In Search Of A Rental Car Discount

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I thought I knew all the tricks for renting cars at the best price…

  • I joined multiple rental car clubs to get their discounts.
  • I search online for discount codes.
  • I get a feel for the going prices with these discount codes, and I check online travel sites.
  • Once I know the going rates I place a lowball bid on Priceline. If my bid is not accepted, I make a reservation (most agencies don’t require a credit card guarantee, so it’s easy to cancel).
  • I check back a few weeks before my trip to see if prices have gone down. If they do, I rebook and cancel my old reservation.

These techniques have worked well for me. However, this week I added a new tactic to my repertoire, and it paid off!

Last month I went through all my usual rental car steps for my WDW Today Reunion trip to Walt Disney World in early December. The best price I found used my Alamo Insider member discount combined with a discount code I found on Neither Priceline, Expedia, Hotwire, or Orbitz could beat the price, and I was happy with it.

Well, Reunion is just around the corner, so it was time to check rental car prices again. I heard a tip to check car rentals through buying clubs like Sam’s Club and Costco. I have seen the glossy travel brochures at these places but never gave them much thought. I’m a member at Costco, so I registered with Costco’s online travel services website and checked the rental prices. I was blown away: with a Costco discount I was able to reduce the rental price by almost 50%!

My only problem was that my Alamo Insider account was not linked to the new reservation I made through Costco. I called Alamo to remedy this but learned that once a reservation is booked, Alamo cannot add the Insider account number. Fortunately, the Alamo agent offered to re-book my reservation with the Costco code. That worked, and I got the Alamo Insider member discount on top of the excellent Costco rate.

The result was terrific: in total (including all taxes and fees), I’m paying $31.23 for a 3-day “intermediate” rental car from a big-name agency.

Please share your car rental tips in the comments. What is the best deal you’ve scored?

Steve Bloom

By helping continue to reach the most accurate crowd level predictions, Steve finally found a way to meld his training in statistical analysis with a lifelong passion for Disney. He first visited the Magic Kingdom in 1972, just a few months after it opened. Now he enjoys frequent trips with his two kids. At age four his son insisted on wearing cowboy boots to reach the height requirement for Test Track, and his daughter believes that a smoked turkey leg and Dole Whip make a perfectly balanced meal. Even though she doesn't quite get it, Steve's wife is supportive of his Disney activities.

13 thoughts on “In Search Of A Rental Car Discount

  • November 29, 2011 at 10:08 am

    Great advice. Some of the best Disney tips come from this blog. Last year’s “Fly AND Drive” by Ryan Kilpatrick saved me hundreds of dollars. I took his advice. I flew Allegiant Airlines out of Roanoke, VA into Sanford where I picked up a Hertz rental car for $5 per day. Drove it to WDW (went off property to BG Tampa, Sea World and Aquatica) and then we drove it home to Virginia. It was amazing!

  • November 29, 2011 at 10:38 am

    I love digging for codes online. I usually Google search “National Car Rental Codes” too!

    When I lived in Atlanta (or in general, the southeast US) there would almost always be seasonal deals for oneway cars into and out of Florida. In fact, sometimes as low as $1.00 per day in the last year or so. You fly in and drive out (or drive in, and fly out). It helps the car rental companies move cars to where the renters are per season:

    Fall: Pick up near your home (airport), drop off in FL (airport or WDW Locations).
    Spring: Pick up in FL, drop off near home (airport).

    These can be a bit harder to find as you need rate codes that are not picked up by other sites. SO- I usually look at the “specials” sections of the actual rental car company’s website.

    I am seeing less offered this fall season, but it is something I have taken advantage of. I blogged about this before myself, so everyone within a day’s drive: “Keep your eyes and EARS open.” 😉

  • November 29, 2011 at 11:20 am

    I’m going for 3 weeks in May. I checked through Dollar and the prices were insane – $1100 base.I also used codes through MouseSavers altho’ there were no saving there. Then by mistake i re-checked Dollar price and by mistake put 4 weeks – instead of 3. The price dropped to $550!! So that’s obviously the going monthly rate. My tip however is to keeping checking prices all the way up to a few days before you leave (modifying reservations as prices drop). Normally prices drop way down at the very end.

  • November 29, 2011 at 2:33 pm

    I was able to get a car rental through Hotwire for $9.26 per day for an economy car for our trip a couple weeks ago – November 11-20. That was including all the taxes and fees, which was one of the best deals I’ve ever found.

    Hotwire has a Trip Watcher feature, where you can have it email you when prices change on your selected trip dates. I watched the price go between $12 and $32 a day for a few months, until one day I got an email that said $9.26. Of course, I immediately jumped online to book.

    Once I got the confirmation email, I found out the rental was through Enterprise, which worked just fine for us. Enterprise even upgraded us to a Camry, which I believe is either intermediate or full-size, since they had run out of economy cars by the time I arrived late on a Friday evening.

  • November 29, 2011 at 6:44 pm

    I just booked a standard rental through Priceline for $11/day for 8 days the week before Christmas and dropping off at another location… was a name your price deal and the rental company was Alamo. Very excited

  • November 29, 2011 at 7:44 pm

    Aside from Mousesavers (which is a great source for auto rental codes), I have heard (but not tried) positive things about

  • November 29, 2011 at 8:11 pm

    Wow, THANK YOU! Just looked into Costco car rentals and my price went from $400 down to $188! And that was after doing everything from Mousesavers to get HUGE savings for a 10-day Disney trip. Love this blog!

    • November 30, 2011 at 4:59 pm

      Wow! That pays for the Costco membership, too!

    • December 1, 2011 at 9:04 am

      Costco discounts also include second driver FREE. This can save $10-15 per day.

  • November 30, 2011 at 8:45 pm

    Wow!! This tip saved me several hundred dollars off of 2 rentals for our upcoming trips! Thanks!!!

  • December 2, 2011 at 7:32 pm

    Try priceline. You do not have to make a bid, Simply look at the list of cars they have.Sometimes the deluxe cars are the cheapest. I paid as low as 20 per day for a mid size car, 25 for premium (mustang) and during Dec12-15 paying 40 for deluxe SUV, when most people are asking 58 for a sub-compact

  • December 4, 2011 at 3:21 pm

    Stay away from Dollar Car Rental. They over charged my credit card by more than $150.00

  • December 6, 2011 at 11:52 am

    I’ve been a Costco member for years and always book my car through them. Sadly, I could not stack the Alamo Insider discount on top of the Costco discount. Nor could I add the pre-pay discount of 10%. I called Alamo twice and was told I could have either the Costco discount or the Alamo Insider discount…Costco was better. Not sure how you were able to get both.

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