No one wants to pay more for a car rental than they have to. But if you have some flexibility with your travel dates, a bit of patience, and good organization, you can find the cheapest car rental rates and save some real money that can then be used during your trip. Here we offer some tips on how far ahead of your trip you should book a car rental, when you can get a better deal on travel to your destination, and why you should keep looking at car rental prices even after you book.
Tip 1: Watch the Calendar
It is a common view that you should book a car rental between 3 to 6 months ahead of your trip in order to get the best price. However, that rule of thumb becomes invalid if your trip is over a holiday, like Christmas or the Fourth of July, when prices will always be higher. The same can be said if you are planning to travel during the high season of your destination, whether that be the beach or the ski slopes. If you are traveling to a prime tourist destination, then booking 3 to 6 months ahead is highly recommended. That way, you not only get a good price and ensure you have a car, but can also make sure to get the kind of vehicle you want. If you are going to a not-so-popular destination, booking far ahead is likely not so important because of lower demand.
We looked at some price examples for Miami International Airport when booking on Sixt.com one month ahead, 3 months ahead, and 6 months ahead. The daily rate for an economy car was within a couple of dollars both one month head and 6 months ahead. However, dates 3 months ahead were about $15 cheaper per day. Regardless of whether you book 2 months or 4 months prior to your trip, if you want to pick up a car at a busy destination it also pays to check prices over the course of a day or two because sometimes the price fluctuations can be substantial.
Tip 2: Travel During the Low Season
When booking a trip and trying to save money on your car rental, it’s a good idea to consider when the popular times to visit are. Is it a winter beach destination? A place where families flock during summer vacation? Is there a popular event there during a certain time? Do people go there for an outdoor activity like hunting or skiing? If any of these are true, prices will be higher during peak times. If possible, you can choose to travel during a less popular time, when more vehicles are available and rental car companies lower prices to try to entice customers. Yes, if you live in Maine, going to the Caribbean might not be as appealing in June as it is in the cold of February but the cost of the trip will be lower.
Tip 3: Book With Free Cancellation
Nearly every car rental company, Sixt included, has two options when you book online: prepaid with no option to cancel and get your money back, or pay later with a cancellation option. The latter normally costs at least a couple of dollars more per day, but gives you flexibility in case of a family emergency or change of plans. Another perk of this option is that if you look at the price for your travel dates after booking, and it has dropped, you can cancel your current reservation and book a new one to take advantage of the lower price. This also means you won’t miss out if the car rental company offers a last-minute deal a couple of weeks before your trip.