Last Updated on March 10, 2024 by Michael


Looking for a cheap weekend car rental? Car rental companies can offer very attractive weekend promo rates—but there are often some strings attached. Knowing a little about rental car logic will help you get the most bang for your buck out of a weekend rental.

Don’t Pick Up Your Rental Car Before Noon on Thursday

You might think of the weekend as Saturday through Sunday. But for most rental car companies, the weekend starts on Thursday and extends into Monday. In fact, most rental car companies define the weekend with a precise start time, which is noon on Thursday. If you choose to pick up your rental car on Thursday morning, you are ineligible for the deal.

An exception to these guidelines is Sixt, an odd-ball when it comes to weekend car rentals. Sixt defines the weekend as an actual weekend, starting at noon on Friday and ending at 9 a.m. on Monday.

Example: A renter needs a car at Tampa International Airport for mid-day Thursday through 9 a.m. Monday. If he requests quotes to pick up at 11:30 a.m. on Thursday, he would pay $67.42 more than a renter who picked up the same car at noon on Thursday, even though both are quoted under the AAA rate code.

Picking up before noon can be pricey, even on the AAA rate.
What a difference 30 minutes makes.

Tip: If you need the car before noon on Thursday, then don’t book the weekend rate. Rental car reservations are always guaranteed as booked, with the rate, location, and pickup and return times specified. We’ve seen renters book a noon Thursday pickup and then appear shocked when the rental counter won’t let them pick up earlier in the morning at the same rate. Some rental companies will not allow a renter to pick up a weekend rental even 15 minutes early. If you want to take advantage of a weekend rate, then noon on Thursday is your earliest start time.

Keep the Car for Three Days

Many rental car companies—even those that don’t explicitly provide weekend rates—offer coupons that are only valid on weekend rentals. We often see coupons with a condition where the renter gets a free day or a specified discount if a rental lasts three billing days.

This condition makes it possible for a two-day rental to be more expensive than a three-day rental with the same pick-up time. The lesson here is to keep the car for three billing days. If you pick up the car on Thursday, don’t return it before Sunday. If you pick up the car on Friday, return it on Monday.

Don’t Return Your Rental Car Before Sunday

The car rental industry has a term called “a Saturday-night keep,” which simply means that a rate or coupon is only valid if a rental car is kept overnight on a Saturday. If you have a weekend rental rate and return the car to a major airport at 11:30 p.m. on a Saturday night, then the Saturday night keep requirement has not been met. Return the car an hour later, at 12:30 a.m. on a Sunday morning, and you’re good.

Example: A renter tries to make a Sunday morning flight easier by returning the car on Saturday night and then taking his hotel’s airport shuttle in the morning. He set a pick-up time of 3 p.m. on Thursday and a return time of Saturday at 11 p.m. This meets the three-day requirement but does not meet the Saturday night keep requirement. If the renter bumps back the return time to 6 a.m. on Sunday, he saves $45.37. Note that an Avis free day kicks in the instant the return switches over to Sunday.

Returning a weekend rental car on Saturday night is not the right move.
To save on a weekend car rental, keep the car until Sunday.

Car Rental Weekend Promos