Chances are that every now and then you will need to rent a car. But unless you are a full time road warrior (or even if you are), there are many things you may not be aware of that can make renting a car less costly for you, as well as potentially getting you a better car with a possible upgrade.

The very first thing we should discuss is whether or not to accept the insurance they will invariably offer. Some car rental companies even try to “scare” you into accepting their insurance with your rental, citing how much it will cost you if you are in an accident, even if it’s not your fault. Many people take this insurance out of fear that something may happen, but they clearly have not done adequate homework.

The reality is that you need to determine if you would be covered by the car insurance policy that you already have on your own car. Many insurance companies have a standard policy where you are indeed covered with the same coverages and deductibles in your rental car. But be sure to check, since some insurance companies have an exception where if you are using the car for business purposes as opposed to personal reasons, then you are NOT covered.

The other option is that if you are paying for the car with your Visa or MasterCard, depending on which one you have, you may have coverage through Visa or MasterCard. You should find out the details, because even if they do provide coverage for you, it may have an extremely high deductible or not cover things like theft or fire.

The amount of insurance from the car rental company could be as much as $8 to $10 per day that you have the car, so it can add up quickly.

There are many other ways to save money with car rentals. Do your research to find out the rates that are being charged for cars. If you plan on doing a lot of driving, make sure that your contract allows for unlimited mileage, or that the miles they allow will fall within the amount you plan to do, because the per-mile charges are huge.

There is really not much savings to be had by booking early, but the situation you may run into is that the car class you want is sold out. A common tactic is to book a compact car because the car rental agencies will routinely offer you an upgrade at a discounted price when you get to the counter, or they may be out of compacts and upgrade you at no additional cost. But be sure you can live with a compact car in case they do not run out and do not offer an upgrade!

For drivers under age 25, prices for rental cars can be quite high but there are some things you can do to minimize the financial pain of that as well.

To save additional money, check out some of the lesser known car rental companies. Frequently their pricing is better than the well known brand names and they offer extra perks as well, like maybe a GPS included in the car. Don’t choose your car rental company based on getting extra frequent flyer miles because generally, there is not even close to an even trade off.

Being smart about your car rental process can save you a ton of money and make the experience that much more pleasant, and it does not need to cost an arm and a leg!