Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Car Rentals

Russ was not pleased with the rental company's definition of "full size"

Dutch has frequently praised the us Priceline's name your own price feature for car rentals at MCO (Orlando International Airport) in the past, but I was always a bit hesitant of getting locked in to a price (since you are immediately charged the full rental price), locked in to a company that may provide poor service, or locked in to a specific car that I may hate for nine days. 

For those unfamiliar with the process, it is really quite simple.  You select the car type you want, select a price per day you would like to pay (without taxes, fees, etc.) and Priceline does the rest.  You are told that your rental will be with one of five/six companies and that if your bid is accepted you will be billed for the full price of the rental.  If your bid is rejected, you are given the opportunity to give it another shot with a different car/price combination.  I was really happy that all of the potential rental car providers were well established "national" brands with counters in the terminal. 

I needed to put my mind at ease before I tried a Priceline bid.  So,  I booked directly with a company that would allow me to have a reservation without charging my credit card.  This was for a mid size rental at MCO for 9 days in mid-April. While I loved the flexibility, the price was really not what I had hoped. 

So I went on Priceline, had a "minimum acceptable savings" in mind (in my case it was $150) and went to work.  My first bids were borderline ridiculous-$10/day for a full size.  As such they were rejected.  After trying a number of other price/car combinations, my bid was accepted and I had saved my $150.  It worked like a charm. 

For me, having the placeholder car reservation was the backup I needed to be aggressive, and not worry about getting locked out of a rental entirely, or actually having to pay more if my bids were continually rejected. 

My advice; book a placeholder reservation as early as possible (as soon as your travel dates are locked in).  This way you can give yourself more time to aggressively bid for a vehicle.  The more comfortable you are with the price you are guaranteed to get, the better your results are likely to be.  If I had more time, I probably would have kept my bids low for a while longer and faired even better at this entertaining game of chicken.

1 comment:

  1. Great tip. I made the mistake of not doing the above with a trip I have planned in March. I could have secured a convertible for a couple of days with Hotwire for about $360 with the ability to cancel. I've been toying with Priceline and now it is a "Hot" rate for $420. I'll keep going with Priceline, but with less zany bids. I'll probably end up booking by this weekend.