I really enjoy the process of crafting fabulous vacations at huge discounts by using points and miles. I love researching different airline and hotel options, thinking about all of the various redemption possibilities, and creating “wow-worthy” itineraries for a fraction of the retail cost. It’s relaxing for me; I do it to wind down after a long day.
However, there is one piece of the puzzle that I haven’t been able to embrace and appreciate along with all the rest: car rentals. I find it aggravating to sift through seemingly-endless sites in search of coupon codes. I’m frustrated by the huge variations in price from company to company and day to day. I feel confused by all of the different combinations of points-earning vs. money-saving possibilities.
I knew that my somewhat laissez-faire approach to renting cards was definitely producing lackluster results when it came to saving the most money and yielding the maximum amount of points per trip. Leaving points and cash on the table is not my style, so I knew this car-rental demon was one I had to face. (Yes, I know I am being dramatic. That is my style).
It was time for a showdown: me versus HertzAvisDollarNationalAlamoEnterprise.
I needed something easy and effective. Something instant and all-encompassing. I didn’t want to mess around with codes or toggle between sites. I didn’t want to be left with a lingering doubt that I could have gotten a better price if I were a savvier car-rental-shopper.
I needed a secret weapon. And I found one.
The first thing I did was to compare Zalyn and VroomVroomVroom, two sites that essentially claim to do the same thing, which is to find the lowest price for a car rental. Zalyn will “analyze coupons to find relevant ones based on your needs and help you pick the best one,” while VroomVroomVroom “compares all car rental prices for you so you are guaranteed the cheapest price on the best vehicles.”
We are planning a quick trip down to San Diego this fall, so I used that trip as a test case. Zalyn returned these results:
I felt like I was off to a great start – it’s always a good sign when the stars align and discount sites agree. That way I don’t feel like I need to second-guess my choices.
My next step was to automate and simplify the embarrassingly old-fashioned way that I had been keeping track of my car rentals (which was to simply check in on them every so often…if I remembered to do so…as if they were hardy houseplants).
The answer is Autoslash. For me, this wasn’t intuitive. The reason is that if you try to actually search for a car rental using their service, results are terrible. This was the message I got when I searched for a car using the exact same San Diego dates that I entered in the above two examples:
I learned the reason for this: Autoslash was doing such a great job finding discounted rates, the car rental companies banned them from displaying their results. So they are now very limited in their scope if you are using the site to search for a car.
However, you can still use Autoslash as a way to find a lower price on a reservation you already have. The way it works is that you simply enter your reservation details, and Autoslash will email you if they find a lower rate.
I’ve successfully done this for our upcoming trip to Hawaii. I found a decent rate on VroomVroomVroom – $160 for 5 days in Maui. A few days later, Autoslash found a better rate – $154 – so I rebooked with their site. Then they sent me an email containing this lovely snippet:
Awesome. I get it now.
Two steps, five minutes, big savings…what’s not to love?