AutoSlash Review: Car Rental Price Drop Tracker

autoslashfb180Here’s a quick tip that I’ve been using regularly this summer for saving money on car rentals.

A quick primer on car rental reservations. When you make a reservation at most car rental shops, you simply agree to a price and make a non-binding reservation without giving any payment information. You can cancel at any time, without penalty. Technically, even if you just don’t show up there is no penalty besides bad karma. The flipside is that they overbook and occasionally your subcompact turns into a Ford Crown Victoria.

First, book your car rental as early as possible using the best deal you can find on your own, be it through a business account, promo code you found online, or using an opaque booking site like Hotwire or Costco Travel. As there are no penalties for cancellation, so you want to start the process as soon as possible.

(Do not use AutoSlash to make your initial reservation. Well, you can try, and then just wait for the future price drop notifications, but you may not get a very good price initially.)

Next, enter your reservation information into AutoSlash.com to monitor price drops. I first wrote about AutoSlash back in 2011, and while their service has changed a bit due to industry pushback, it can still be a valuable service. (Their initial search service excludes many major agencies, but their price-drop tracking service includes them all including Avis and Hertz.)

AutoSlash will then continuously search for a lower price using your dates and preferences, often using coupon codes that you may not know about. If they can find something lower, they will e-mail you. If the new deal looks better than your old one, you can go through their site and book the new deal. Just cancel your old reservation afterward and you’ll have taken advantage of the price drop with no fees or penalties.

I just went from a $66 one-day rental with Alamo to $29 with Avis:

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Some potential minor issues:

  • You may be presented with quotes from lesser-known rental agencies. I normally try to support smaller businesses, but in this case I am wary of being improperly charged for a dent or scratch on the $25,000+ vehicle they are lending me. I have used Dollar/Budget/Alamo/National/Enterprise without any problems.
  • The lower price quotes may not offer pickup at the exact location you booked initially, especially if not at an airport. Depending on your situation, the savings may be worth a bit of a walk or a short taxi ride.
  • You may get a lot of price drop e-mails, and also multiple confirmations of new bookings. I know that for one reservation where I re-booked multiple price drops, I probably accumulated over 20 e-mails.
  • Because AutoSlash uses promo codes it pulls from around the web, I have read stories that a rental agency can deny a price quote because it claims that you weren’t eligible to use that promo code. I have never run into a problem like this (and would otherwise use promo codes from the internet anyway), but I thought that I should mention it.

Even if AutoSlash never e-mails you, at least you have some additional peace of mind that you got close to the best deal on your auto rental. All for free and with minimal effort.

Comments

  1. Long time reader here:) Thanks for the tip. I have booked a car with a major company a few weeks ago for an upcoming rental in NY. I just entered my info on AutoSlash website to see if I can get a better deal. Even if I can’t, no big deal as it was already a sum I would be willing to pay and I have no doubt, it will be upgraded at no cost at the location I chose:)

    Any other travel tips for the US are greatly appreciated before my vacation starting late August…

  2. Excellent post! Big Thanks. Passed this around to all my frugal travelling friends.

  3. Jonathan, do the quotes they send include taxes? In some places taxes can be as high as 50-75% or rental rate.
    Thanks.

    • DollarBill says:

      I’ve been using AutoSlash for years and they have always quoted me the total price which included all taxes and fees.

      • Recently I’ve been getting good deals on car rentals, but am pretty sure that this website can be very useful in the future. Thanks, DollarBill.

  4. This website has been around for years, but it just seems like no one really talks about it. I wonder why? Seems the best deal is still using the Chase Ultimate Rewards car rental portal.

  5. Stewart says:

    Dear Jonathan,
    I wanted to push AutoSlash a bit harder to your readers, based on my great successes over the years.

    AutoSlash has been a favorite of mine for 4-5 yrs. I’ve saved several hundreds of dollars since discovering the site. I use the site to set-up original reservations as well as track existing reservations. Sometimes AutoSlash cannot create my original reservation at a specific airport, but will track one I make separately, and still offer me savings, later.

    My success hasn’t been from a geographically wide area (Charlotte, Detroit, Chicago, Lexington, KY), but I’d try them for any place (especially US) based on my successes.

    The best success I’ve had comes by making a reservation (or track-existing) as earliest in my trip planning as possible. I make sure to check my inbox for price reduction opportunities – they come quick!. (I sometimes track a rental company-direct reservation as a sanity check. I.e., last week I had only a few days before my trip and found going directly to Advantage for a Charlotte reservation, was better than the final price my quick AutoSlash reservation found for me).

    Their response to occasional queries are refreshingly prompt, and the repliers (also a Jonathan, and Chris), have given detailed answers to many of my questions. Here’s their recent reply to my question about showing up at a different time on the reservation day or extending my rental period:

    Stewart,
    Typically, if you show up the same day, the rental location will honor the price. Of course, if you show up early enough, you may end up having to pay an extra day, and if you show up really early and they are tight on cars, they may not be able to get you in your vehicle immediately, so there’s that to be aware of. As well, if you show up late, some agencies will hold to a fairly strict no-show/cancellation policy—with some companies, if you don’t arrive within as little as two hours past scheduled pick-up, they’ll assume you’re not coming and release your car to a walk-up customer or last-minute reservation. So be sure to at least call the local office and let them know you’ll be arriving late if that’s the case, even if actually changing the reservation will make the rate jump way up.

    As for keeping the car longer, it’s generally not a problem, and usually, your existing daily rate plan will be honored—so if you’re paying $30/day for a car, then extra days are simply another $30/day. Do note that some rental companies have a late-return penalty which can add a few dollars to late returns. As well, some companies even have early return fees. But generally your rate plan will be honored, and if changing your reservation makes your rate jump way up, it’s often a better idea not to touch the reservation and see if the rental company will honor the changes you want to make in-person without losing your great rate.

    (Sorry I can’t be more specific right now about which companies charge fees and cancel reservations and all of that—there are a lot of different fees and penalties and rules and things that vary not only by company but by location. It’s on our list to do all the research and put it together in an article on our site—we just haven’t had the chance yet!)
    I hope this helps. Please let us know if we can be of any further assistance!
    Best regards,

    Chris
    AutoSlash.com

  6. if changing your reservation makes your rate jump way up, it’s often a better idea not to touch the reservation and see if the rental company will honor the changes you want to make in-person without losing your great rate.

  7. Good advice not to use a/s for your initial quote:
    I did and they gave me Avis $118.69
    One week later I submitted my trip to Costco Travel just to make myself feel good about how much I was saving. They quoted $114.35
    I then fed that quote back to a/s and, 5 minutes later, they gave me Enterprise $101.57.
    It begs the question: Do they really recheck their own initial quotes? I gave them one week.

    • UPDATE::
      Just for fun I submitted the car rental specs to Costco Travel today. They came back with $81.51 — $20 lower. Autoslash claims they continually recheck — I don’t believe it! Their Enterprise quote is dated August 15. Today is September 8.

  8. I ran into the problem cited by Jonathan. I was denied a price because the rental agency said that, without a company ID, I was not eligible for the promo code that was used on the reservation. It isn’t worth the hassle, so I don’t book reservations through AutoSlash any more. I usually book at Costco Travel and then register with the AutoSlash price watch service. When AutoSlash notifies me of a better price, I go back to Costco Travel to check to see whether a better price is available there, and often it is.

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