Sometime in the near future, you’ll be able to pay for a rental car on your smartphone, immediately download a wireless-key app, and then unlock your rental and drive away, all without ever having to set foot inside the rental agency’s office. We’re not quite there yet technology wise, but in the meantime, here are 3 smartphone apps that will definitely be useful for the next time you’re driving a rental car through an unfamiliar city:
Beat The Traffic
You’ve probably used an app like this before: Beat The Traffic is a familiar GPS program that calculates several different routes to a destination and ranks them by time, mileage, and more. What makes this app stand out is the large amount of timely local info that is constantly uploaded. Spur of the moment roadblocks, detours, and other traffic hazards that your regular GPS won’t know about will all be identified with Beat The Traffic, which is especially important when you’re careening around unknown streets in a rental car, desperately trying to make it to a meeting on time.
One of the more useful apps for driving in general, Gas Buddy shows every gas station in your area, with hourly price info for each spot. If you’re fueling up in a strange area, you’ll probably stick close to freeway off ramps, where the stations tend to charge more per gallon because of the surplus of hurried travelers that won’t cruise into town for a better deal. With Gas Buddy, you’ll be able to see the station 10 blocks away that’s charging $.30 a gallon less than the places near the freeway.
Frugal Car Rental
If you’re new to the car rental game, this app is a definite must-have. Rental agencies run deals and promotions on an hourly basis, so the price you saw before your flight this morning can be wildly different from what’s available now. Frugal Car Rental gives you easy, centralized access to all the major rental car companies and their special offers, letting you find the best deal in moments. It’s a great program to get in the habit of always checking; it only takes a few minutes to find every deal in your area, and it’ll keep you informed of your options if a rental booking falls through for whatever reason.
Gone are the days when you’d hop off the plane in a new city and then spend 30 minutes with the rental car employee, buying maps, marking where the gas stations are, and asking about any local festivals or road construction that you need to avoid. Your smartphone gives you this info in seconds, letting you immediately leave the rental car lot and get along happily with your day.
John is a blogger who used to love getting off a crowded plane and heading straight to the rental car lot to escape the airport mobs. He writes for Internet insurer Protect Your Bubble, a company that can help protect your next rental car from the hazards of other drivers.