Careful With Car Rental Pre-Paids

If you’re flying anywhere, it’s probably a fair guess that most people rent a vehicle at least once a year or so. For me, it’s more like 15 times.

If you’re ever on one of the car rental sites, you’ll see a new category: Pay now or pay later. You now have the option of pre-paying at the time you reserve it. It’ll give you a 5 to10% discount. But, and it’s a big but: I’ve rented a vehicle 11 times in the last three months. In EVERY case, the rental rates dropped between my first reservation and the week prior to my trip.

All I did was cancel my reservation and make a new one at the lower rate. You can’t do that if you’ve prepaid with no refund or cancellation option. It would have cost me roughly $350 extra to pre-pay, instead of a saving.

If you’re close to the rental date, it might make sense. A month or two out, you’re likely way better off re-shopping over pre-paying! The best example was when I was in Kelowna last month. I had made a reservation with one of the Kelowna airport national chains. The rate was $48 base rate. The week before I re-checked at Hotwire.com I could get it for $26 a day. When I booked and paid it, the confirmation was for the same company I had booked direct with! What a rip off! Hotels and car rental places say come to our website directly for guaranteed lowest rates. Big fat lie! Even with the hotwire markup, it was almost 50% cheaper through a third party and not their site! Be careful when comparison shopping!

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