Recently, I had to travel down to St. Pete’s Beach just south of Tampa for a conference and vendor forum. The trick with St. Pete’s is that it is some 30 miles from the airport and a cab can cost you over $100 one-way. If you use the resorts car service then you can get there for $65 not including tip. A car service is fine if you are coming and going at a normal time and not running up against the wire—I don’t tend to have that luck when booking trips, so I knew my 10 p.m. arrival time and award dinner running up to my departure time complicated the car service angle. The answer? Small car rental (some call it economy).
If you are making travel plans soon and have a similar situation then you might look around at the different travel websites, rental car provider websites and partner websites like airline and credit card reward programs. When booking my car I knew that it was just me and being that I write about small cars all the time I don’t shy away from the odd Aveo, Fiesta or like economy car. After searching for about an hour and running the numbers I booked the car through a airline mile partner program for $135 including taxes and fees. Now I felt this was a good deal since I knew the car service would cost me $156 dollars after tipping the driver. The question was, would I actually get the economy car? Generally when I rent a car like this I end up with an upgrade to a compact like a Focus because the agency runs out of the super cheap cars.
Sure enough when I arrived in Tampa and finally made it to the car rental agency with my bags they handed me keys to a 2010 Ford Focus. Of course, I have driven a number of Ford Focus over the years and they are good on gas and have a trunk capable of hauling several pieces of travel luggage. A long story short, the car worked out perfectly and since parking was included at the hotel the whole trip—gas included—cost me about $140. It even allowed me to run out during my stay in St. Pete’s in order to get a couple of things, which I couldn’t have done without having the car.
Bottom line—if you aren’t picky about the type of car you rent, try looking for the small car deal and you might be surprised how many times you get upgraded.