In the AutoSlash Cheap One-Way Rental Car Guide, we mentioned options such as Avis' program that allows customers in specific markets to drive a car one-way between airports and city-based locations during weekends. These offers serve a specific need for the rental car company. The promotion is valid on Thursday and Friday from airports to select city locations; parking is constrained at airports and there's relatively low weekend demand at airports but many leisure renters at neighborhood locations on weekends. The cars migrate from select city locations back to airports on Sunday and Monday to meet the demand of business travelers at the airport the next week. It's a fairly clever solution that gets some revenue, moves cars where they need to be, and even alleviates parking concerns at the airport.
The Old (but Still Active) Offer
The option we featured in the One-Way Rental Guide was at participating Avis locations only, rentals for a period of four hours or less, gas included, for $19.99 plus taxes and fees. This offer is comparatively rare in that it also includes a free Loss Damage Waiver (LDW). Even with taxes and fees, the trip to home at the end of a workweek (or back to the airport at the beginning of the next week) might be easier and cheaper with a rental car than using other transportation options (personal car with airport parking, ridesharing, taxi, or mass-transit).
Unlike an Uber fare, you can't get lost if you drive yourself!
The New and Improved (and Also Active) Offer
So how could AvisBudget Group "improve" their own promotion? By expanding the offer to selected Avis and Budget locations in a similar deal deal starting at $9.99 plus taxes and fees for a period up to 12-hours, gas included, with a cap of 150 miles (but no included Loss Damage Waiver).
- Link to new Avis offer (with participating locations)
- Link to new Budget offer (with participating locations)
Not only does this second option give a renter the ability to get home but it's possible to run errands, shop, and even attend an event or two within the (up to) 12-hour window!
At $10 plus tax, this is cheaper than owning/insuring/fueling a car for the day!
Sounds like an opportunity to really take advantage of a rental car company? Potentially but there's one secret to the model that Avis relies on that most renters would overlook.
So What Are the Catches?
There are two minor snags and the one major secret. The minor snags are the limited number of locations and the assorted rules listed in the offers. For instance, I would love to leverage this promo for my home outside of Nashville but the nearest Avis and Budget locations to my home are not participants. And the promotion's rules state the offer can be blocked out at any time, such as during a high-demand period. It's all right there in the rules.
The one major secret and biggest tripping point relate to the operations of a rental car company itself! The vast majority of neighborhood locations are open 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays and closed on Sundays.
- Pick up early in the day at an eligible airport on Thursday or Friday? The rental is likely going to be due at 6 p.m. that day, as the closed city location isn't going to allow after-hours returns!
- Want to pick up at your local Avis city location on Sunday to drive to the airport? The city location will likely be closed.
For the average person picking up at the airport before 6 p.m., this means the car's available until 6 p.m. So the up to 12 hours is truly a theoretical construct -- keeping for 12 hours requires that a renter have either a red-eye flight landing at 6 a.m. (to return at 6 p.m.) or a late night flight arriving after 8 p.m. (to return after the city location opens at 8 a.m.) Any flight arrival between 6 a.m. and 8 p.m. makes a 12-hour rental impossible on those Thursday/Friday trips home. Yet we do have to admit, this promotion is beautiful when a renter makes it work in their travel patterns and enters their loyalty number for points or expedited rentals!
We love it when a plan comes together!
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