to rack up unlimited miles, which essentially meant there was no cap on how many miles we could put on the rental car. 

We rented those cars a few years back, but for comparison’s sake I recently ran a quick search to look at the cost difference between Costco’s platform, the options on Kayak, and the cost of renting with my husband’s discount. I chose February 20 to 23 as the dates, and set the pickup and drop-off location as the Minneapolis/St. Paul airport. 

To rent a minivan (we’ve expanded our family since 2016!) it would cost $169.89 at Alamo, $163.97 at Avis, $140.44 through Costco’s website (from Budget), $135.90 through Priceline, and $149.53 through my husband’s company. 

Why I’d still choose Costco even though it’s not always the cheapest option

Although Priceline is the cheapest option, I would still choose to use Costco. In the past, I’ve had great customer service through Costco, and I like that Costco tells you which car rental company you’re booking through up front (unlike Priceline, which withholds that information until you pay for the rental). 

Another added bonus of renting a car from Costco: If you use your Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi to book the rental, the card automatically provides you with travel accident insurance, car rental insurance, and travel and emergency assistance.

The Costco Anywhere Visa® Card by Citi earns 2% cash back on in-store and online purchases and has no annual fee. See Business Insider’s review of the Costco Anywhere Visa card for more »

Car rental companies typically try to get you to add on rental insurance even if you’re already covered. According to The Simple Dollar, it can easily cost upwards of $30/day for rental car insurance. There are some reasons why you should go for the additional rental car insurance coverage, such as if you don’t have insurance to begin with, you are traveling abroad, or if you’re traveling for business. However, the coverage you get through a credit card, such as Costco’s, is usually enough for most car rental companies. 

While I wouldn’t purchase a Costco membership just to use the Costco Travel discount site, it is a nice perk of the $60 membership fee. Being a Costco member also offers other travel benefits, such as discounted hotel rooms and cruise ship vacations. And, if you use your Costco credit card to pay for gas at a Costco location while traveling, you get 4% cash back (up to $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter).

There are many reasons why people should join Costco, and having access to its travel rewards site should be considered another great reason to sign up.

Regular APR

15.24% (Variable)

  • Details
  • Pros & Cons

    • Discover one of Citi’s best cash back rewards cards designed exclusively for Costco members
    • 4% cash back on eligible gas for the first $7,000 per year and then 1% thereafter
    • 3% cash back on restaurants and eligible travel purchases
    • 2% cash back on all other purchases from Costco and Costco.com
    • 1% cash back on all other purchases
    • No annual fee with your paid Costco membership and enjoy no foreign transaction fees on purchases
    • Receive an annual credit card reward certificate, which is redeemable for cash or merchandise at U.S. Costco warehouses, including Puerto Rico
    • The standard variable APR for Citi Flex Plan is 15.24%. Citi Flex Plan offers are made available at Citi’s discretion.
    Pros
    • Generous cash-back categories, especially for gas purchases
    • No foreign transaction fee
    Cons
    • You can only receive rewards once per year
    • You need to visit a Costco location to redeem rewards for cash back instead of merchandise

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