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?If you would like to read more articles like this, you can sign up for my free weekly money tips newsletter below (we will never spam you).