Be it that your car broke down just before a family holiday trip, you just received a visitor or you are a spontaneous road trip type of person, there are endless reasons you might need to rent a car at the last minute.
Renting a car is not a fun activity, as you will have to devote time to finding the right car, the right price, deciding features to include, debating on the cost and rental insurance. Fortunately, tons of car rental sites can help you get the cheapest last minute rental deals.
Some of the car rental sites are offer last-minute car rental deals. Unlike traditional companies that may not have your specific car model of choice and would likely exploit your last-minute desperation, these third party sites provide access to a wide pool of deals available.
Apart from accessing a wide selection of vehicles, third party sites also help those on a budget of renting a car for a month or less.
Before settling on a specific car rental dealer, it is important to look out for sites with better deals. For instance, you can find websites that offering last-minute car rentals deal with no money down. You should also check for discounts and coupon codes that can reduce the overall costs. That said, check out the following best car rental sites.
Top 10 Best Last Minute Car Rental Deals Providers
This tried and tested car rental website has been around since the 90s. Expedia is a popular travel website that offers hotel bookings, hotel deals as well as rental car deals. An advantage of booking your car with Expedia is that you earn Expedia rewards that can be beneficial for future use. Besides, you can combine your flight, hotel and car rental package to save on costs.
- Additional Expedia rewards
- Possibility to bundle car rental with the travel package
- Not the best prices
Like Expedia, Momondo is a metasearch engine that displays prices from various online travel agencies and car rental dealers. Due to the wide pool of car rental dealers, you will possibly find the cheapest last minute rental deals with ease. Note that you can’t book your trip on the website, but makes it easy to find the best prices.
Once you settle on a price, you will be redirected to a rental agency for bookings. The website offers surprise agency bookings or opaque bookings, thus better prices. However, you can’t know the rental agency until you complete the transaction.
- No booking charges
- Surprise bookings save on cost
- Lacks loyalty rewards
Kayak is another metasearch engine that is popular for cheap flights, hotels, and car rentals. The website makes it easy to find information about each car rental agency. You can as well use filters to narrow down your search results. The website also has an indicator box that indicates whether it is a good time to book or not.
However, this might not be useful when searching for last minute car rental deals. Like other opaque sites that offer surprise agency booking, Kayak is very affordable. They will seamlessly transfer you to the online booking agency to finalize the reservations.
- Great filtering options
- Saves on costs
- Lacks loyalty programs
Priceline gained popularity from the “Priceline Negotiator” and “Name Your Own Price” tool. These tools revolutionized opaque booking, but have been eliminated. Priceline offers opaque booking – where the details of the rental agency are hidden until the transaction is complete.
With such, you can’t know the exact agency until the booking is completed. Also, note that the reservations made are non-refundable.
The website also offers Express Deals for those who don’t have a preferred car rental agency. Those looking for weekly car rental deals should consider booking with the rental agency to earn loyalty rewards.
- Express deals are affordable
- Rental cars can be included in the travel package
- No loyalty rewards
Like Kayak, Skyscanner is another search engine that offers the cheapest last minute car rental deals. The website built a solid reputation as a good place to land bargain flight and hotel prices. Whereas the website offers good prices, you can hardly know the best deals since none is marked as opaque or special. From the website’s landing page, you can select pick-up, drop-off locations, and dates.
The results screen differs from other websites as it bases the search results on costs. The results sort car rental websites from the lowest to highest. The results page also has a map that shows the various pickup locations with their prices. This helps clients make a fast, accurate and informed decision on the best deal.
- Easy to use
- Prominent map shows prices of various locations
- No loyalty programs
- Opaque and special deals makes it hard to find good deals
Travelocity is another popular website used to find cheap flights, hotels and rental cars as well. Unlike some websites, Travelocity has few “Pay Now” discounts. So say, Hertz is the only rental agency that offers discounted “Pay Now” option. Therefore, if you are specifically looking to rent a car through Hertz, you can use Travelocity to search and make reservations.
- Car rental can be booked as part of the travel package
- Affordable options
- Lacks loyalty program
- “Pay Now” discount only offered through Hertz
RentalCars.com is a search engine sharing its ownership with Booking.com, Kayak, and Priceline. The website, as its name suggests, offers rental car services only. Compared to other websites, RentalCars.com is not the cheapest but offers good rates for last minute rentals.
This is partly because the website doesn’t have as many economy and compact cars. Nonetheless, the website offers better rates compared to individual car rental agencies.
- Devoted to car rental
- Advanced search engine functionality
- No loyalty rewards
- Minimal advanced filtering options
8. Costco Travel
Costco Travel is a reputable travel website with a lot in its package. The first thing that comes up when searching for car rental through this website is that they provide a chart with 4 major car rental agencies and their prices. The agencies include Alamo, Avis, Enterprise, and Budget.
From the chart, you can quickly evaluate the best price, with the lowest in the category being highlighted in red. If you monitor these lowest priced options for a week, you will notice that each saves money compared to booking directly through a rental agency during the last minutes.
- Easy to read chart for price comparison
- Affordable prices compared to making direct bookings through rental agency
- Only displays prices from 4 agencies
- Requires one to be a member to use Costco Travel
9. American Express Travel
American Express Travel is great for offering credit cards and travel booking services. Though not a must that you own an American Express credit card to use their Amex Travel services, you can get more benefits by owning the card.
Like Costco Travel, this website displays a table with several rental agencies to ease price comparison. Prices displayed on the website are often in line with what the car rental agencies charge. Therefore, you can leverage the “Pay Now” discount by booking directly with the car rental agency.
- Easy display comparison table
- Users can still earn points and bonus from specific agencies
- Lacks “Pay Now” discounts
- Average search functionality
10. Easy Rent Cars
Easy Rent Cars is a good but not well-known website that can come in handy for last minute rental deals. The website offers good search engine functionality, several coupon codes and rewards programs. However, you will be required to create an account and sign in to access the coupons and rewards.
- Coupons and rewards available
- Advanced search engine functionality
- Users must create an account
Factor to Consider When to Choose The Last Minute Car Rental
Despite the pressure, you should take the time to find the best last minute deals. The following tips can help you find a good deal when looking last minute car rentals.
1. Check Online
Even during the last minutes, you can find the best deals online. Visiting a rental company physically can be expensive. Rental managers can also sense your desperation and price cars knowing that you will most likely accept the prices.
This doesn’t compare to online searches where hundreds of companies are competing to do business with you, should their rates be affordable. Note that prices increase as the pick-up date draws near.
2. Use Third Party Comparison Websites
Instead of limiting your online search to one or two companies’ prices, use a third-party comparison website to check for hundreds of companies simultaneously. This will help you compare prices from a wide pool of car rental companies for the best deals.
The sites instantly compare deals from all top car hire companies, displaying the best prices available from all rental companies. You can use one or more of the websites discussed above.
3. Always be Flexible
If you can’t find the specifics of a car you want to rent, you can compromise on certain features. For instance, if you wanted an SUV but only economy cars are available, you can go for them.
Most companies also accept drivers with more than 25 years and charge a premium for young drivers. In such cases, you can let an older person do the booking. Simply put, always find ways to compromise on things you can’t get when searching for last minute deals.
4. Change Pick-up and Drop-off Locations
If you are finding it difficult to find a good deal from your chosen pick-up and drop-off location, consider altering them. For instance, picking the car from the rental company’s office is considerably cheaper than picking from the train station or airport. Most companies charge premiums for delivering the car to different locations.
5. Change Pick-up and Drop-off Times
Adjusting your pick-up and drop-off times brings a difference in the cars available and price. Most rental companies rent out their vehicles for 24 hour periods.
This means that you will pay the same amount for renting a car for 30 hours and 48 hours. It also means that there might be no cars available at 2 pm but available at 5 pm after being returned.
6. Minimize Extra Costs
Last minute car rentals can be pricier compared to hiring a car in advance. Therefore, you should keep additional costs to a minimum. For instance, you can opt for the full to full policy, meaning that you won’t be charged additional fees provided that you refill the vehicle before returning. Besides, avoid other nice-to-have features that you can do without to save on cost.
GPS navigation, for instance, can be avoided by using maps on your phone. You should also avoid the pressure of getting expensive insurance that might not be necessary. Before picking the car, check if your current insurance policy covers rental vehicles, as it can save on costs.
7. Check User Reviews
Even if you are desperate to get a last minute car rental and very few options are available, it is not worth paying off a dodgy rental agency. Always check user reviews before booking or making reservations, especially if the company is not popular. Car rental agencies often have hidden fees that are only made clear once you get into an agreement.
By such time, it will be too late to find alternatives and you will have to dig deep into the pocket to meet the costs. Fortunately, disgruntled customers reveal such habits in their reviews. Therefore, always take some time to read before committing your cash to small agencies.
The Wrap Up
Finding the cheapest last minute rental cars doesn’t have to be hard, especially if you know where to look. The websites outlined above can help you find affordable car rental deals at the last minute.
Important Note: When comparing car rental deals and prices between websites, always click all the way to the final price. Most websites don’t show taxes and fees until the last page. Therefore, you could be thinking that you have the best deal, but in reality, you just saw the base price with no taxes and fees.