How to score a cheaper car rental in 2 minutes, according to an expert

Aerial view of a car driving on the Mount Martha Coastal Road located in the Mornington Peninsula.

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Since car rental companies cars sold at the start of the pandemic, there was a distinct shortage of a travel product that was once easy and relatively cheap to book. Historically, you could book flights, then accommodation, and finally – almost as an afterthought – your rental car.

But this is no longer the case.

Since car rentals are in high demand, especially during holidays, you may want to lock up a car before booking flights and accommodation, so you have flexibility with dates (how’s that for a catch-22?). It can also be useful to join loyalty programs (ahem, Costco) or search for car sharing services such as tutorial and Enjoywhere you rent cars from other people (Airbnb style).

And there’s another insider tip. Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights and a true travel expert, found a little workaround that saved him 30% on a rental car in March. Here’s how:

Keyes booked a rental car for two days at Boston the same day he booked his flight (five months before the trip), then checked the prices a week later to see if they had come down. They had. So he canceled his first reservation and rebooked (remember, you don’t pay for a rental car until you pick it up), and cleverly set a reminder to check prices once per week.

“I set myself a calendar reminder to quickly check for price drops every Monday morning for the next four months. By the day of the trip, I had rebooked five more times,” Keyes said in an article published on Scott’s Cheap Flights.

The whole rebooking process took about two minutes each time, and his two-day rental went from $165 to $112 (over $50 savings, or 30%). In addition, it marked a more spacious sedan. An extra $50 may not seem like much, but he notes that if it had been a one-week rental, the savings would have been $175.

“The best way to improve your chances of a price drop is to book your rental early – ideally as soon as you book your flight. Even if rental prices are high, you are still in a win-win situation. go up, you’ve already locked in a lower rate. If the rates go down, you can cancel for free and rebook cheaper,” Keyes said.

In addition to this two-minute tip, Keyes notes that off-airport rentals are often cheaper and some car dealerships rent vehicles for less than car rental companies. He’s also a fan of Costco Travel and says they often have the cheapest car rental rates. (You have access to Costco Travel if you are a Costco member.)

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