Should i book my rental car in advance?

But generally speaking, if you rent an average car (like a compact). It's common for car rental companies to ask you to do a quick review of the rental vehicle to document any existing dents, scratches, or other cosmetic defects. Liability insurance is generally not included on these credit cards, so you'll want to add it with the car rental company and use your own if you have one. They will competitively price cars to increase demand, but when demand is high, they can raise prices to capitalize on it.

If you know you'll be renting during a busy period, when prices are likely to be the highest, it's worth booking six to twelve months in advance. Paying your rent in advance, either through the rental company's website or through one of the opaque booking sites, can offer you a discount on the standard rate. The best time to book a car is six to twelve months in advance if you're traveling with a large group during the high season, but it's OK to book closer to your rental date if you're traveling out of season. In general, rental companies want to rent as many cars as possible, just like hotels want to rent as many rooms as possible.

To protect themselves, car rental companies must make excessive reservations to be able to get close to renting most of the available vehicles. When making a reservation, you can choose to simply provide your contact information and pay for the vehicle at the counter when you pick it up. Sites like Priceline and Hotwire sometimes offer what are known as “opaque offers,” because they offer you a bigger discount in exchange for not disclosing the rental company until you've paid. You can show up with a confirmed reservation, only to discover that there are no cars available in the class you booked.

After two rentals, my membership paid off on its own with the amount I saved through their travel portal, says Kelsey Sheehy, personal finance expert at NerdWallet. When you book a car online, you'll sometimes see two prices, one for “Pay Later” and one for “Pay Now”. Even at Dollar, which had the smallest difference, it was even more expensive to book three months in advance. Generally, the discounts offered by opaque sites tend to be more aggressive than those offered by the rental companies themselves, but there are also more restrictions, so make sure your plans are 100% firm.

As a result, some travelers book one-way rentals for trips such as driving along the California coast or taking a cross-country road trip.