It's been a while since we've done a piece in our Timing is Everything series. A request from my friend Jim today however, reminded me just how much you can save by slightly adjusting the time of your rental. Let me explain...

Jim needed a car at Newark airport for a few days. He read our recent post about great deals for USAA members. He asked me if I thought that would save him some money. Only one way to find out, so I started comparing rates.

It turns out that the standard rate from Budget for his 5-day rental of an intermediate car is $402.49 with Budget. By applying the USAA discount code for Budget, it dropped the rate down to $340.99. That's a savings of $61.50. Not too shabby, but to be honest, Budget was still getting beaten by discounted rates from Enterprise and Dollar.

Being the curious sort though, I decided to see if changing the time of the rental made any difference. Jim's pickup was at 3:00 PM on 12/4 and his dropoff was at noon on 12/9. Sometimes renting for longer actually drops the price, so I started out by setting his dropoff time to 3PM to see what would happen. I hit pay dirt on the first try! Budget now beat the others hands down.

As you can see from above, by extending Jim's rental by 3 hours, it actual reduced his price by $90.40. Why does this happen? Darned if we know, but we definitely can use it to our advantage!

Jim still needs to return the car around noon to make his flight, but that won't impact the price of his rental with the 3PM return time. You can always drop your car off a few hours earlier (but not later) than the scheduled time without any penalty.

What the moral of this story? Don't hesitate to play around with the times and dates of your rental. Sometimes keeping (or at least booking) your rental for a bit longer can save you big bucks. While it's almost impossible to predict what, if any effect changing the rental period will have on the price, a little bit of trial and error can often yield some surprising results.

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