There are lots of ways to save money on rental cars. It’s not too challenging to get elite status thanks to various matching programs, and these come with discount codes. There are also discount codes associated with airline loyalty programs, alumni groups, corporations, and more. The American Express Platinum Card includes discounts and elite status with the big three, as well as an extra four-hour grace period at Hertz that can save you from paying for an extra day if you need to pick up in the morning and depart in the afternoon. Then, of course, there are booking portals with special rates like Hotwire and Costco Travel.
Those help. I’ll save $10 or $20 a day and maybe get an upgrade. But sometimes it takes a lot of effort to keep all your options straight. There’s another way to save money on rental cards, and it’s dead simple: Take another look at your reservation a day or two before you pick it up.
Most rental cars can be canceled at any time as long as you didn’t already pre-pay. And the rates can be highly variable. Unlike air travel that often gets more expensive as you book close in, my experience has been that rental cars get cheaper or stay about the same. It’s incredibly easy to search again, book a lower rate, and cancel the original reservation.
Here’s an example from my trip to Hawaii next week. I need a car for four days, and unfortunately with a red-eye departure they’re going to charge me for five (a four-hour grace period won’t be enough in this case). I originally had a small SUV reserved for over $500. I wasn’t happy with it, but it was really the only option that would satisfy the group on this family vacation. At least Costco Travel was $100 less (total) than any other site I could find.
Take another look today, and I booked the same car from the same rental agency on the same website for the same dates. The price dropped over $200, meaning I can now afford …resort fees. 🙁
I was gonna say unlimited Mai Tais, but whatever. Every little bit helps!