Finding the best car rental deal

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Finding great deals for car rentals is not something I’ve spent much time looking into in the past.  Last year, during the Daily Getways (which are coincidentally going on right now), I bought a pile of Hertz points.  Since then, my car rental plan has been simple: Search for the best price.  If the best price is $50 per day or higher, use Hertz points.  If less than $50 per day, then pay. 

Million Mile Secrets has run a nice series on getting cheap rental cars.  For example, see this recent post.  I needed a two day rental, so I tried some of his tricks as well as my own to see where I’d find the best price.  With 5 people travelling together, I needed an intermediate size car or larger.  Here is what I found:

Costco Travel: $206.19

Costco Travel often has very competitive prices for vacation packages, cruises, and rental cars.  I ran a quick search for the dates I needed.  Total cost $206.19.

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Ultimate Rewards: $120 (or 9,600 points)

I logged into Ultimate Rewards, selected “Travel… Flights, Hotels, & Car Rentals” and searched for a car.  Total cost $120.

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I repeated the search twice.  First, I logged in with a premium card (Ink Plus), and the second time I logged in with a no annual fee card (Freedom).  The price ws the same both times (except the number of points required would be more with the Freedom card since the premium cards give a point discount).

 

Kayak: $167

I ran a simple search through Kayak. Kayak found a total rate of $167.

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Hotwire: $244.25

Hotwire was disappointing.  $250.39 total.

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Hertz w/ corporate code: $146.14

Through my prior employer, a corporate discount code was attached to my Hertz account, and it’s still there.  I find that this code gives me better rates than other discount options through Hertz.  Total cost: $146.14.  With no discount code, Hertz offered a rate of $188.73.  Using the discount code that comes with an Amex Platinum card brought the best rate to $178.37.

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Avis Preferred

Thanks to my Amex Platinum card, I have Avis Preferred status which offers discounted rentals.  With this status, I got a rate of $201.98.

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I then tried using my Ink Insiders discount number (which is available to Chase Ink cardholders) and got the same results.  Without either number, Avis quoted a rate of $242.20, so either discount number saves about 17% for this rental at Avis.  If I pay with a business MasterCard (such as Chase Ink) card registered to the MasterCard Easy Savings program I would save an additional 5%.

 

Summary

Here are the results I found, listed from best to worst:

  • Ultimate Rewards: $120 (or 9,600 points)
  • Hertz with Corporate Code: $146.14
  • Kayak: $167
  • Hertz Amex Platinum discount: $178.37
  • Hertz no-discount: $188.73
  • Avis Preferred: $201.98
  • Costco Travel: $206.19
  • Avis no-discount: $242.20
  • Hotwire: $244.25

The Ultimate Rewards search engine found the best price overall.  This matches Million Mile Secret’s finding (here).  It’s important to note, though, that this was just one very specific search.  I’ve done similar comparative searches in the past and usually I’ve found that the Ultimate Rewards price is no better than the best price available through Kayak.  So, despite these findings, it still makes sense to search multiple sites to find the best price.

In the end, even though the Ultimate Rewards price was really good, I booked through Hertz using points.  With points, I was able to pick an even larger car at no additional cost for this two day rental, and with 5 people and luggage, I think we’ll need it.

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