How much will your holiday car rental cost? Since Labor Day, travelers have seen lower car rental rates and better availability. Prices, which were averaging near $100 per day during the summer, had come down to a more reasonable $50 to $75 per day during September and October.
But with the holidays just around the corner, AutoSlash is seeing sky-high rates coming back. It’s not unusual to find rates in the $75 to $100 per range for Thanksgiving and Christmas, and with inventory tightening in the coming days and weeks, we expect average rates to top $100 per day in many parts of the country. In fact, we’re already seeing rates between $125 and $150 per day over Thanksgiving in the New York City metro area.
Meanwhile, holiday car rental rates at major Florida airports often exceed $100 per day, and Hawaii airports are higher still at over $115 per day — and that’s where you can even find a car. The island of Kauai is already completely sold out for both Thanksgiving and Christmas and many dates in between.
How can travelers protect themselves from higher rates and a general lack of availability? Here are a few simple strategies to save money:
Plan ahead and avoid prepaying
Our advice is to plan as far ahead as possible and always book a pay-later car rental which does not require you to give your credit card to secure the reservation. This not only allows you to retain flexibility if your plans change, but it also allows you to use a service like AutoSlash to monitor rates and re-book anytime a better deal comes along.
Take advantage of all eligible discounts
Organizations like AAA, Costco, AARP, USAA, and even frequent flyer programs and credit cards all offer discount codes that can yield significant savings on your rental. We’ve seen cases where a given discount code can drop the rental car price by more than half. Some companies even let you apply coupons in addition to a discount code for further savings. Tell AutoSlash about your memberships and we’ll automatically apply the best coupon codes for which you are eligible.
Check off-airport locations
When airport rental car locations are sold out or just too expensive, investigate off-airport locations. You can avoid many of the taxes and fees rental companies charge at the airport, and it can even be a more convenient option since you can avoid the lines and airport shuttle buses by taking a cab or rideshare to a nearby local office. You can even rent one-way and return at the airport. Just remember to add on the cost of transportation to the location when comparing options, and keep in mind that off-airport locations often have more limited hours than the airport.
Sign up for rental company loyalty programs
Between high holiday demand and fewer vehicles available this year, renters are in for long lines at the rental counter. A simple way to get preferred treatment is to sign up for car rental loyalty programs that let you skip the counter entirely. These programs are free to join and let you choose your own vehicle in many cases so you can be on your way quickly. For those who miss this crucial step, many companies also allow you to check in online ahead of time, which can also get you on your way more quickly.
Be smart about add-on options
We recommend filling up the car yourself at the end of the rental. Prepaying for a tank of gas is almost never a smart move despite what the rental company may tell you. If you need a child car seat, Dollar has a fantastic deal this holiday for $1-per-day car seats (no limit). If you’re an AAA member and book with the
AAA discount code, that price drops to free with Dollar, Thrifty, and Hertz.
With a bit of planning and choosing wisely, travelers can avoid both high prices and stress when renting a car for the holidays. AutoSlash makes the process fast and easy by searching for available discounts and letting you know when prices drop so you can re-book and save. Travelers who use AutoSlash save an average of 30% over other car rental booking sites.