How far in advance should I rent a car online?

(Since this can be a matter of opinion, I assume this belongs in IMHO rather than MPSIMS)

I am working on my summer travel plans (yes, “already”), and want to rent a car for two days. When I went to various rental car sites and looked up prices for mid-June (I have Alamo, Enterprise, and National in mind, mainly because I can get a $40 discount through Discover Rewards), I got a price of about $150 for the two days. However, for two days (the same days of the week) at the end of January, it was $75, and for the end of February, it was $90.

How long should I put off making a rental car reservation? Is there a point where it will start to go back up again because it’s too close to the pickup date?

Make a reservation now, then keep checking the rates and make a new reservation and cancel the old if they drop. There’s no up front fees in making a reservation, so there’s no downside.

Also, check out travel websites (disboards is actually really good for this) for coupon codes from rental car companies - there are all sorts of codes that are basically open to anyone to use. You can save a ton of money with those.

Agreed. Rental car prices bounce up and down week to week, it really depends on what they expect their volume will be. I have found that for a major market the prices stay relatively the same week to week. Whereas for a mid or smaller market the prices bounce around more - their volumes are more sensitive to such things as big sporting events or conventions or tourist seasons.

Also, for most cases there is no downside if you have a reservation and just don’t show up. It’s not like an airline ticket that you pay for in advance, or a hotel that charges you for at least on night if you don’t cancel.

Autoslash claims to automate this for you. They’ll keep looking for better reservations, and automatically update your reservation if they find one.

I’ve never used them, but it’s a cool idea.

Edit: Hmm. I just tried to use it, and it reported no cars available. So it might not actually be working.

Book early and then keep checking. I usually end up re-booking several times because I keep finding better deals. If you belong to Costco, they usually offer competitive rates. (Go to Costco.com, then Travel).

Note that you don’t have to cancel your existing reservation if you find a better deal with the same company. Just follow the link that they give you in the confirmation email to modify the reservation. That way you’ll keep the same reservation number.