Is It Cheaper to Book a Rental Car in Advance?
Car hire is often a fundamental part of your holiday. You want to get around, explore the area, take the children out for trips and discover those hidden gems you have read about online.
However, when do you factor it in? Should you secure your rental car as soon as you book your trip, or do you leave it until the day before you fly? Alternatively, maybe you organise it once you arrive.
To be honest, the answer varies as to when is the best time to book your rental car. The vehicle type you need, the place you are visiting and the time of year will all determine whether an earlier or later booking will be cheaper.
Either way, it’s important to start planning and budgeting in advance of a trip. Expenses such as travel insurance or even hire car excess insurance are not free, so having an idea of what you need to spend (and when) goes a long way to getting the best out of your time away.
Why do rental car prices change?
The prices of a rental car fluctuate, much like products in many other markets. If the demand is high, the prices can rise. For example, tourist summer hotspots will see higher prices in June, July and August than perhaps they would in January or February. More people visiting the destination equates to more demand for hire cars. This is why many holidaymakers consider booking well in advance – booking earlier means that there is potentially more available stock and as a result, more variable prices.
Many rental companies will offer add-on options to your car, such as car seats. These will tend to stay at a fixed price throughout the year.
How soon should I book a rental car in advance?
If you are heading to a popular destination during peak time, it is recommended that you make your booking at least 6 months in advance. A report published in 2020 showed that an October half-term holiday, for example, could require you to book your car as much as a year in advance to secure the best price.
A key tip is to compare prices across a variety of hire companies. You can then build up an idea of the average price. Some have a free cancellation policy, too, so you can always snap up another deal if something more attractive comes by.
Many suggest that booking in advance is the preferred way to secure a hire car. Leaving it until the last minute may mean you have lost the best possible deals or perhaps not even have the possibility of securing the type of car you need for your trip. If you are travelling off-peak, you could secure a car at a great price just 4 weeks out from your trip.
Can you hire a car last minute?
There is nothing to stop you from hiring a car with a last-minute booking. Many companies thrive on offering last-minute bargains, and it is possible to find prices much cheaper the closer you are to your departure date. This can be risky, though, and must be considered carefully.
If your trip is during an off-peak season, you are more likely to find a cheaper price closer to the date. However, it is not unusual for hire companies to increase prices up to 48 hours before you plan to depart. Many industry experts say that if the price is one you are happy to pay then take it, and that could be well in advance of your trip or a few days before.
Should families book a rental car in advance?
If you are on holiday as a family, chances are you will need a bigger car, so the number of suitable vehicles in stock may be lower. With rentals like this, it is always better to book well in advance. Some hire companies offer early booking promotions, which are well worth taking advantage of. Look for these in December/January time to ensure you get the best prices for a summer holiday.
What should you consider when hiring a car?
Booking in advance can certainly help alleviate some of the stresses you may encounter when organising a holiday. There are a few other things though that you should consider when looking into your car hire plans to get the lower prices.
Where are you going?
Depending on where you are heading could lead to a change in the prices of your hire car. If you are going to a popular destination or flying into the main city airport, the prices are much more variable. They can change frequently, and with the hire companies being based at the airports or around them, they can change the prices as flights land.
Some people may think they should head to a hire company further afield. However, this doesn’t always work.
Collecting a hire car at a small airport
Some believe that collecting their car from a smaller or less popular airport will be cheaper. However, with hire cars, this isn’t always the case. Smaller locations mean less stock, so you could end up paying for either a car that doesn’t match your needs, or paying over the odds on a limited selection. Prices may be lower, but availability will likely be lower too. Therefore, an advance booking is recommended if choosing a car hire company at a smaller location.
The car type
The type of car you need can determine the price and availability. For example, larger cars or perhaps something a little sporty is less likely to be stocked in big numbers. Therefore, waiting for a last-minute bargain isn’t advisable with these types of cars as you could well find they are all out of stock.
Are there cheaper days to book a rental car?
You may be flying in for your family holiday on a Friday, and want to snap up a car upon arrival. This could be a bad move. Booking in advance is most likely cheaper, although if you won’t need your hire car for the first few days of your holiday, booking it for a collection on say Tuesday could be much cheaper. Peak days tend to be Friday-Monday.
Aside from all we have written above, there is nothing to stop you from negotiating. Sometimes the best deal is the one that is never advertised.
If you are looking to secure a hire car, consult our car hire directory. We have picked the best companies from the best destinations in Europe. Next, get a free quote from us to ensure you are protected from the costly excess fees often associated with car hire. We specialise in providing comprehensive holiday car rental excess insurance, ensuring there is one less thing to worry about on your trip abroad.