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When is the Best Time to Rent a Car?
May 18, 2021

When is the Best Time to Rent a Car?

If you’re wondering when is the best time to rent a car, you can save the most by making strategic decisions well in advance of your trip. It doesn’t matter if you’re planning a personal vacation or a business trip - there are plenty of ways to avoid costly price bumps at the car rental counter. Follow these tips to save the most money on your next trip.

Book Early

If you’re wondering when is the cheapest time to rent a car, it’s definitely better to book early. Most car rental agencies use dynamic pricing. In other words, they charge different rates based on a variety of factors. The most important one is timing. As you near your booking date, demand goes up as other people are making last minute plans as well. You’ll get the cheapest rates by booking your rental at least a few months in advance. 

Plus, you’ll have a wider selection of vehicles to choose from so you pay for exactly what you need. If you wait too long, you may find that economy-sized cars are sold out. Upgrading may be fun, but it can also be expensive. Alternatively, you may also have trouble if you need a family-size vehicle to accommodate several children. It’s cheaper and less stressful to book your rental car as soon as you know where and when you’re traveling. 

Travel During the Off-Season 

To figure out when is the best time to rent a car for vacation, consider the peak season for that destination. Those time frames are more expensive than off-season dates. For instance, renting a car in Chicago during the winter months will likely be much less expensive than the spring and summer. Similarly, you’ll probably find higher rates at beach destinations during summer months.

Also consider the timing of your trip in relation to school break dates. Spring break, summer vacation, and the winter holidays are all considered peak travel times, regardless of the weather. Traveling outside of those dates could save you a lot of money on your car rental. Plus, you’ll avoid high demand and enjoy more inventory to choose from. Both of those are great news for your wallet if you have the flexibility to time your trip outside of peak dates. 

Check for a Free Cancellation Policy

Regardless of when is the best time to rent a car online, always check the car rental agency’s cancellation policy. It’s a major bonus if there’s no fee to cancel. That way, you can continue to monitor prices for your travel dates. If a better deal pops up, simply cancel your first reservation and reserve the next one. 

Be sure to understand the terms of the cancellation policy. Some car rental companies don’t require you to prepay for your reservation, making it easy and risk-free to cancel. In some cases, it depends on how soon your trip is about to take place. For instance, if you cancel within 24 hours of your trip, you may get a refund on any booking fees you paid, but have to pay a cancellation fee. 

Some car rental agencies also charge staggered cancellation fees. For instance, you pay a cheaper fee over 24 hours in advance, but pay a more expensive fee if it’s within a day of your reservation. The ideal scenario is making a reservation that has no cancellation fee at all.

couple driving down road

Take a Weekend Getaway

Car rental companies frequently offer the cheapest rates when you book for a full weekend. Maximize your savings potential by figuring out how the car rental agency defines the weekend. Often it includes Thursday afternoon through Monday morning. You may also be able to snag one free day when you book for three. Even if you don’t need the rental car for the full weekend, you may save more by extending your reservation to qualify for the weekend rate.

Some car rental agencies build these discounts directly into their websites. But you may be able to find discount codes or coupons to use for additional savings. Check the fine print to see if there are any limitations on combining discount codes and other online offers. 

Car Sharing with Avail

To find out when is the cheapest time to rent a car or any other city, check out Avail Car Sharing. In addition to honest, upfront pricing, you’ll also save with no fees for drivers under 25 and free second drivers. You’ll never travel another way again.