Costco has a reputation for always coming through for its members with discounts and exclusive bulk buys, and the Costco car rental program is no exception. Costco Travel, an offshoot program of the warehouse started in 2000, allows members to book discounted flights, cruises, hotel stays, and even car rentals through the massive retailer.
Access to the Costco car rental program through Costco Travel is just one of many perks of a Costco membership, and it might be your new favorite way to save money on car rentals. This program is not as popular as you might think, but it’s a cult favorite among members that know about it for good reason: most car rental prices through Costco Travel are lower than through other agencies and platforms.
Think you might want to use Costco the next time you need to leave your vehicle behind for a trip? Keep reading to find out 12 things you must know about renting a car through Costco.
In this post you'll learn:
You Must Have a Costco Membership to Use This Program
You probably already guessed it, but only Costco members are eligible to use the Costco Travel program to make car rental reservations. In order to rent a car, the primary driver needs to verify their membership with a membership number at the time of booking whether they are booking online, in-person, or over the phone. There is no way to get around this requirement.
In 2020, a base level Costco membership, the Gold Star membership, costs $60 per year, so you’ll have to decide for yourself whether the price is worth it if you’re not already a part of the Costco fan club. However, most Costco members know that the savings you can get shopping through this warehouse far more than make up for the membership price.
You Can Book for Someone Else (If They’re a Member)
Yes, you can conveniently book a car rental reservation for someone else through Costco Travel.
But on top of requiring the adult making the booking to be a member, Costco requires that all drivers of a rental vehicle have a Costco membership. That means that if you want to reserve a car for a friend or family member, you can do so only if they themselves are a Costco member.
However, if you do choose to go this route, the person making the booking does not need to be there to pick up the car.
You Can Add Additional Drivers for Free
Costco Travel bookings allow for one additional driver to be added to a rental at no extra cost, no matter what car rental company you choose. So if you already know that you and one other person will be sharing driving responsibility, use Costco Travel to cash in on considerable savings.
For reference, most car rental companies charge a daily fee of $10 for every extra driver.
But keep in mind that while this fee is waived for the first additional driver when you reserve a rental using your Costco membership, extra drivers beyond that will cost you and you will want to make sure that the car rental company you’ve chosen allows more than one additional driver.
You Won’t Be Renting a Costco Car
Costco Travel does not actually hand over the keys to its members when reservations are made but instead facilitates discounted rentals through other companies. You can do everything through Costco from searching for options to making reservations and even canceling reservations, but these are not Costco cars that you’re renting.
From the moment you choose a car rental company from Costco’s list of options and make a call, you will be passed off to a third-party agency. But although you’ll be speaking with a representative from whichever agency you’ve chosen, calls are directed through a dedicated line for Costco members.
Costco will still be there if you need to make changes to your reservation (more on this soon).
You Can Choose From 4 Rental Car Companies
When you book a rental car through Costco Travel, you can choose four car rental companies:
The fact that Costco Travel offers four options allows you to shop around without having to visit multiple sites or make multiple calls. One search shows you results for each car rental agency and organizes your options for you, taking the stress out of price comparisons.
This lineup represents some of the best car rental companies this year has to offer in terms of prices, customer satisfaction, and geographic availability—Business Insider has called Enterprise the best overall car rental agency of 2020—, but if there’s a company you prefer that’s not on this list, Costco Travel is not the way to go.
You Can Qualify to Rent If You Are Under the Age of 25
If you are younger than 25, you can still book a car rental through Costco even though the Low Price Finder asks you to check a box stating that you are older than 25 before populating results. However, you will not be able to take advantage of the Costco Member Discount even though you are a Costco member. You also might be charged an Underage Driver Fee. But, it can be done. Just call 1-866-921-7925 and choose option 1.
Costco members under the age of 25 need to make car rental reservations through car rental agencies directly rather than Costco Travel. Since Costco has no control over the Underage Driver Fees and can’t help with reservations for underage drivers, it might not benefit you much (or at all) to go through Costco if you’re in this situation.
Restricting under-25 drivers from making reservations is not a policy specific to Costco. Though the legal age to rent a car is technically 21, insurance premiums are higher for young drivers because young drivers are statistically more risky than older drivers. Exceptions are typically only made for government employees and U.S. military personnel.
You Can Book Easily Online
All car rental reservations can be made right through your Costco Travel account.
Please note that a Costco account is not the same as a Costco Travel account and registrations for each must be made separately.
To make a reservation, log in to your Costco Travel account and enter your preferences into the search parameters. Specify your ideal pick-up location, drop-off location, and departure date, as well as the times that work best for you. The Low Price Finder tool will automatically generate results by locations nearest to you and you can select up to four of these to compare at once.
Types of vehicles to choose from at most agency locations include:
- Economy car
- Compact car
- Intermediate car
- Standard car
- Full size car
- Intermediate SUV
- Standard SUV
- Mini Van
- Full size SUV
- Premium SUV
Check with locations in your area for premium car, standard convertible, luxury car, and full size van availability as these are more limited.
If you have a loyalty number with the car rental company you’ve chosen, be sure to enter this when you’re completing your booking to earn points for use on future reservations.
You Can Modify or Cancel Your Booking Easily Online
You can also modify or cancel a car rental reservation just as easily through the Costco Travel website, and you won’t be charged anything to tweak your booking or cancel your reservation completely. This perk is certainly worth noting as many car rental agencies do charge cancellation fees, especially when you cancel close to your scheduled departure date.
Costco Travel car rental reservations are incredibly flexible. Still, play it safe and cancel or change a reservation as far in advance as possible to avoid losing any deposits or having to pay fees enforced by rental car agencies on reservations made with prepay rates.
You Might Qualify for a Discount With Your Membership
Much of the Costco Travel car rental program’s appeal is the potential to save, but how much money you save and in what manner you save it varies and discounts are set by car rental agencies, not Costco.
Even though you are making a booking through a third-party company, your Costco membership automatically qualifies you for a discounted price—however, Costco does not guarantee that this is the lowest price available for your booking with the car rental company you’ve chosen. It wouldn’t hurt to browse some third-party discount agencies like Hotwire or Priceline if getting the best price is your number one priority.
But in cases where your discount as a Costco member is taken as a percentage of the total cost, the Costco Member Discount is not a set percentage but determined separately by each car rental company. For example, Budget offers up to 30% on reservations made through Costco Travel while Avis offers up to 25%.
For even more discounts through Costco, look into bundling other travel bookings with your car rental. You might be able to rack up more savings this way.
You Might Qualify for Upgrades With Your Membership
Keep in mind that a lower booking price is not the only way to save. Rather than discounts, some of the car rental companies you can book through with Costco Travel offer free upgrades and built-in add-ons on reservations made by members instead of price deductions.
For example, many Costco bookings include unlimited miles, which might save you serious cash on longer trips. Remember also that you can also add an additional driver to your reservation for free.
You Can Compare Prices With the Costco Low Price Finder
The Costco Travel Low Price Finder compares all of your options in one place by price, and this handy little feature may be your new best friend. Just input the details of your trip and use this tool to see what the price would be on each type of car rental—compact, sedan, SUV, etc.—as well as where your nearest pick-up and drop-off location would be.
Depending on the terms of your booking and what promotions are going on, booking through Costco Travel may or may not be the cheapest, but this tool will not compare prices outside of what’s offered through Costco. To know for certain that you are getting the best possible deal, compare prices not only through Costco Travel but also through the third-party website for whichever rental company you think you’ll go with.
You Can Get Free Insurance Coverage With a Costco Credit Card
The Costco Anywhere Card qualifies you for up to $50,000 worth of protection on car rentals at no added cost. Secondary car rental insurance is optional for all members, but it’s not a bad idea to add it to your reservation in the event of a worst-case scenario.
This credit card by Citi Bank is popular with Costco members because it lets them rack up points on Costco purchases including grocery, travel, and gas. This rewards card is perfect for anyone that frequents their local Costco store and even better for anyone that uses Costco to book car rentals.
But if you do not have a Costco credit card and still want to purchase insurance on your reservation, call the rental agency directly to arrange this.
The Costco car rental program is probably not worth getting a Costco membership for if you don’t live near a retail location, but otherwise, it’s a great program overall. At just $60 a year, a Costco membership is a good investment for anyone that is able to do bulk shopping or likes to know they’re getting warehouse prices. And if you have a Costco membership, it only makes sense to register for Costco Travel.
On average, Costco car rentals are cheaper, even if by only a small margin. But for all the flexibility that booking with Costco provides, this program is worth looking into. And for comparison shopping alone, using Costco Travel to find car rentals is a great way to go.
About the Author:
Lauren is a writer and editor specializing in personal finance and education. She works for the digital publishing company, Dotdash, as a content update editor and writes for APYGUY and SavingforCollege when she's not writing for FlyerGeek.