Last Updated on July 24, 2023 by Jonathan
You’ve heard of overbooked flights and overbooked hotels. And these days, we’re seeing an awful lot of overbooked rental cars at some major rental car companies. This creates a problem for many travelers who show up at the rental car desk only to be told their reserved car has been given to somebody else. Here are tried-and-true tips to make sure this doesn’t happen to you.
Set your pickup time for 2 hours after your plane arrives.
Most rental car overbookings happen at airports. It used to be that rental car companies would typically hold a reserved car for up to two hours, but that isn’t always happening now due to a rise in overbooking practices. If you arrive at the desk early or on time, you are likely to get your car. But get there even a little late and, frankly, it’s a crap shoot.
An easy remedy is to set your pickup time for two hours after your flight touches down. Consider that this summer is seeing an unprecedented number of flight delays, usually due to extreme heat and thunderstorms. If you give yourself extra padding, it’s less likely you’ll get shortchanged.
Consider an off-airport pickup location.
When overbooking is as prevalent as it is now, you can lower the risk factor even more if you pick up a car at a downtown location or even a few miles off-airport. The cost of a short taxi or Uber ride can be repaid in peace of mind.
When might you NOT want to use this tip? When your plane is landing very early or very late in the day. Non-airport locations often have shorter hours, so always double check the opening and closing hours of your pickup location.
Try the half-hour hack.
It might not lower the risk of getting bumped from your reserved car, but there’s a very nifty trick that can shave significant dollars of your rental. Instead of automatically booking your pickup time to be on the hour — say, 9 a.m. or 1 p.m. or 6 p.m. — ask for a second quote for the half hour before or after your original time — 9:30 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. or 5:30 p.m.
This trick works because of the complex way car rental companies determine prices based on supply and demand. Because some portion of customers will choose to pick up and/or drop off on the half-hour, it pays to offer competitve pricing for those time slots, too.
So the next time you need a rental car, ask us for two quotes — one on the hour and one on the half hour. It won’t cost you a dime to put in the extra quote request and you might just save a bundle.