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How to Get the Best Price on Car Rentals #flights #and #car #rental

#best price on rental cars

How to Get the Best Price on Car Rentals

by FrugalTrader on May 7, 2012

With the summer right around the corner, we decided to plan a short vacation with the kids to visit friends and family.  This particular vacation involves a short flight, a relatively long drive (car rental)  for an infant and toddler (3.5 hrs), and a house rental for the week.  As I m the research to death type person to get the best deal, I thought I would share a method of getting a good price on a car rental.

When I started the search, I went directly car rental company websites and googled coupons.  While I found coupons helpful for reducing overall cost, it didn t get me the deal that I wanted before pulling the trigger.  Here s what I did to get the best price possible on a car rental.

1.  Research Market Value

To get a deal, the first step is to figure out the market value.  In this case, I had to figure out the going rate for car rentals on a particular date and specific car size. Since we are bringing the two kids, we wanted something with a bit of luggage space.  In my experience, Expedia usually has very reasonable car rental rates, so it s a good place to start.  After that, I typically cross check the prices with the car rental company websites.  It usually works out that Expedia is cheaper than the direct website.

2.  Get Auction Prices

As mentioned, we were looking for a particular size vehicle and in the city that we were looking, it meant only a couple of vehicle types to choose from.  As we were comfortable with both vehicles (ie. luggage capacity with decent gas mileage) choices,  auction sites like Hotwire and Priceline can work well in this situation.

Hotwire works by offering the user a low price, but the user can not choose the company, just the vehicle size.  I assume that the car rental companies bid their lowest rate to Hotwire on a daily basis.  Knowing that, it s best to watch the vehicle rental price over a period of time as it will likely fluctuate daily.  Before moving onto the next step, I usually wait until the car rental price has plateaued for at least a week.

3. Bid your Price!

Now that you know the going rate, and the lowest price that car rental companies are willing to accept via Hotwire, it s time to use that information to your advantage.   This leads to Priceline, where you can bid what you are willing to pay.  You can bid any price on a particular car size, but Priceline has the option to reject your bid which means that you won t be able to bid again for 24 hours.

For me, I would have been perfectly happy with the Hotwire price, but the idea of getting a better deal was too enticing.  With my first attempt, I bid 37% below the lowest Hotwire price.  Rejected.  The next day, I bid 21% below and rejected again.  Then I decided to give it one more shot with a bid 12% below my lowest researched price bingo, it was a done deal.

In total, with a bit of due diligence, the price I paid for the car rental was 44% lower than the best Expedia price for the same car size.  As an added savings tip, don t forget to book with a credit card with car rental insurance coverage .

Do you have any tips on getting a deal on a car rentals?

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Jason R May 7, 2012, 12:03 pm

Thanks for the info. That sound like it could be very effective way of getting a deal.

We have a trip to the US planned for July and will be renting a car. I would like to try the hotwire/priceline thing, but we have the requirement to pick up in one city and drop off in another. I don t know if that s possible with those sites. The drop off charges vary from $100 to $500 and depend on which city you are dropping off in.

bm2wong May 7, 2012, 12:31 pm

A couple of suggestions:

How does Priceline/Hotwire work the location of the rental? I find most websites default to airport locations.

I would also suggest, as you can see what people are renting cars (and hotels) for.

I research things too much as well so my current strategy (to reduce wasted time), is check out and go directly to alamo, as they often have cheaper rates on cars.

I ve been using the older conventional way, calling the different car rental companies near my departure location by phone, their phone number could be easily identified on google maps. Also, ask for different types of discounts, AAA/CAA/Goverment Employee rates, they will do the comparison for you on their side in terms of what best deal you can get with them. I found most of the time I get better prices calling than from their websites. I ve never used priceline, but would like to give it a try next time, but I agree with Joel, sometimes we just overlook the valuable time we spent on searching for deals . D (Hence, I ll try his suggestion as well

Kayak, Expedia, etc. give you a good starting point. I did that recently and then thought hey, my company has a travel site and I was able to beat the best price by $20 per day. With that in hand, I could probably go to Priceline and bid a few dollars per day under the corporate rate. But then Priceline charges you right away, whereas with the corp. reservation it is guaranteed but not paid for. Particularly at airport locations, the largest cost is in the fees, not the per day rate.

I think there is some great info here, but not all car rental companies or locations are the same. I don t just want a great price, I want good service. Too many times I ve taken the lowest price only to find myself standing in a long line once I arrived, and then standing in a hot parkade while workers tried to locate a vehicle. I won t mention the dog companies, but I have never been disappointed with the service from Enterprise.

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