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Most cost effective way for rental car when you don't know itinier

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I need to book a rental car, but I do not know full details of the trip. There are things that may happen during the trip that will influence my decision. One of my friends tried to make a change during the rental period and was asked to pay a hefty fee to add a day.

I need to rent a car in a different city (airport). I will be driving it 80 miles away to meet a family member. I do not know how many days I will stay there.

I dont know if I will be returning to the airport, so I don't know if I need to book a different drop off location.

I'm mainly concerned about fees if I change the number of days or the drop off location. Is it better to just book the car for longer and then return early?

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In general, you will get the best rates when you pick up and drop off at the same location.  I would reserve it that way unless you absolutely know that you won't be returning it to the airport location where you picked it up.

I've usually not been charged extra fees (or for the unused days) when returning a car early, so yes, I would book it for the longer period and return it early if no longer needed.  The exception to this is when you book a weekly rate but then no longer qualify for the weekly rate if you return it too early.  Sometimes it is actually cheaper to keep the car longer.

Rental car reservations are usually very flexible, so go ahead and make the reservation now and then adjust as your plans become more definite.  Book directly with the rental company, not a third party travel site; changes will be easier that way.  Also don't prepay for any reservations.  Those prepaid deals are less flexible and won't work out well for you if you try to change something. 

If you plan on extending the rental or changing drop off location expect a lot of additional fees.

I once had a car rental to drop off near my house. I showed up at 4 PM to drop it off, and the location was already closed (supposed to be open by 5). I dropped it off next day at the airport and was charged around $175 in fees. I was able to argue them off since I'd tried to return it on time at the scheduled location, but that likely won't be an option for you.

Do you need the car after you've met your family member? If not, drop it off when you meet family. Get another 1 way rental back to the airport when you need it

Just wait until your itinerary is final. Often, you'll find better last-second deals than booking in advance (and if you avoid picking up at airports it's lower).
Last year, I did a car rental from San Diego, CA (Hotel Circle) to Oakland (airport), booked it 2 days in advance for 6 days: $188 (budget rental car)

uber to family members house. Use family members car. Uber back

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