Does It Make Sense to Prepay for Your Rental Car? - AutoSlash (2023)

Last Updated on September 7, 2022 by Jonathan

Does It Make Sense to Prepay for Your Rental Car? - AutoSlash (1)

Shopping online for a rental car can be a confusing process in the best of times, but this year is unlike any other. Coming out of the pandemic, we’re still facing a car rental shortage, which has driven up prices. The best way to protect yourself is to choose the “Pay Later” rate for your rental car so you keep your options open and don’t risk missing out on a better deal.

We all want a cheap car rental, but don’t always know how to get the best price. One of the first choices you’ll face is when to pay. When you make a reservation, you might choose to simply provide your contact information and pay for the car at the counter when you pick up the car.

Alternatively, you can opt for a prepaid, non-cancellable rental in which you pay up front in full when you make the reservation. Is it a good idea to prepay for a car rental? Or do you get a better deal by paying later?

In most cases, a publicly available “Pay Later” rate will deliver the lowest price. (After booking, be sure to ask us to track your reservation for price drops. A prepaid rate locks you in and you’ll miss out if a better price comes along.)


No Shows and Prepaid Rental Cars

The no-show rate in the car rental industry as a whole can approach 30%. That means that up to one-third of people who make a reservation for a car rental will not pick it up. To protect themselves, car rental companies must overbook in order to get close to renting the majority of vehicles available. But it can backfire. You may show up with a confirmed reservation, only to find out that there are no cars available in the class that you reserved.

Ask AutoSlash for a Quote on a Cheap Car Rental

Most customers do not secure their reservation with a credit card, which leads to no-shows. This means that there is no consequence if someone books a rental car and then fails to show up to claim it. The industry has grappled with no shows for some time, which led it to introduce a prepaid model. Prepayment provides financial accountability for the renter to actually show up for their rental. If you don’t show, you will either pay a penalty or you will forfeit the entire amount paid.

How Car Rental Companies Get You to Prepay

When booking a vehicle online, you’ll sometimes see two prices—one for “Pay Later” and one for “Pay Now”. Not every rental company offers a “Pay Now” or prepaid option, and typically not on every vehicle category. Yet when this option is available, the price will typically be 5% to 15% lower than the standard rate.

By paying upfront, you’re signaling to the rental car company that you’ll show up for the rental. In return, the car rental company gives you a bit of a discount as a reward for taking some of the risk out of equation.

(Video) How to Save Money on Rental Cars with AutoSlash | How I Saved $250 on My Recent Car Rental

If your plans are firm, then a 15% discount might be a tempting offer, but it’s important to keep a few things in mind before hitting the “Pay Now” button. First, if you decide to cancel your reservation, you’ll virtually always be hit with a cancellation fee. One major rental company website states that if you cancel your reservation more than 24 hours before pickup time, it will charge you a $25 cancellation fee. Cancel within 24 hours, and it bumps up to a $50 cancellation fee. If you don’t show, you’ll forfeit the entire amount paid.

There is an exception, however. AutoSlash’s prepaid rates are cancelable up to 48 hours with zero penalty. That means if you book one of our prepaid deals three weeks in advance of your trip, you can track the rental with us for better deals right up to the 48-hour mark and still be able to cancel and re-book if a better deal comes along, with zero penalty.

In contrast, if you make a prepaid reservation elsewhere and need to cancel, you will pay a penalty no matter what.

Save with Slash Deals—Low Prepaid Rates, No Cancellation Penalty

The other thing to know about a prepaid rate is that the discount is typically off the published rate only. If you apply a discount code or coupon, the “Pay Now” option often disappears. You’d be wise to check the rental company website for coupons and compare other discount codes for which you might be eligible.

(Video) Car Rental Questions? MilesTalk LIVE with AutoSlash

Prepaid Car Rentals on Opaque Websites

Sites like Priceline and Hotwire sometimes offer what are known as “opaque” deals, because they offer you a deeper discount in exchange for not revealing the rental company until after you’ve paid. Priceline calls them *Express Deals* while Hotwire calls with *Hot Rates.” Whatever the name, the most important thing to know is that once you’ve paid, you are locked in. You cannot cancel for any reason. Don’t like the rental company? Change of plans? Sorry, you’re out of luck. No changes or refunds.

Let AutoSlash Track Your Car Rental for Price Drops

Certainly there are great deals out here, but the major drawback is that the policies are even more restrictive than if you book directly with the rental companies. For example, you may encounter language like this:

“Rentals are final and cannot be cancelled, refunded, changed, exchanged or transferred. Your account will be charged for the total price shown, regardless of whether the reservation is used.”

Naturally, rental car companies love prepaid bookings. For them, it’s guaranteed money in the bank. From a consumer’s perspective, the attractiveness really depends on how good a deal is, and whether you’re certain you’ll be able to make trip as planned. For a small discount, it may not be worthwhile, But if the price differential is large, prepaying may be tempting. It’s important to evaluate all of your options before making a decision in order to get the best deal.


Does It Make Sense to Prepay for a Rental Car?

Prepaying for your rental, either through the rental company’s website or through one of the opaque booking sites can offer you a discount off the standard rate. Typically the discounts offered by the opaque sites tend to be more aggressive than the rental companies themselves, but there are also more restrictions, so be sure your plans are 100% firm.

Also keep in mind that rental rates can change multiple times a day. What may look like a great rate today can look like a rip-off tomorrow. Savvy renters have learned to let AutoSlash search for the lowest rate and then track your price automatically. But if you’re locked into a prepaid rate, then you will miss out on potential savings if rates drop after you book. (Remember, the exception is if you book AutoSlash’s prepaid rates, you can track your reservation and cancel up to 48 hours before pickup without any penalty.)

The bottom line? We rarely find that prepayment is a good deal unless you’re booking last minute. So long as you have not yet paid for your rental, AutoSlash can usually find a better deal through price drops.


  • 6 Reasons You Should Never Prepay for Gas in a Rental Car
  • Should You Buy Car Rental Insurance?


Is it better to wait until the last minute to rent a car? ›

But when it comes to rental cars, this might surprise you: The best time to rent a car is last minute, when they tend to be cheaper. That's according to a NerdWallet analysis conducted in March 2022 of 360 rental car prices from eight major car rental companies in the United States.

What is the difference between pay now and pay later with Avis? ›

Avis for example offers the pay now and the pay later option. When you chose pay now, you have to pay the full amount while booking it and when you chose to pay later, you have to pay when picking up the car.

How do you beat the high price car rental? ›

10 ways to save money on your next rental car
  1. Book early — especially during peak travel season. ...
  2. Avoid booking at airports if possible — they can pile on fees. ...
  3. Use a credit card that will cover primary insurance. ...
  4. Plug in your Costco, AAA and other memberships. ...
  5. Book through sites like Autoslash, which factors in discounts.
31 Mar 2019

Is AutoSlash part of Priceline? ›

AutoSlash makes money by linking users to Priceline to book their rental car. That means car rental companies that aren't available on Priceline won't appear in your results. It's worth checking other rental car companies and rental car alternatives to ensure you're getting the best deal available.

Is it better to pick-up a rental car early or late? ›

Arriving a few minutes early at the counter is less of a problem than arriving late. Most rental companies will let you take the car early if it's available. As a general rule, leave 45 – 60 minutes between expected landing time and the car rental pick-up time.

What day is the best day to rent a car? ›

Weekends are the best days to rent a car because most people do not need them on the weekend. Weekend rentals are a great way to take a day trip somewhere if someone doesn't want to rack up miles on their own vehicles. Most car rental places will offer price points that include unlimited mileage.

Is it cheaper to prepay for a rental car? ›

Some rental car websites will ask you to pay now or pay later and sometimes – the difference in rate can be a thing. In most cases, you'll find that prepayment cost will be around 5-15% lower than your standard reservations.

Is it cheaper to pay for a rental car in advance? ›

Booking three to six months before you travel is usually ideal. Prices tend to be most competitive during this period. There isn't much benefit to booking further ahead. If anything, prices tend to be higher a year ahead.

Is prepaid rental car guaranteed? ›

Prepaying for a car rental is guaranteed money for a rental company, which is why they hook you in by offering anywhere from a 5%-30% discount to prepay. It might seem like the better deal, but it's not always the best option.

How do I get a huge discount on a rental car? ›

If you're looking for a discount car rental

Being a member of an organization or a wholesale club often provides more benefits than just discounts on products or services. AAA, AARP and Costco all provide car rental discounts to their members. If you're not a member, search for a vehicle on AutoSlash.

How can I lower the cost of my rental car? ›

The Cheapest Way to Rent a Car: 10 Tips
  1. Skip the airport. Renting at the airport is convenient when you're flying into a new city. ...
  2. Shop around online. ...
  3. Turn to discount brands. ...
  4. Leverage memberships. ...
  5. Opt for economy cars. ...
  6. Stick to one driver. ...
  7. Use your own insurance. ...
  8. Forgo the extras.
1 Feb 2022

Can you negotiate price when renting? ›

Many people don't seem to realize that rent prices aren't always fixed. This means, you totally can negotiate on rent! If you're thinking to yourself, “Why should I negotiate rent in the first place?” The solution is obvious.

What is the best car rental platform? ›

The Best Car Rental Booking Sites in the U.S. and Europe
  • Hotwire.
  • Priceline.
  • Expedia.
  • Low-cost car rental booking sites Alamo, Payless, and Thrifty.
  • Sixt Car Rentals.
  • AARP's discount with Avis, Budget, and Payless.
22 Feb 2022

Can you cancel Autoslash? ›

You'll need to contact whomever you originally booked the reservation to cancel it. Although there's no penalty to cancel or no-show most rental car reservations, we do recommend that you cancel any reservations you don't intend to use at least a couple of days before you pick up your car.

How do you use Priceline for car rental? ›

To book a rental car on Priceline:

Enter a rental location, pick-up date & time, and drop-off date & time. Select a car type and company to rent it from. Select whether or not you want additional collision insurance. ​Enter your driver and contact information, and confirm your order.

Do car rental prices go up or down closer to the date? ›

But when it comes to rental cars, this might surprise you: The best time to rent a car is last minute, when they tend to be cheaper. That's according to a NerdWallet analysis conducted in March 2022 of 360 rental car prices from eight major car rental companies in the United States.

Is it OK if im late to pick up rental car? ›

Two (2) hours after the reserved pick-up time the reserved vehicle will be made available for other customers. If you arrive at the location more than two (2) hours after the reserved pick-up time, we will try to provide a vehicle for you, however, availability cannot be guaranteed.

What is the cheapest website to book a rental car? ›

The 12 Best Websites for Finding Cheap Car Rentals [2022]
  • Book Directly Through the Car Rental Agency's Website.
  • Expedia.
  • Momondo.
  • Kayak.
  • Orbitz.
  • Priceline.
  • Skyscanner.
  • Travelocity.
3 Aug 2022

What are the cheapest days to rent a car? ›

In some cases, the weekend rates can be almost half their regular daily price. This is because fewer people rent on the weekend than during any other time. There's also a good chance that you'll get a free upgrade to a better vehicle on the weekend.

Is it cheaper to rent a car at the airport or online? ›

Outmaneuver Fees and Industry Quirks

For example, cars rented at the airport are almost always more expensive because of added taxes and fees. Rent at an off-airport location and you could save 20 percent or more.

Is it cheaper to rent a car for a week rather than a few days? ›

Sometimes it's cheapest to rent for only the days you need the car, sometimes it's cheaper to rent for a week even if you only need a car for a few days. In other words, be sure to check both before you book—just make sure the rental car company won't charge a fee if you return the car early.

What does it mean to prepay a rental car? ›

When you pay in advance for a qualified reservation: Your Pre-Pay discount will automatically be applied to your rate. This discount is 5% off. Since your reservation is prepaid, you'll spend less time at the rental counter and get on the road faster! Your credit card is charged at time of reservation.

Is it better to book a rental car directly? ›

Renting online can save you money.

First, you can often find better deals if you book in advance, which isn't an option when you're booking on the spot at the airport. When you book online, you can more easily compare rates via travel booking websites.

Is it better to prepay fuel at Hertz? ›

If your day is spiraling off schedule and you know you'll be rushing to return your car, then prepaying for gas can be a better deal than risking not being able to refill the tank before you return the car.

Does prepaid rent go under credit or debit? ›

The initial journal entry for prepaid rent is a debit to prepaid rent and a credit to cash. These are both asset accounts and do not increase or decrease a company's balance sheet.

Is prepaid rent and advance rent same? ›

Prepaid rent is rent paid prior to the rental period to which it relates. Rent is commonly paid in advance, being due on the first day of that month covered by the rent payment.

Is prepaid rent a prepayment? ›

Prepaid rent—a lease payment made for a future period—is another common example of a prepaid expense. An organization makes a cash payment to the leasing company, but the rent expense has not yet been incurred, so the company must record the prepaid rent.

How do I get the best car rental deal in 2022? ›

5 Best Tips For Renting Cars in 2022
  1. How Much to Rent a Car?
  2. #1 Compare Prices On Car Rental Websites.
  3. #2 Look Beyond Price Per Day.
  4. #3 Book a Weekly Car Rental for a Better Rate.
  5. #4 Avoid Renting Car At Airport.
  6. #5 Use a Credit Card to Cover Rental Car Insurance.
  7. Bonus Rental Car Advice: Check Parking Fees At Accommodations.
18 Dec 2021

How do I get the best deal on enterprise? ›

Some of our most popular promotions are:
  1. Weekend specials.
  2. Drive out programs.
  3. Special coupons through some of our Corporate Partnerships.
  4. Enterprise Plus members receive e-mail specials and customers may also sign up for email extras at any time.

Do credit card companies offer discounts on car rentals? ›

With so many credit cards geared toward frequent travelers, it should be no surprise that many of them include rental car benefits. You may be eligible for collision damage waivers (CDW), rental car discounts and even complimentary status in rental car loyalty programs—all from cards you already have.

How do you negotiate a rental reduction? ›

Here are a few tips on negotiating a new commercial lease with your landlord.
  1. Ensure your books are up-to-date. ...
  2. Start the conversation now. ...
  3. Consider your other expenses and financial relief options. ...
  4. Put your new lease terms in writing. ...
  5. Seek professional advice.

Is Enterprise or Hertz cheaper? ›

Is Hertz cheaper than Enterprise? We ran multiple quote comparisons and by large, found Enterprise to be more expensive than Hertz. Prices differed from $70 to up $200 for both prepay and pay on pick-up options.

Can you negotiate car prices with Enterprise? ›

Can you negotiate prices at Enterprise Car Sales? There's no negotiation in the Enterprise car-buying process. The final sales price is posted on each vehicle.

How do you ask to lower price? ›

Initiate bargaining by asking something like, "Is that your best price?" Take a polite, positive approach. Body language and facial expressions play a big part. Look interested, but not so eager they'll feel confident you'll buy regardless. Smile and be friendly, but be prepared to walk away if necessary.

Should I offer asking price rent? ›

You will need to offer the asking price if there's lots of competition for the property. If, however, the landlord doesn't have loads of interest from renters, you might be able to negotiate.

Does return time matter for rental car? ›

Be on time to drop off your car — you could be charged an extra day's rent if you show up a little late. Most companies allow only a 30-minute grace period, and once that's up you'll be liable for another full day's rental.

Is it cheaper to pre book a rental car? ›

While a bit more of a gamble, procrastinating can sometimes save you money. NerdWallet found that rental car prices tend to be cheaper when booked one week in advance of the reservation date versus three months in advance.

What are you supposed to do before you return a rental car? ›

3 Things to Do Before Returning a Rental Car
  1. Fill the Gas Tank. Before you return your vehicle, stop by the gas station and fill up the tank to the same mark it was when you drove off the lot. ...
  2. Remove Your Personal Items. ...
  3. Inspect for Damage. ...
  4. Schedule Your Rental with Ability Rent A Car.
3 Apr 2020

What happens if your a day late on a rental car? ›

How much is a lateness fee? If you drop off your car late, some car hire companies (such as Avis and Hertz) will apply a lateness fee and charge you the cost of an extra day – even if you're only a couple of hours late. Some other companies (such as Sicily By Car) will charge you for an extra day.

What happens if you return a rental car 30 minutes late? ›

Will There Be an Additional Charge If I am Late Returning the Rental Car? Great news! There is generally a 29 minute grace period for daily rentals. If the vehicle is returned within 2 ½ hours of the time it was rented on a subsequent day, additional hourly charges will apply.

How can I lower the cost of renting a car? ›

The Cheapest Way to Rent a Car: 10 Tips
  1. Skip the airport. Renting at the airport is convenient when you're flying into a new city. ...
  2. Shop around online. ...
  3. Turn to discount brands. ...
  4. Leverage memberships. ...
  5. Opt for economy cars. ...
  6. Stick to one driver. ...
  7. Use your own insurance. ...
  8. Forgo the extras.
1 Feb 2022

What happens to my rental car if my flight is delayed? ›

Airport Rental Locations in the US and Canada:

Reservations are valid for 24 hours from the scheduled time of pick-up for delayed flights and charges will not begin until the time of pick-up. Location will remain open for up to 2 hours after their posted closing time to accommodate delayed customers.

What happens if you return a rental car a week late? ›

Typically, when a driver returns a rental car late, the agencies charge an outrageous per-day rate. If a weekly rental rate was $300, it wouldn't be uncommon for the agency to charge $80 or even $100 for keeping the vehicle one day beyond the week's agreed-upon period.

How long can you keep a rental car without paying? ›

Failure to Return a Rental Car

Most companies offer a grace period between 29 minutes and 2.5 hours. If you realize you may be late, call the rental company as soon as possible. They can charge late fees, however, which tend to pile up.

Is it better to book a car rental in advance or at the airport? ›

Reservation in advance is a good approach. In this way, the car rental seldom cost you the money. Rental companies let you book a car free of costs, using the credit cards only when the customers arrive for pick up at the main franchise or counter.

Is it better rent a car directly from the rental company? ›

Our research showed that rental companies offer the best rates online. In addition, renters are more likely to get discounts and special offers when they order in advance online. These offers usually aren't available to customers who go over the counter because of the seeming urgency.


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