This entry is part 3 of 13 in the series How To

We’ve all been there.  The flight and hotel are booked and we think that the big expenditures are taken care of.  Then we take a look for a car rental and the prices are exorbitant … much more than expected and it’s threatening to blow your vacation budget.

What do you do?

Well, I’ll walk you though my methodology for finding low car rental rates and then I’ll clue you in on how to make sure you have the lowest rate possible.

Finding A Good Rate

There are many methods out there for finding cheap car rentals but my favorite by far is Kayak.  I love it because it provides a very simple interface and it allows you to check the rate of their competitors as well.

When you go to Kayak, click on Cars at the top and enter in your rental dates, times and location.  You will be given the option of comparing Kayak to their competitors including:

  • Hotwire
  • Priceline
  • Travelocity
  • Avis
  • Expedia

kayak-main-page

I check off all of Kayak’s competitors and look to see which company has the lowest rate.  Be sure to change the currency in the top right to Canadian dollars.

A word of caution here.  There are two things to keep in mind when you look at the search results:

  1. Location of the Rental Agency – a lot of people assume that the car rental agency is at the airport and while that is likely the case, I have seen where the car rental agency is many kilometers from the airport and away from where you are staying.  Just be aware of the location or you might be in for a surprise.
  2. Reputation of the Rental Agency –  I have read poor reviews on agencies like Fox or E-Z Rent-A-Car.  Just do your research first as some of the stories I have read are very scary (pre-existing damage blamed on the renter, unethical fueling practices, hard upselling of insurance, etc.).

Find Your Rental

After looking to make sure you have checked the location of the rental agency and you are using a reputable company, look for the lowest price.

In my specific example, I found a rental rate of $87 CAD for a 4 day rental with Thrifty at the Houston Airport Car Rental Center.

thrifty-options

You may be offered is a Special Rate that is lower.  The trade off here is that you don’t know what kind of car you are getting except that it is a Compact Size or Larger.  In my experience, 9 times out of 10, the agency doesn’t have the car you expected to have anyways so to me, saving a few bucks here is a good option.

Hold Your Horses

Now before you book your car, let’s make sure you have the best rate possible.  What I would do in this situation is go to Thrifty’s site directly and see if I can duplicate the rental price.  Sometimes you can find the same rate but sometimes, if you’re lucky, you can find an even lower rate.  If you rate is higher than the one you found on Kayak, just use the Kayak rate.

Now if you can find the same or lower rate, see if you can find further discounts.

You maybe able to find a coupon on sites like RetailMeNot.com or other similar coupons sites.  Also keep in mind that you may qualify for a corporate rate through the company you work for so either get your corporate code from your HR department or search online for something like “Thrifty Corporate Codes” … I’ll leave it up to you to decide if you work for a company that has a good corporate rate like IBM or GE …

How Do I Know If I Have the Best Rate?

Now that you have done your homework, you likely have the best rate possible but sometimes you have that nagging feeling that you may have left something on the table.  Don’t worry, I’ve got your back on that too.

Note that this method only works if you have a reservation and not a pre-paid reservation where you have paid for the rental in advance.

Once you have your rental confirmed and reserved, take your information over to AutoSlash.com and plug in your details on the Track a Rental tab.

autoslash

What AutoSlash will do is search the web every day until your car rental begins to see if it can find a lower rate than what you found.  Think of it as an amazing personal assistant that wants to save you money and knows all the coupon codes that you can apply to your rental.  You could skip all the searching from my suggested steps above and use AutoSlash as your first option or you can use my method and then simply use the “Track a Rental” option on the site.

The video below describes how to use the service if you go with AutoSlash as your search engine of choice.

Personally I like to have a little more control over my search but if you’re just starting out and want an easy way to do it, I would be completely comfortable suggesting the use of AutoSlash as your first and only stop.

What Happens Next?

So you’ve plugged in your information into AutoSlash … now what?

Well, all you do is wait and monitor your email.  If AutoShash finds a cheaper rate, they will email you with a link to book the cheaper rate.  As an example, AutoSlash found me a cheaper rate for my car rental in Cape Town and it saved me $20.03 USD.

autoslash-cheaper

When you get the email from AutoSlash, be sure to take action right away because rental prices change all the time so if you want the rate advertised in the email, get on top of it.

What to Remember

When you are paying for your car rental, be sure to use a credit card like the American Express Gold, the Capital One Aspire or any any credit card that provides car rental insurances.  Save yourself from paying the Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) to the rental agency if your credit card has coverage already.

Also remember to see what kind of coverage your personal car insurance policy has.  You may have more coverage than you think.

Also remember that at most car rental agencies, you are entitled to points which you can credit either to the car rental agency’s program or an airline’s loyalty program like Aeroplan.

Follow these steps and rest assured that you have the best car rental rate possible.

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Jayce is the founder of PointsNerd, and avid traveller and a teacher by nature. He prides himself on flattening the learning curve through step-by-step guides because everyone needs to start somewhere.

2 COMMENTS

  1. Hey Jaycee
    Have you found a way to save money on one way rentals? I.e. I pick up a car in Sydney and return it in Melbourne.

    • Hi Praveen,

      I have not specifically looked for those types of deals but I do know that typically rental companies just charge an add on fee for one-way rentals. We have done them from Orlando to the cruise port in Port Canaveral and there was minimal additional cost. Typically if it’s a common one way rental route, it’s not that much more. But if you were going from say Los Angeles to Seattle, it might be a lot more.
      Cheers
      Jayce

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