Let's face it. Booking a rental car is the least exciting part of planning a vacation. And it can really increase the cost of the trip, as you've got the daily rate of the car plus hefty taxes and insurance fees. When we were planning our trip to Key West in February, we had already eliminated the cost of the plane flight since we had free True Blue passes on Jet Blue to Sarasota, where we were going to stay with family for a few days before driving to Key West. So, instead of leaving the car rental to the last minute, I had time to look for a good deal. I found some promo codes on one of my all-time favorite sites, Retailmenot.com, as well as on Rentalcodes.com, but none of them fit my needs as car rental deals seem to be very specific, like 10% off weekend rentals in Utah.
I kept checking my go-to search engine, Kayak.com to see what was out there, and I couldn't find anything less than around $50 per day (including around $10 tax but not insurance). That was more than I wanted to pay but I was beginning to think that I didn't have a choice. Finally, three days we needed the car, I checked Hotwire.com, which advertises on Kayak as having rentals for as low as $13.95 a day. When you use Hotwire, you don't get to choose your car rental company but that doesn't bother me because I think all of the big name renters are basically the same (although I know some would argue with that assertion). I didn't find the $13.95 rate, but I did find a $19 (plus tax) daily rate and I was pretty happy with that, not to mention just relieved that I had finally made the car reservation.
Fast forward two months to last week when I was looking into car rentals for my upcoming trip to Northern California. I figured I'd go straight to Hotwire, no looking around for promos this time. And what do I find? The best Hotwire can offer me is a $45 (plus taxes) daily rate. I started to get worried again — was my trip going to end up costing me a lot more than I had hoped? Were car rentals out of SFO just very expensive? I looked at Kayak and I didn't see any better rates.
I decided I would wait until this week to book, since I need the car for tomorrow night. On Monday, I searched again and Hotwire offered me $25 (plus tax) as the daily rate for my compact car. Much better! The best Kayak could do was at least $10 more per day. So I booked on Hotwire once again.
I started wondering if I should have waited until tonight (24 hours before I needed the car) for an even better rate. So I just checked Hotwire again a few minutes ago, and I was happy to see that the rate had increased by a dollar so I was right to book when I did. A small victory, but I'll take it!