Rental car prices can be insane – depending on where you are going and when. When it seems everyone is traveling to your “perfect” destination, the rental car rates will likely be very high!
But, at least in my recent situation, there was a way to get around some of those high rates that may work for you as well!
How I Saved $500 On the Same Rental Car From the Same Company
A couple of weeks ago, I was in need of a rental car for the next for almost a week. Since summer months in northern Greece (think Halkidiki beaches) is prime tourist time, rental car prices are much higher than normal. While I can typically get a rental car for a week from Avis for under $170, rates were over $500 for the smallest of cars because of the season.
I normally start with Holiday Autos to get some idea of general prices (and sometimes the cheapest prices) and found rates to be somewhat reasonable at around $200 for that timeframe. However, when I was putting in my billing information, it jumped over $500 once I changed my country of billing from Greece to the USA (I was searching this in Greece so it defaulted to that as my location).
Using even services like Autoslash failed to give me a decent enough rate in my search to get the price much lower.
I will note here that some cards like Amex have allowed different billing countries in the past but it is not something I typically try so I avoided doing that.
The same pricing came up when I was searching Avis directly – over $700 for an intermediate car for 5 days! Not going to happen! But then I did something I rarely do for rental cars, I went to Priceline. Not to bid, but to look at prices.
The cars below are the same vehicles, same dates, and both from Avis. The above is $663 directly from Avis as showing a US billing and the image below is approximately $333 from Priceline using a Greek IP address.
When I searched Priceline, it again defaulted to Greek location since that is where it saw me and gave me the $200 price again. But, since I could select to pay at the counter, I didn’t have to put any billing information in at the time to charge my card or even verify it so it did not require a change of country.
I printed out the receipt in case they had an issue but there were no problems at all and I even got a small upgrade (Avis Preferred). In the end, I got the same car from the same company that I had originally tried – only $500 cheaper!
So, how can you try this?
The secret is in your location. If the website sees that you are outside the country, it will assume that you are a tourist and give you the inflated prices. The trick is to make the website think you are a local. This is easily accomplished by using something called a VPN – virtual private network. This allows you to set your location wherever you want it in the world and is useful for services that require a US location or, in this case, showing that you are local to the rental agency.
This same thing also can work for flights and hotels, but definitely try it first on your next foreign rental car quote. You may be surprised at how much you can save as well!
Will this work for all travel situations? No, but it certainly doesn’t hurt to give it a try on your next search! Of course, the opposite may prove true also – during low tourist season in some locations, you may be able to get a better rate out of the country rather than in the location. In such a case, if you are on holiday there, using the VPN could help you again.
In any event, I was very happy to see a savings of $500 on a rental car reservation!