Trying to nail down the average cost of a rental car is as futile as asking for the typical cost of a pair of shoes or a sandwich or a concert ticket. Of course it depends on a lot of factors. The price of a rental car depends on the rental car company, location, vehicle category and quality of the car itself.
We'll take a look at the factors that influence rental car rates and give tips on how to find the best rate possible.
Factors that Influence Car Rental Prices
Overall Cost vs. Base Rate
Always focus on the overall cost of your rental, not just the base rate. If you try to compare the best prices for a rental car, you'll quickly find that there's a wide range of prices even by the same company. The airport may offer a low rate plus a mountain of fees that push the overall cost sky high. The neighborhood location may have a much higher base rate but lower fees. The true price of your rental will be the sum of the base rate plus fees and taxes. Factor everything in.
There is a big myth about airport rentals, which may or may not have higher rates. Sometimes airports have higher rates due to add-on taxes and fees, but airport locations have more competition and higher daily volumes than a neighborhood site, so the forces of supply and demand keep prices down.
If you rent a car on an island or another remote geographic area, you can expect higher rates.
One-way rentals—picking up and dropping off a car in two different locations—will mean higher costs. Sometimes a drop-off fee can be in the hundreds of dollars.
Size, Add-Ons and Insurance
On top of base rates and fees, you can pay extra for optional add-ons like satellite radio and car rental insurance. If you opt for a GPS or car seat, expect to pay a surcharge.
The size and comfort of your selected vehicle, will also impact price, of course. An economy or compact car will be less expensive than a full-size or luxury car.
Do you need to buy car rental insurance? It's important to know whether your personal auto insurance and/or credit card will provide the car rental coverage you need. Most Americans who own and drive cars are already covered, but you should always check before arriving at the car rental counter.
Discounts and Memberships
Rental car companies are always offering deals in the form of special offers and discount codes that are often very specific about terms such as the length of the rental, location or size of the car. In addition, you may be eligible for a deal if you use a certain credit card to pay for the rental, or if you belong to an organization such as the AAA or USAA, or if you are a member of a shopping club such as Costco or BJ's.
Sometimes these specific offers will lower a rate, and other times it will allow you to avoid a fee. When you ask AutoSlash for a quote, we will factor in all of this information to make sure you get the very best deal based on your personal profile.
Prepay vs. Pay Later
It's always best to reserve your car as far in advance as possible. Same-day rentals are often much more expensive. You often get a lower price by prepaying, but you want to make sure that you can cancel your reservation without a penalty, in case a better deal comes along.
Consider Slash Deals, which are prepaid rates that can be canceled up to 48 hours before pickup.
Supply and Demand
The car rental industry uses dynamic pricing to determine rates. That means that prices fluctuate from day to day, and sometimes from hour to hour, based on simple supply and demand. You might book a rental car on Monday at $100, and the price might dip to $75 by midweek. When that happens, it makes sense to cancel your reservation and rebook at the lower rate.
When you ask AutoSlash to track your reservation, we will send you an email when there is a price drop, so you can be sure you won't miss out on a better deal.
AutoSlash will always search discount codes and other factors that can bring you savings. Ask us for a quote and we'll scour the Internet for the best possible rates every time.