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Waiting to arrange a car rental can pay

By Claes Bell ·
Friday, September 3, 2010
Posted: 8 am ET

I ran across an interesting car rental pricing experiment conducted by the good people at They looked at how the price of a car rental changes as you get closer to the date you plan to pick the car up.

The compact car rental in question was booked through Alamo and was to last 12 days and be picked up from Boston Logan International Airport. The first quote they got, a little over three weeks out from the pick-up date, was for a whopping $482.89, even with a coupon and a group discount.

Waiting to arrange a car rental can pay

Waiting to arrange a car rental can pay

But subsequent quotes obtained revealed sharp price cuts, culminating in a quote of $260.81 two days before the scheduled pick up, which represents a price cut of nearly 46 percent, or $222.08, over the three-weeks-out price.

True, this experiment is a limited one, covering only one car rental carrier over one time period in an industry known for its seasonal price fluctuations. And waiting to make a reservation can increase the risk that all the rental cars will be taken and you'll be out of luck.

But the experiment does suggest that unless you truly wait until the last minute, you can get a better deal by making the reservation with less time to spare. In other words, try to catch that trough in the graph that starts around 5 days before the day you plan to pick up the rental car.

What do you think? Have you found that waiting to make a car rental reservation results in a lower price?

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September 11, 2010 at 9:21 am

Tht hasn't been my experience, at least for local car rental. Perhaps it is because I live in a city where the demand for personal transport is high. Waiting tends to eliminate choices. Your story does give me another condition to watch for when I travel.

Jonathan Weinberg
September 08, 2010 at 3:15 pm

The folks at Mouseprint are 100% correct--rental rates can and drop drop all the time. Granted, not in every instance, but enough of the time that tracking rates can result in a big payoff.

Here's the catch though--rates can also rise. Waiting to book your car until you are close to the pickup date is not the right approach. You may find yourself paying *way* more than you needed to.

So what's the answer? Well there's a new website launched earlier this year called that will track the price of your rental. It will even automatically re-book you at a lower rate if/when prices drop. To take maximum advantage of the site, they recommend booking as early as possible as there is no downside to doing so.

FULL DISCLOSURE: I am one of the founders of