This is exactly when you should book a rental car for the best deal


Regular knowledge suggests that you reserve vacation reservations in advance to nab the most effective deal. But when it comes to rental cars and trucks, this may possibly shock you: The best time to lease a vehicle is past moment, when they are likely to be much less expensive.

That is according to a NerdWallet investigation carried out in March 2022 of 360 rental car or truck rates from 8 significant car rental firms in the United States. The charges picked out for this evaluation had been the most economical possible alternative (ordinarily a tiny sedan) that allowed you to shell out at the counter (as opposed to in progress) and incorporated taxes and fees. The assessment as opposed the price to guide 3 months in progress of the reservation day as opposed to 7 days ahead of.

NerdWallet found that buyers pay out on common $75 a lot more to ebook a weeklong rental vehicle a few months in advance when compared with booking the very same rental just a 7 days in advance. That interprets to an additional charge of all-around 15%, simply for booking early.

The best time to reserve rental autos

Do motor vehicle rental prices go up nearer to the day? Actually, not always — and not usually.

The NerdWallet investigation — accounting for the booking time body across various places and car or truck rental makes — learned that leasing a car even a few days in advance of your reservation start out day can generate important savings.

Rental motor vehicle providers Alamo, Avis
Budget, Greenback, Company , Hertz
Nationwide and Thrifty were all integrated in the investigation.

The cost savings discovery materialized for each and every rental car corporation in the analysis. The variance was starkest at Company, where it was, on average, approximately 40% a lot more expensive to book three months in progress. Even at Dollar, which experienced the slightest distinction, it was continue to more expensive to book 3 months in advance.

Here’s the share difference in charges by rental automobile enterprise:

Rental car or truck enterprise

Percent a lot more you are going to shell out to reserve 3 months in advance vs. 1 week out





Spending budget












You really don’t help save funds by reserving a rental motor vehicle in advance, no issue how you slice it. So why is it so substantially more cost-effective to procrastinate?

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For starters, the past yr has been brutal for car or truck renters. Supply chain shortages have designed cars much more pricey in normal. A newfound, pandemic-pushed aversion to airplanes (by some) has inspired road outings as a trip alternative, consequently growing rental motor vehicle demand from customers. And the common resurgence of all sorts of travel following a slow 2020 has disrupted an understaffed journey field. All that, and it’s no surprise that some tourists have found limos are less costly than rental cars and trucks.

Michael Taylor, vacation intelligence direct at J.D. Ability, a details analytics firm, tells NerdWallet that he does not see the craze of less expensive last-moment rental cars and trucks as strange, in particular these times.

“Rental motor vehicle pricing algorithms have gone via a interval of sudden transform,” he states. “The surging desire, coupled with the lack of rental autos out there system-large, has seemingly triggered pricing versions to fluctuate a great deal much more than in the earlier.”

Taylor also phone calls out the problem of repositioning fleets. For case in point, it’s typical for travelers to fly into 1 airport and out of a further. As a result, some vacationers reserve a person-way rentals for trips like driving alongside the California coastline or making a cross-place road excursion.

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Rental motor vehicle firms commonly keep detailed information and make plans to be certain one location’s supply isn’t depleted from rentals that get checked out but returned elsewhere. They could possibly even give specials for one-way rentals in the reverse path.

But presented how substantially the pandemic has adjusted journey practices, that knowledge has come to be much less predictable. A low-priced previous-minute rental could just be a plea from a car rental company for drivers to deliver automobiles back to required areas.

And in anticipation of significant need in the coming calendar year, some rental auto firms established higher costs — and will only deliver them down previous minute on a glut. When some corporations and shoppers understand current vacation situations to be precarious, many anticipate a return to normalcy this summer season. The info suggests that rental car or truck businesses are environment price ranges to forecast the exact.

Also see: 4 ways to reduce your environmental impression when you travel—and save funds, also

Why you might continue to book rental cars and trucks in progress

Even even though last-moment rental automobiles are inclined to be more affordable, it could possibly not be a very good idea to procrastinate on reserving — regardless of whether intentionally or not.

You don’t want to hazard bought-out automobiles

“With the scarcity of vehicles, there is a definite chance that final-moment inquiries will yield no availability,” Taylor states. “That appears to be like a risky video game in this atmosphere.”

You do not want to obtain on your own caught in a city with no public transportation and restricted availability of rideshare products and services only to recognize rental cars are bought out. The vibrant aspect of reserving now: You can lock in a level that you are at least Ok with, as it’s greater than marketed-out cars.

And whilst the knowledge indicates that renting past moment is frequently less expensive, which is not usually the case. Especially in popular vacation locations like Hawaii, there are horror tales of renters making final-moment bookings (or modifications to existing bookings) only to incur added fees of in excess of a thousand bucks.

You may possibly be equipped to reserve a car now — and rebook the very same a person later at a discount

Here’s a system that could possibly get you the most effective of each worlds: the guarantee of a reservation and the risk of a less costly reservation. Reserve your rental car as quickly as possible, and pick out the solution that permits you to lock in your fee but pay back at the counter (most main rental auto companies let you do this).

Forward of your vacation, periodically look at your booked rental rate. If the value dips reduce than what you initially compensated, terminate and rebook. If you didn’t prepay for your reservation, most rental auto companies won’t cost you a cancellation charge.

JT Genter contributed to this report.

Far more From NerdWallet

Sally French writes for NerdWallet. E-mail: [email protected] Twitter: @SAFmedia.

Sam Kemmis writes for NerdWallet. E-mail: [email protected] Twitter: @samsambutdif.

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