Last Updated on December 5, 2023 by Jonathan
Looking for an easy way to slash your car rental price? After booking tens of thousands of car rentals, we have discovered a striking pattern that can potentially lower your price in an instant. The next time you book a trip, try this clever car rental hack.
The Half-Hour Hack
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 6:30 p.m.
Skeptical that this car rental hack can work? Let’s look at a few examples. We ran a quote for a weeklong minivan rental at Salt Lake City International Airport (SLC), picking up and returning at noon. In this particular case, Alamo and Payless tied for the cheapest of the major car rental brands, delivering a price of $525. Then ran the same quote request at the same airport, for the same car at the same time, but bumped back the pickup and return time to 12:30 p.m. Alamo’s price dropped to $470, while Payless and Enterprise came in at $525. The upshot: If you booked with Alamo, you’d save 10% without breaking a sweat.
For a recent quote at San Francisco International Airport (SFO), we saw a whopping $143 difference in National’s price simply by shifting the pickup and return time by 30 minutes.
Why the Half-Hour Hack Works
These price drops are not a coincidence. Certain car rental brands often price their rentals lower on the half hour than on the hour. Why is this? It has to do with pricing algorithms, automated rate shopping, and catching your competitor unaware to swing more of the business in your direction.
In short, the rental companies are re-shopping each other’s rates constantly and adjusting their pricing to try to get a leg up on the competition. These companies know that some portion of customers will choose to pick up and/or drop off on the half-hour, and in those cases, by offering lower prices, they will win more of business.
Think of car rental pricing like a water spigot. If you are the lowest-priced option in the market, then the spigot is on and reservations are flowing. As soon as one of your competitors undercuts your pricing, even by a small amount, the spigot turns off and the reservations stop flowing. A lot of customers will always choose the lowest-priced option, so there is a lot of wisdom to this strategy.
Is this a geeky hack? Sure, and it’s also the easiest and simplest hack hiding in plain sight. In some cases, you’ll get a significantly better deal.
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.