How to Score a Cheaper Car Rental in 2 Minutes, According to an Expert

Two minutes a week = big savings.

Aerial view of a car driving on the Mount Martha coastal drive located in the Mornington Peninsula.
Photo: Alexwise/Getty Images

Ever since rental car companies sold off cars at the start of the pandemic, there's been a distinct shortage in a travel commodity that was once easy and relatively cheap to book. Historically, you might book flights, then lodging, and finally — almost as an afterthought — your rental car.

But that's not the case anymore.

Because car rentals are in high-demand — especially during holidays — you might want to lock in a car before you book flights and lodging, so you have flexibility with dates (how's that for a catch-22?). It might also help to join loyalty programs (ahem, Costco) or look into car-sharing services such as Turo and Avail, where you rent cars from other people (Airbnb style).

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

Keyes reserved a two-day rental car in Boston the same day he booked his flight (five months prior to the trip), then checked on prices a week later to see if they had dropped. They had. So, he canceled his first booking 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 a week.

"I set myself a calendar reminder to quickly check for price drops every Monday morning for the next four months. By trip day, I'd rebooked five more times," Keyes said in an article posted on Scott's Cheap Flights.

The entire rebooking process took about two minutes each time and his two-day rental went from costing him $165 to $112 (over $50 in savings, or 30 percent). Plus, he scored a roomier sedan. An extra $50 might not sound like much, but he notes that if it had been a week-long rental, the savings would've been $175.

"The best way to improve your odds of a price drop is to book your rental early — ideally as soon as you book your flight. Even if rental rates are high, you're still in a win-win situation. If rates go up, you've already locked in a lower fare. If rates go down, you can cancel for free and rebook cheaper," Keyes said.

In addition to this two-minute trick, Keyes notes that rentals outside the airport are often cheaper and that some car dealerships rent out 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're a Costco member.)

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