How To Get A Free Car Rental Upgrade

With car rental already being quite hefty on your bank account, an upgrade free of cost can be a sight for sore eyes. It will enhance your experience significantly, giving you access to a better vehicle and more features.

However, with car rental agencies always looking to empty your bank account, you must wonder, how can I get a free car rental upgrade?

To get a free car rental upgrade, you must book a car in off-peak seasons and weekdays and make sure you do it in advance. Besides that, you can research companies with a history of giving out free rental upgrades. If you’ve been a regular company customer, they’re more likely to offer free upgrades. 

While there’s no guarantee that you’ll walk away with a better deal, there’s no harm or foul in trying. So without further ado, let’s dive in and discuss these strategies so you can walk away with a better car than you’ve already paid for! 

7 Ways To Get A Free Car Rental Upgrade

Snagging up a complimentary rental upgrade isn’t an easy feat. However, we’re here to help you through the process. Here are some ways you can try that will amp up your chances of getting a better vehicle than you already have:

Time Your Booking

Timing plays a huge role if you’re looking for a free car rental upgrade. To maximize your chances of getting one, consider booking during off-peak seasons or weekdays (Monday to Thursday) since, during these periods, car rental companies are likely to have a surplus of vehicles, making them more inclined to offer upgrades.

The number of customers during that time is also low, increasing the odds of a company wanting to impress you with an upgrade in hopes of securing future business.

Rental agencies tend to be less busy during the morning or late in the evening, so scheduling your pick-up during these times can improve your chances of receiving an upgrade. As far as off-peak seasons are concerned, booking in fall or winter will help increase your probability of getting an upgrade since fewer people travel at that time. 

You might also get a free upgrade if you book in advance. That is because there’s a chance that the company may run out of the vehicle you’ve chosen, and instead of turning you down, they give you something better at the same price.

Last-minute deals can also work in your favor, as companies may have excess inventory they are eager to rent out.

Choosing The Right Rental Company

Take time and do some research on rental agencies. This will help you draw a comparison on which company is more favorable when it comes to handing out freebies to its customers. Try reading customer reviews to get valuable insights into what you can expect from the agency regarding upgrades and customer service. 

Another trick is to target small rental companies instead of larger ones. While larger car rental companies may have more inventory, smaller local companies often provide a more personalized experience.

They’re also more inclined to offer free upgrades to keep up with their competitors and build a loyal customer base. 

Car rental agencies also have loyalty programs that reward frequent customers with free upgrades, discounted rates, and priority service. Some companies have partnerships with airlines, hotels, or credit card companies that provide special offers to their members, including free car rental upgrades.

So make sure you’re in their loyalty program, or try to get included in it if you’re not. 

Car Rental CompanyLoyalty ProgramFree Upgrade EligibilityPoints per $ SpentAdditional Benefits
AvisAvis PreferredAfter 12 rentals1 pointPriority service, exclusive offers, free additional driver
BudgetBudget FastbreakAfter 7 rentals1 pointSkip the counter, exclusive offers, free additional driver
EnterpriseEnterprise PlusElite status members1 pointPriority service, dedicated phone line, free additional driver, free rental days
HertzHertz Gold Plus RewardsPresident’s Circle level1 pointSkip the counter, exclusive offers, free additional driver, mobile alerts, free rental days
NationalEmerald ClubExecutive and Executive Elite members1 pointPriority service, choose any car (midsize or above), free rental days, a dedicated phone line

Note: The information presented in the table may be subject to change. Always check with the respective car rental companies for the most up-to-date information on their loyalty programs and benefits.

local car rental

Reserve The Cheapest Car

Another way to amplify your chances of getting a free upgrade is to reserve the cheapest car from the agency. These cars would typically be categorized as “economy” or “compact”, depending on the rental company and location.

This is because it’s a common practice in the industry to offer a free upgrade if they run out of cars in the category you reserved initially.

This method works particularly well at busy locations with high turnover, but it’s worth noting that you might end up with the exact car you booked.

It’s essential to know your rights. Sometimes, rental agents may attempt to upsell you for an upgrade, as they usually earn a commission or credit for add-ons. For instance, suppose you booked an economy car, but only mid-sized and larger vehicles are available.

In that case, the agent may ask you to pay an upgrade fee to earn a commission, which means you’re paying extra for nothing. Before agreeing to pay for an upgrade, ask the agency if they have the vehicle you initially reserved in stock.

If not, they’re obligated to upgrade you to the next size for free.

Build Relationships With Car Rental Companies

Building a solid relationship with a car rental company is the stepping stone to free car rental upgrades. Becoming a regular customer increases your chances of receiving a free upgrade. Loyal customers are often rewarded for their business, and car rental companies may prioritize these customers when handing out freebies.

You can also follow these car rental companies on social media platforms and engage with their content to make you more visible to them, increasing your chances of receiving special offers and upgrades. If they’re doing getaways or special offers, participate in them so that you might have a shot at getting a free upgrade.

Sign up for email alerts from your car rental agency and stay updated about any promotions or discounts. 

Building rapport with employees at the rental location can improve your chances of receiving a free upgrade. Being polite, friendly, and engaging in conversation can help you develop a positive relationship with staff, who may be more inclined to offer you an upgrade result.

Using Credit Card Perks And Membership Benefits

Many credit cards offer rewards programs that include travel perks, such as free car rental upgrades. Check your credit card benefits to see if you are eligible for such offers, and ensure you use that card when booking your rental.

Various organizations, such as automobile clubs or professional associations, also offer car rental discounts and benefits, including free upgrades. Be sure to check if any memberships you hold provide such perks.

Credit CardCar Rental Company Partner(s)Free Upgrade BenefitAdditional Car Rental Benefits
Chase Sapphire PreferredAvis, Hertz, NationalComplimentary single-car class upgradePrimary car rental insurance, up to 25% off base rates, priority service
American Express PlatinumAvis, Hertz, NationalComplimentary single-car class upgradePrimary car rental insurance, up to 25% off base rates, priority service, free additional driver
Citi AAdvantage ExecutiveAvis, Budget, PaylessComplimentary single-car class upgradePrimary car rental insurance, up to 25% off base rates, priority service
United Explorer CardHertzComplimentary single-car class upgradePrimary car rental insurance, up to 25% off base rates, priority service
Marriott Bonvoy BoundlessHertzComplimentary single-car class upgradePrimary car rental insurance, up to 25% off base rates, priority service, free additional driver

Dressing And Presenting Yourself Professionally

First impressions matter when interacting with employees. Dressing professionally and being well-groomed can give the impression you are a valuable customer, increasing your chances of receiving an upgrade.

For business trips, opt for business casual or formal wear, and for leisure trips, dress neatly and avoid overly casual clothing. Consider the context of your rental when choosing attire.

As far as presenting yourself is concerned, being polite, patient, and maintaining a positive attitude when dealing with car rental staff can go a long way in securing a free upgrade. Avoid being demanding or confrontational, as this may harm your chances of receiving an upgrade.

Leveraging Travel Disruptions And Inconveniences

If your flight is delayed or canceled or if you experience any issues with your rental car, such as mechanical problems or cleanliness concerns, calmly and politely bring them to the attention of the rental company.

To help accommodate you, they just might offer you a free upgrade for the inconvenience. 

Politeness goes a long way. Ensure that you maintain a calm demeanor since no one would want to assist a customer who’s loud and disrespectful. Be patient and show respect, and you just might earn yourself a free car upgrade. 

Negotiating For An Upgrade

If all else fails, you can try negotiating with the agent to get a free upgrade. When negotiating for a free car rental upgrade, be polite and assertive but not aggressive. Mention any loyalty program memberships or special circumstances that might make you eligible for an upgrade. 

It is also important to familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions of your car rental agreement to understand your rights as a customer. Suppose you do experience any issues with your rental, such as the vehicle not being available or a reservation error.

In that case, you can use this knowledge to negotiate for a free upgrade as compensation. This way, the company will be inclined to give you a free upgrade.

In some cases, offering to pay a nominal fee may help you secure a substantial upgrade since car rental companies may be more willing to provide a higher-category vehicle for a reduced cost, which can still result in considerable savings.


Can I Expect A Free Car Rental Upgrade Every Time I Rent A Car?

While it’s not guaranteed that you’ll receive a free upgrade every time you rent a car, following the strategies outlined in this article can increase your chances of securing one.

Still, it’s essential to remember that car rental companies have the final say, and all these upgrades are subject to availability and discretion.

Do Car Rental Companies Offer Free Upgrades To Everyone, Or Do They Prioritize Specific Customers?

Car rental companies typically prioritize specific customers when offering free upgrades. Loyal customers, members of their loyalty programs, and those with elite status or partnerships (e.g., credit card rewards programs or frequent flyer programs) are more likely to receive a free upgrade.

Additionally, customers who maintain a professional appearance, demonstrate flexibility, and engage positively with staff may have a better chance of being offered an upgrade.

Can I Choose Any Vehicle I Want When Offered A Free Upgrade?

While receiving a free car rental upgrade is an exciting opportunity, you will generally be limited to a specific selection of vehicles. The car rental company usually offers you an upgrade within one or two vehicle categories above your original reservation.

For example, if you initially booked a compact car, you might be offered a midsize or full-size vehicle as an upgrade. Keep in mind that luxury or specialty vehicles are typically excluded from free upgrades.


All in all, if you’re looking to upgrade your ride but don’t feel like spending too much on a big upgrade, we recommend you try out the tips and tricks we’ve mentioned above to maximize your chances.

While there’s no guarantee it’ll land you a better vehicle, there’s no harm in trying, and who knows, you just might get a free upgrade. 

Daniel Clarke

The website is run by myself Daniel Clarke, I’m lucky enough to have been living in Hervey Bay, for 31 years so I’m classed as a local I have seen many changes over this time. Read more about us here

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