When is the Cheapest Time to Book a Hire Car?

The price of hiring a car can change from one day to the next, both upwards and downwards. This can be because of demand, or even just the number of enquiries for certain dates.

Following a few simple guidelines can help you to get the best deal for your car hire.

Why Do Car Hire Prices Vary So Much?

As with many industries, car hire is all about supply and demand. The rental companies don't want cars sitting idle; they want to maximise their sales and profits. At peak times, when they expect to sell out, they will charge a premium price. At quieter times, or if they are getting fewer inquiries than expected, they will reduce the price to attract customers.

Does Location Matter?

If you are going to a location that's generally busy, such as major airports and popular city destinations, the most sought-after hire cars can sell out quickly. Accordingly, the prices can fluctuate greatly so, for these places, it's advisable to book as soon as you know your plans.

In smaller airports and destinations off the beaten track, the prices don't tend to change as much. However, the rental companies don't have a large number of cars, so it is also worth booking early at these locations to get the best deal.

Do You Need a Specific Type of Car?

When you need to hire a specific type of vehicle, such as a four-wheel drive, convertible, luxury car or a seven-seater, definitely book as soon as you can. The rental companies don't have as many of these cars and they can sell out quickly. The price of the less usual cars won't fluctuate so much, so there is no real advantage in waiting for a better deal at the risk of them selling out.

What Happens if You Book and Then the Price Goes Down?

The terms and conditions of the various rental companies can vary greatly, so you should check them before you book. However, some firms offer free cancellation of your car hire up to a certain point before the hire begins, often just 24 hours. So, if you see a better deal, you can just cancel the booking and go for the new deal.

Some companies and comparison sites allow you to make the booking without payment, and you only pay when you collect your car. This also makes it easy to cancel. Others offer a price match whereby, if you see the same car for a better price within a certain time of making your booking, they will refund the difference.

What if You Need to Make a Last-Minute Booking?

When you have to make last-minute plans, booking you hire car within a week or less of your trip will often cost more. But there are still late deals to be found. If the rental companies have cars sitting idle, they will discount the price to make the sale. Shop around or use a comparison site like ours to find the best price. Booking online is almost always going to get you a better price than waiting until you get to your destination.

What About the Extras?

Extras such as additional drivers, sat nav, baby seats, roof racks, etc., generally need to be paid for at the rental counter and the cost doesn't tend to change. You might be able to get them included in a deal with the hire at the time of booking or, if demand is low, they might be willing to negotiate on the price at the desk.

What's the Bottom Line?

You should generally try to book your car hire three to six months before your trip. This gives you the peace of mind that your car is secured, you will get the car you want, and you should get the best price. Always read the terms and conditions of the booking before you pay.