Use Autoslash to Save Money on Your Car Rentals (2020)
Unlike hotel and airfare rates, car rental prices vary wildly across different websites. Often the best rates are less than half of what you you can find on a site like Expedia or Travelocity. Unfortunately, there isn’t a car rental booking site that is perfect for every person, and every rental—but Autoslash comes close.
The Autoslash website is the easiest way to get a great rate on your car rentals. And after you make your reservation, Autoslash will continue to try to find you an even better rate.
While Autoslash's rates are good, if you are willing to spend the extra effort, you can sometimes find a better car rental rate on a different site, especially if you are willing to use one of the smaller rental car companies. But, if you want to keep things simple, there is no easier and more reliable way to get a good rate than Autoslash.
Most online travel sites only search the regular rates, not the many special discounted rates that are widely available for car rentals. But Autoslash works differently.
- Autoslash searches a wide variety of discount and coupon codes, across a number of sites, to try to find the lowest rate. These discounted rates are typically considerably cheaper than the rates that show up on other online travel or car rental websites. When you initiate your search, you can check all the discount programs that you are entitled to access from Autoslash's list.
- Using Autoslash is a bit "weird". Unlike most other websites, Autoslash doesn't show you your rates right away. Instead, you fill out your rental information, and they will send you an email a few minutes later. You then need to click on a link in the email to visit the webpage that shows the actual rates (for the specific car size you asked for) from a number of different rental car companies.
- Autoslash often automatically includes a coupon code in your reservation. That typically means that you won’t be able to add an additional coupon after you book.
- In most cases, Autoslash winds up finding the cheapest rates for most of our rentals, but you can't count on it always being lower than what you can find elsewhere, even for sites that it purports to search. For example, even though Autoslash is supposed to search the Costco rates, we sometimes find cheaper rates when searching directly through the Costco website. If you are going to search only one site, make it Autoslash. But, if you are willing to spend more time and effort, it can be worthwhile searching additional sites.
- Regardless of how you book, Autoslash will keep trying to get you a lower rate. If it finds one, you'll get a notification to re-book your reservation. Even if you wind up making your initial reservation elsewhere, you can enter confirmation number into Autoslash to have them track your rental rates.
If you want to make a reservation, you can book via Priceline. This may be confusing, because while you make your reservation with Priceline, the rates are the ones that Autoslash found, not the normal rates you would find if you went directly to the Priceline website. Rest assured that Autoslash isn't just a front-end to Priceline. They simply have a deal with Priceline that lets them leverage Priceline's backend to handle the actual reservation with the rate code that Autoslash uncovered. Also, while it says "Pay at Counter" that usually translates to paying when you drop off your car, like a normal car rental reservation.
In many cases, you'll also have the option of booking an even cheaper rate directly through Autoslash. For these "Pay Now" rates, you'll need to pay in full when you make the reservation, but you can cancel or change the reservation up to 48 hours before pick-up. This is much better than a typical non-refundable rate. However, with "Pay Now" reservations, you won't be able to add your frequent renter number to the reservation ahead of time. You can still add it at the counter when you arrive, or with National at the exit gate after you choose your car from the Emerald Aisle. But, this is more inconvenient than with the regular reservation.
Searching some additional sites
While Autoslash is the single best tool for car rentals, it can be worthwhile to check other some other sites as well.
- Use one of the large travel sites to check the prices at smaller car rental companies. The very best rental rates are likely to be from much smaller companies like E-Z Car Rentals or Ace Rent a Car, not from Avis, Hertz, and National, or even their smaller brethren, like Alamo or Thrifty. The best way to find these rates is to search an online travel site like Expedia or Kayak.com. Autoslash focuses primarily on the larger companies.
- If you have access to a good corporate or organizational discount code, it can often provide the best rates with certain rental car companies. For example, one of us used to work at Microsoft, and their rates with Avis and National were often fantastic, especially for domestic rentals. However, their corporate rate with Hertz was often higher than the non-discounted prices. Many discount codes available to employees of smaller companies are not as good. If your organization allows you to use their car rental rates with your personal rentals, it is worthwhile to check them—either through your organization’s travel portal, or by entering an applicable rate code into each rental company’s website. Use Corporate Car Rental Discounts (If You Can).
- On average, Costco offers the best generally available discounts and isn't always effectively searched by Autoslash. Their rates are generally better than what you can get with AAA, AARP, or other widely-available discounts codes. And they let you easily search Alamo, Avis, Budget, and Enterprise using a single search.
It doesn’t make much difference which one you use. We compared a handful of sites like Expedia, Travelocity, carrentals.com, and rentalcars.com, and in almost all cases, they returned essentially the same prices. Perhaps that comes as no surprise, as Expedia owns many of them.
Additional money saving tips
- (In most cases) turn down the insurance options. If you have auto insurance, are using a credit card, and are renting in the United States, Canada, or Europe, you are almost certainly covered by your existing insurance. Ignore the sales pitch and turn down all the extra insurance options. However, if you don’t have regular auto insurance, or you are travelling outside of these areas, you might need to get liability coverage from the car rental company. Guide to Car Rental Insurance.
- Consider prepaying to get a 5-30% discount. Being able to cancel or change your reservation, at any time, without any fees, is one of the best things about typical car rentals. While this freedom is great for renters, it makes it hard for the car rental companies to do business. As a result, most rental companies have started offering additional discounts to people who are willing to prepay for their rental, and agree to a non-refundable rate. Just remember, if you take advantage of these rates and need to make any changes, you'll pay a penalty or forfeit the entire amount of money you've spent; and you won't be able to take advantage of a better deal or promotion you find afterwards.
- Turn down the prepaid tank of gas. Car rental companies typically offer to let you prepay for gas at competitive prices, so that you don’t have to swing by a gas station before you return your car. This is almost always a bad deal. They charge you for the entire tank, regardless of how much gas is in the tank when you return the car. If you come back with a half tank, you're effectively paying double the per-gallon-rate. The only way a prepaid tank is affordable, is if you bring the car back nearly empty—but that's stressful and not always possible. On a short rental, consider having the car rental company fill the car up for you and just pay the high per-gallon cost. On a longer rental, fill it up yourself.
- For domestic rentals, consider booking an economy car. Because demand for economy and compact cars is so low, US-based rental locations typically don’t keep many of these cars in stock, and you’ll frequently get a free upgrade to a larger car—while still paying the lowest possible price. If you prefer a larger car, and aren’t automatically upgraded, you can typically pay a small additional charge at pick-up, to get the card you want. However, if you really must have a larger car, reserve it ahead-of-time, and don't take any chances.
- Use a credit card that offers bonus rewards for travel purchases. The best credit cards for travel rewards, such as the Chase Sapphire Reserve card (which also provides primary rental car coverage), earn rewards with a value of around 5.1 cents per dollar on car rentals. That’s like getting another 5.1% off your rental price. Best Credit Cards for Travel Spending.
- You can often avoid paying an additional driver fee. Most car rental companies will allow you to add your spouse or domestic partner as an additional driver, at no additional charge, at least for members of their loyalty programs. Some will even let you add any other person as a free additional driver. For details see:
If you are almost certain that you are going on your trip, it is often worth the risk. One strategy we often follow is to lock in a good regular (refundable) car rental rate, and then a few days before the trip, switch over to a lower non-refundable rate (if it is still available).
Another caveat is that the best coupons are often not valid on rental classes below an intermediate car. You may pay less overall to book an intermediate car with a coupon, than a economy car without one.
Automatic upgrades from economy to larger-sized cars don't work in much of the rest of the world. Outside of the United States, many people prefer smaller cars. You should follow their lead, if you can, as rates for larger cars are often much higher.
More advanced strategies for spending less on your car rentals
If you are going to take one step towards lower car rental rates, start using Autoslash. If you are interested in doing more, check out some of our additional strategies.
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