Find out when and where it's best to rent a car! Here we cover all of the factors that impact rental prices, and how you can get a good deal.
We at Orbit Car Hire have spent endless hours going over data to find out the answer to the question we all ask ourselves, when is the cheapest time to book my car. The main rule is that the most affordable price for a rental car is 4-6 months before you travel. All car hire companies provide rates for at least six months in advance, so you will most likely find more offers at better rates looking 4-6 months in advance. When you come closer to your travel, you can expect popular models like automatic cars, nine-seater vans, and convertibles to sell out.
Car hire companies often keep the prices higher when it is further than six months in advance. It is often the procedure as they hope to catch high rates and know they have enough time to fill their fleet. Once they come to 4-6 months in advance, more companies will begin putting effort into pricing and filling their fleets. It results in a price drop, and then when they get even closer or under four months, they can begin to be sold out in some car categories resulting in higher prices.
Where are you looking to rent a car?
The question of where to rent a car can have a massive saying in how the pricing is being handled in car rental. At large popular airports, prices can fluctuate a lot since there is higher demand and supply. When looking for deals at smaller locations or airports, the prices tend to be more stable.
What type of car would you like to rent?
When it comes to selecting your rental car, the transmission type can have a significant impact on prices. If you are looking for automatic car hire in Europe, we highly recommend booking your vehicle at a reasonable time in advance. As there are fewer automatics than manuals, they tend to be quicker to sell out.
If you are travelling with a large group and need a van, you would like to book with reasonable time in advance. There are usually fewer vans available than an economy cars; they can sell out quickly, especially at popular travel destinations. You can find all about rental car classes in our Guide to rental car sizes.
Should you rent a car last minute?
Renting cars last minute can be a great idea for those who do not have any demands on vehicle classes, transmissions and sizes. Recent years have shown that you can make real bargain last-minute deals at popular destinations. You will not have many car models available to select from as many of the popular options might be sold out. But with the mini and economy car categories, you can find amazing last-minute deals. These are the categories in that rental agencies will have their largest fleet. So if you do not have any demands on size, engine etc. The last-minute deal might be the one for you!
When is the best time to rent a car?
If you are travelling to a popular destination, for example, a summer destination such as Portugal, Greece or Croatia you will want to look at deals 4-6 months in advance. The demand can be very high at these locations over the summer months, which results in the most popular car categories can be sold out quickly.
We strongly recommend for those who need specific vehicles for their trip book in advance. This can be if you need an automatic car if you are looking for 9-seater vans or larger SUVs. Rental agencies will have more of the basic mini/economy cars with manual transmission available, causing other models to sell out quickly. So if you need a 4x4 vehicle, van or automatic car we recommend booking early.
What if the prices drop after you book a car?
Although our data shows that booking 4-6 months in advance will give you the best deals, you might find yourself looking at rental prices again after your book and find that the model you booked is cheaper. Good thing is that most rental agencies have a 48-hour cancellation policy. So you can simply cancel your booking, receive a full refund and then book the car again at the better deal.
Do prices for extras and insurance change?
The general rule is that extras like GPS Navigation, Wifi, and child seats remain the same throughout all months. The same goes for insurance, the prices for them do not vary like the rental car prices. So you do not need to monitor prices for extras, fees or insurance like you do for rental cars.
Why do car hire prices change so much?
Car rental prices change all the time. Usually, this is due to the pricing algorithms of their system and changes in the market to which they have to adapt.
The rule of thumb is demand and supply. With higher demands, the prices can fluctuate more as well as with less supply you will find the prices to be higher. That is why it can depend on where you are looking for a rental car and how prices are set. At large airports or during the high season of specific locations you will find prices change often while at smaller locations and during the off-season the prices can remain the same or similar throughout all months.
Tips to find the best car hire deals
- Look for vehicles 4-6 months in advance.
- Look for the smaller cars, they tend to provide the best deals.
- Compare the self-risk and security deposit between rental agencies
- Look for a rental car away from popular locations if possible.
- Travel during the low season. Each location will have its low season, this can be wintertime for example. During these seasons the prices are low and you can choose from many vehicles.
- Find out how to minimise rental costs.