Last Updated on November 1, 2023 by Jonathan

Photo credit: Shutterstock

If you haven’t already heard, the U.S. is dealing with a massive rental car shortage due to the pandemic. There are fewer cars available just at the moment when people are starting to travel again. It’s driving us toward a car rental apocalypse where travelers will be encountering rock-bottom availability and sky-high rates. But don’t worry. We’ve got a trick that often works when rental cars are too expensive or even completely sold out.

Ask AutoSlash for a Quote on a Cheap Car Rental

As the CEO of AutoSlash, I’m keenly aware of what a rental car shortage looks like from inside the industry. We’re seeing exponentially more car rental requests that we’re unable to fulfill because of low or no availability. These days, rental companies are routinely selling out for weekends, so do yourself a favor and book much further ahead than you normally would. A month or longer ahead is a good bet.

When Rental Cars are Sold Out, Adjust Your Dates

When you ask AutoSlash for a quote and find out that cars are sold out, there’s always a human with tons of geeky travel hacking experience who will manually try to “find” availability for you and optimize the rate. That’s something that no other site does.

Here’s a trick that often works. When a customer wants to rent for just a few days and there is no availability, extending the rental from a few hours to a few days or even a week can sometimes magically reveal inventory that was hidden before. The reasons for this can be complex or random and simple. Perhaps, for example, the rental company wants to rent cars for longer periods to maximize their revenue.

Here’s a real-life example: A customer recently requested a rental car at Southwest Florida International Airport (RSW) in Ft. Myers, Florida from March 25 at 8 am to March 31 at 4 pm. When we ran the request, rates ranged from $237 to $285 per day, depending on the car category. That’s basically nosebleed territory.

Tap Into the Magic of AutoSlash

But check out what happened when we pushed the return date from March 31 to April 4. The per-day rate tumbled to $77 per day. That’s a drop of at least 68%! By extending the return date by four days, the overall cost of the rental plummeted by about $640.

But we were not done yet. Next, AutoSlash applied relevant discount codes—the service we’re most famous for—and the daily rate dropped again, this time to $43 to $49 per day. Now that seven-day rental that was going to cost a minimum of $1,659 was suddenly hacked down to a 11-day rental for $473.

Let AutoSlash Track Your Car Rental for Price Drops

So you might be thinking, “But he only needs a car for seven days—not 11 days.” The best thing about this trick is that the customer can return the car four days early without a penalty. If a customer books the longer (but cheaper) rental at the “pay later” rate, there’s a pretty good chance he might have the rate adjusted downward when he returns the car. 

Remember, “pay later” rates do not require payment for the reservation at the time of booking. With most prepaid rates, you would not be eligible for a refund for unused days, so be sure to book a “pay later” rate if using this strategy. That also gives you the flexibility to track your rental with AutoSlash for price drops.

One last bit of good news: If a customer books the longer (but cheaper) rental at the “pay later” rate, there’s a pretty good chance he might have the rate adjusted downward when he returns the car.