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Deals On Wheels

Getting a luxury rental car takes planning.

Persuading a car rental agency to give you an upgrade can be as difficult as upgrading from economy to business class on a flight. With profits soaring at most rental agencies, managers aren't giving up any more than they have to.

"The big car rental companies are cutting costs in all areas--including promotions and giveaways," says Darrin Deany of Northbrook, Illinois-based corporate travel agency BTI Americas Inc.

That doesn't mean you should expect to get stuck in that tiny box your travel agent booked. "There are still ways to get an upgrade," says Lauren Garvey of Park Ridge, New Jersey-based Hertz.

Here are a few tips:

  • By far the best way to earn an upgrade is to join a mileage program, either the rental company's own (such as National's Emerald Club or Hertz' Number One Club Gold) or an airline's.
  • Check newspapers or magazines for information about promotional specials. To grow overseas business, some companies offer deals on car rentals in places such as Europe and Asia.
  • For just a few extra dollars, car rental companies will often upgrade you to a "special" vehicle--a convertible in California or a four-wheel-drive vehicle in Colorado, for example. Sometimes, with a little coaxing, an agent will waive the additional fee altogether.

Christopher Elliott is a writer in Los Angeles and a columnist for "ABC News Online."

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Christopher Elliott is an Orlando, Fla., writer and independent producer who specializes in technology, travel and mobile computing. His work has appeared in numerous newspapers, magazines and online. You can find out more about him on his website or sign up for his free weekly newsletter.

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This article was originally published in the August 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Deals On Wheels.

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