Check Out These Car Rental Hacks for Getting a Free Upgrade

If you find yourself standing at the rental car counter this summer, then you may wonder if you can get an upgrade. Don’t get us wrong, that sweet Kia Rio will get you around the Big Island of Hawaii just fine, but wouldn’t the trip be more fun in a Jeep Wrangler? Of course! In that case, here are a few hacks you can use when it comes to getting a car rental upgrade.

Rent the smallest and cheapest car to get an upgrade

Customers at the Enterprise Rental Counter
Customers at Enterprise rent-a-car. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

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One of the oldest tricks for getting a rental upgrade is to book the smallest and cheapest car available. According to USA Today, rental car companies rarely have the small, cheap cars in stock, so if you book one ahead of time then you may be upgraded to the next highest tier for free. This strategy is more effective if you book the car at the last minute at an airport location, which tends to be busier.

If the attendant tries to sell you an upgrade, then insist on sticking with the cheap option that you booked, there’s a chance they may give you the upgrade to a larger car at no extra cost.

Ask the rental car attendant for any “no-rev” vehicles

An Avis and Hertz rental counter
An Avis and Hertz rental counter | Getty Images

While booking the lowest-class car works, there are chances where you may be stuck with it.

Chloe Skupnick, a former car rental manager, told USA Today, “Book the lowest-class car that you’re comfortable with in case you have to take it,” she said. “Once you get to the lot, ask the attendant if they have any ‘no-rev’ vehicles. Their pay is based on getting those bad boys out. It’s usually stuff they can’t rent out like trucks, vans, and sports cars. They put you in it and you’re on your way – for free.”

We’re not sure what “no-rev” stands for, but it seems like solid advice that could work on your next trip.

Building a little rapport with the car rental agent can go a long way

Another tip is to essentially make friends with the rental car agent. A little politeness and some friendly banter can go a long way. Nikki Webster, a frequent car renter and travel blogger, says that she builds rapport with the rental car agent first and then nicely throws in lines like “So what upgrades can you offer?” or “We are getting upgraded, right?”

That last line may sound a little assertive if used in the wrong context. That’s why it’s good to build rapport first and then jokingly throw in the last line.

If all else fails, be friendly and just ask for an upgrade

Customer service reps at an Enterprise rental counter.
Customer service reps at an Enterprise rental counter. | Joe Raedle/Getty Images

In case you land yourself in a situation where that Kia Rio is your destiny and you failed to build rapport properly, then you can simply ask for an upgrade. According to Thrillist, “The goal of the car rental agent is to get customers to spend more than their original reservation, even if it’s just a dollar or two. By asking for any upgrades or specials when you arrive, more often than not, you’ll land a nice deal.”

Case in point, be polite and build some rapport and just ask if you can be upgraded to the next tier. Otherwise, you may be able to score that sweet Jeep Wrangler by luck alone if the smaller cars are all rented out. If not, then a Kia Rio (or any other small car) might not be so bad. After all, you’re on vacation, so the car shouldn’t matter. But a free upgrade is always nice.

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