Last Updated on March 30, 2022 by Jonathan
When you request a discounted car rental quote from AutoSlash, we often direct you to Priceline to complete your booking. While we typically recommend tracking your rental with us for lower rates, there are times when a prepaid rate might save you some big bucks—especially when it comes to Priceline Express Deals. In some cases, we’re talking about a 40% savings over what you might be able to achieve with a pay-later rate—even with AutoSlash’s discounting magic. That’s not chump change.
Prepaid deals do have their place, and sometimes you can save a bundle by taking advantage of them, especially in times like the Car Rental Apocalypse 2022. Let’s take a closer look at Express Deals, Priceline’s most popular offering for car rental deal hunters.
Key Restrictions For Priceline Express Deals
A Priceline Express Deal is a deeply-discounted rate on a car rental that comes with some significant restrictions. Three key elements distinguish an Express Deal from a more traditional car rental offering:
- You must pay for your Express Deal car rental in full at the time of booking.
- You do not find out the rental car company until you pay for the rental.
- Express Deal rental reservations are non-refundable, non-transferable, and non-changeable even if the reservation is not use.
If you think those sound like some pretty onerous restrictions, you’re absolutely right. So why would someone want to book an Express Deal over a typical pay-later deal that AutoSlash offers? The answer is that Priceline Express Deals can deliver incredibly big savings. But that doesn’t mean Priceline Express Deals are right for everyone in all situations.
How Do Express Deals Work?
Booking an Express Deal is pretty simple, but it’s crucial to understanding what you are getting. First, Priceline breaks down Express Deals into three tiers based on rental car brand names. For simplicity, we’ll refer to them as Tier 1, Tier 2, and Tier 3.
- Tier 1 – You could be booked with Avis, Hertz or National.
- Tier 2 – You could be booked with Alamo, Budget, Dollar, Sixt or Thrifty.
- Tier 3 – You could be booked with Ace, Economy, Fox or Payless.
Choosing an Express Deal from among the Tier 1 and Tier 2 companies is pretty low-risk. Tier 1 are all high-quality companies that consistently deliver excellent service in the vast majority of cases. For the most part, the same applies to the Tier 2 companies. With the exception of Sixt, the companies are all mid-tier brands affiliated with major Tier 1 companies. All of these companies typically provide dependable service, although the wait for a car may be longer than with the majors.
Buyer Beware: Tier 3
Tier 3 is where we need a dose of caution. Payless, which is owned by Avis Budget Corporation, was a notorious “bad actor” back in the day. But it has cleaned up its act and now provides consistently decent service these days.
Fox is a discount brand that typically provides reliable, if not unremarkable, service. Lines, however, can sometimes be fairly long if you arrive at a busy time.
Ace and Economy, on the other hand, are wild cards. Typically, the pickup locations are franchises and often hit or miss. Some locations provide decent service, while others are abysmal. What’s more, locations are often are inconveniently located and may require two separate shuttles to get there and back. That can be tiresome, especially after a long flight. We’d exercise caution choosing an Express Deal from the Tier 3 companies.
When To Consider a Priceline Express Deal Car Rental
While the decision to book an Express Deal is an individual one, here are some general guidelines. It makes sense to book a Priceline Express Deal when:
- Your plans are firm and you know you’ll be picking up the car as reserved.
- Your pickup date is coming up soon, especially if it’s less than a week away.
- There is significant savings over the best pay-later rate that AutoSlash finds.
- You don’t mind waiting in line. You don’t normally use the skip the counter services offered by the rental companies.
- Your prime motivator is price, not brand loyalty.
When To Avoid a Priceline Express Deal Car Rental
On the other hand, it does not make sense to book a Priceline Express Deal when:
- Your plans aren’t firm, meaning there’s a decent chance you will not be able to pick up your car on the date reserved.
- Your pickup date is a long way off.
- The price difference compared to a discounted pay-later rate is small.
- You’re a loyalty member with a major rental company and don’t want to wait in line at the rental counter. (In most cases, Express Deal customers can NOT make use of skip-the-counter services.)
- You’re a local renter (not flying in) AND renting from a Tier 3 company AND need to drive more than 100 miles per day. (Mileage may be limited if you live in the area.)
How to Save More With a Priceline Express Deal
AutoSlash always helps you get the best deal possible, and sometimes Express Deals can be the best choice.
Be sure to use Priceline’s filters to sort by “Lowest Total Price” and “Deal Type.” We’ve noticed that pricing and availability can sometimes be different between the desktop and mobile versions of their website.