In the AutoSlash Guide to One-Way Rentals, we describe how rental cars and migratory birds in the Atlantic Flyway have one characteristic in common -- an annual migration from the northeast United States to the southeast United States (namely Florida) in the fall and the reverse in the early spring. The story in the case of the birds and rental cars is about survival. Birds will die (literally) in the cold while rental car companies would destroy value keeping cars in the Northeast (with comparatively low demand over the winter months) instead of in warmer climates where there's high seasonable demand for rental cars. Each year, the rental car companies face a choice in moving thousands of cars from the Northeast to Florida. That's where cheap drive-in specials come into play, with base rates below $5 per day for one-way rentals.
Why do the rental car companies offer cheap drive-in (or drive-out) rentals to get cars from an area where there's a surplus of vehicles to an area where there's a shortage of vehicles? The rental car companies really only have two choices to move thousands of cars between the Northeast and Florida:
- Spending millions to have professional car transporters relocate the cars, or
- Setting rates so cheap that customers will be induced to make a one-way rental.
The concept of supply and demand really works! Set rates low enough and the quantity demanded by consumers for one-way rentals will spike! The rental car companies make a conscious decision to earn a modest amount of revenue instead of incurring a massive expense. For travelers with flexible plans, these specials can be a fantastic value. Hertz Global Holdings (Dollar, Hertz, and Thrifty) has already introduced their fall drive-in program to get cars from the Northeast to Florida. The offer comes in stages as in years past. A renter can pick up an eligible car in Albany as early as Labor Day (September 4, 2017) to begin the journey south while a renter from Washington D.C. wouldn't be able to pick up an eligible car until October 10, 2017; the high-demand season in Albany ends much earlier than the high-demand season in the D.C. region.
How long do these specials last? The rates are available now but only exist until the rental car companies project that enough cars will have been relocated. Want a car for a one-way rental at a base rate of $5 per day? Book earlier, rather than later.
How to Use this Gift from the Rental Car Companies
Our favorite part of these one-way promotions (other than the price) is that these programs allow leisurely drives in the United States. One-way transfer specials in other countries tend to be limited to a single day. These cars from Dollar, Hertz, and Thrifty can be rented for up to 14 days. Need a car in Boston for a week, then want to haul some possessions to Florida? It would be cheaper to have the one-way rental for two weeks (and driving wherever needed in the interim) than booking any rental in Boston!
The local authorities still get their share of taxes and fees but this Thrifty full-size from Boston is under $35 per week!
These promotions are relatively straightforward, a true oddity when dealing with rental car companies:
- Request the right class (Economy through Full-Size),
- Pick up at an eligible Northeast airport during an eligible timeframe.
- Return at an eligible Florida airport within 14 days.
If there are vehicles available under the promotion, the pre-tax rate will automatically come back as $4.99 per day but the rate with taxes and fees will be higher. AutoSlash quotes automatically include mandatory taxes and fees! In the Boston to Fort Lauderdale example above, the $4.99 per day rental is $13.20 per day after the tax and fee burden imposed by the State of Massachusetts, City of Boston, Massport (operator of the airport), and the rental car companies It's still a much better deal than booking a car at regular rates for an identical stay in Boston!
The one-way rental special is a massive discount compared to a round-trip rental in Boston for the same dates!
Dollar, Hertz, and Thrifty Terms and Conditions
The promotion terms are the same (except company name) whether renting from Dollar, Hertz, or Thrifty. This may well be the first time we've seen common program terms among these three rental car companies since Hertz bought Dollar Thrifty Automotive Group in 2012! We hope this practice continues, as that definitely makes life easier for the AutoSlash team!
"Subject to availability, this one-way offer is redeemable in select markets. Base rate includes time and mileage charges only. Taxes, fees, and optional charges are not included. Eligible pick-up airport locations include ALB, and SYR between 9/4/2017 through 12/10/2017; BWI, DCA, IAD, ORF, RIC, BOS, ROA, BTV, BDL, PHL, PIT, PVD, JFK, LGA, EWR, ISP, PWM and HPN between 10/10/2017 through 12/10/2017; and CLT and RDU between 10/23/2017 through 12/10/2017. Eligible drop-off airport locations in Florida include FLL, RSW, JAX, MIA, MCO, SRQ, TLH, TPA, and PBI. The maximum length of keep for this promotion is fourteen (14) days. Offer valid on Economy through Full-size car classes. Not all vehicles, vehicle equipment and services are available at all locations. Age, driver, credit and qualifying rate restrictions for the renting location apply. Advance reservation required. Offer not valid and rate change or additional fees may apply in the event of reservation modification, early / late vehicle return. Offer has no cash value, and may not be used with other discounts, promotions or special rates. Limited quantities available. Subject to blackout periods and additional restrictions."
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