Why You Need To Keep Checking Prices On A Free Car Rental

by joeheg

When you try to book a car rental reward, you quickly learn that a free rental day does not mean your rental is going to be free. You’ll need to pay all of the taxes and fees associated with the rental, which can add up quickly if you’re renting a car from an airport location. Here’s a list of all the different taxes and fees associated with a single rental from Austin Airport.

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While some of these fees are a set amount per day, others are based off the cost of your rental. Since I try to use my points to save money on what would otherwise be an expensive car rental, I’d like to avoid paying a large amount in taxes and fees if I can help it.

I was recently searching for a car for one of our upcoming trips and prices for a three day rental were, in my opinion, extraordinarily high:

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I’m not thrilled about renting from Advantage so they were out. I’ve rented from Thrifty before in a pinch but for the two dollars extra, I’ll go with Hertz. Since the cheapest prices I could find were still more than I’d like to pay for a three day rental, I started thinking of options. I could have rented from Silvercar for about the same price and received a much nicer car and car rental experience but that’s still expensive. Then I remembered the Hertz Gold Plus Rewards points I purchased during the Daily Getaways promotion. We don’t rent cars often so this would be a great time to use these points.

Here’s the reservation after I applied the points to cover the cost of the three day rental:

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My “free rental” would cost $51.70. Now that’s better than $180 but it’s still not free. Since it was the best option available, I booked it. About a week later, I received an email from AutoSlash. I forgot to tell the website to stop following the price of my upcoming rental so they were letting me know that the prices had dropped.

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Here were the new prices available for the rental:

First of all, this is why I love AutoSlash. The price of the rental dropped by half. I was tempted to cancel and rebook with National but I still would rather pay $50 and use the points with Hertz than pay $100 cash with National.

The next thing I did was look up the discount codes AutoSlash used to get the Hertz rental for $114.90. I went to the Hertz website and modified my existing reservation, adding in the new codes. The rental went down to $114.90 and since the price of the rental was now less, the resulting taxes and fees were also lower. Here’s the cost of my updated reservation:

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The price of the taxes and fees went down by $9. Not a huge amount but I’d rather pay $42 than $51 any day. All it took was about five minutes, From what I’ve seen, all of the rental car companies charge the taxes and fees on award redemptions. While you’re going to want to use your awards for the most expensive rentals, these rentals will also have the highest fees and taxes resulting in you having to pay a decent amount for your free rental. Keeping up on the cash price of the rental (or having AutoSlash do it for you) can help you save money, even on a award redemption.

Addendum: A commenter to this post mentioned that the taxes and fees would drop off when returning the car. This is not true but the price did go down significantly. Here’s the final bill from Hertz.

DAYS                  3 @    26.99       80.97 
ADJUSTMENT                              -80.97 
CONCESSION FEE RECOVERY                   0.82 
VEHICLE LICENSE FEE                       5.82 
CUSTOMER FACILITY CHARGE                 17.85 
ENERGY SURCHARGE                          1.49 
TAX                          15.00%       3.89 
AMOUNT DUE                               29.87 USD

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This post first appeared on Your Mileage May Vary



Refund a non-refundable booking, save money on "free" days, a Platinum hack and more - Frequent Miler August 11, 2018 - 8:16 pm

[…] Why You Need To Keep Checking Prices On A Free Car Rental […]

AvisSux August 11, 2018 - 10:28 pm

Last time I used Priceline to book it gave me Avis, which was ok but they charged me a fuel charge for going less than 75 miles even though I tanked up before returning to the airport. Didn’t know about it until I was home and looked at my credit card bill. I contacted them through their website and they told me to pound sand. Screw Avis.

Pam August 11, 2018 - 11:33 pm

Brilliant to price the fare out further! I wonder about some of the discount codes AutoSlash uses like “Gay Travel” but then they always work.

I first learmed about AS thru your blog. Has been an incredible resource, thank you. I like their new “prepay”
deep discount option cos can cancel up to 48 hrs before (tho have never wanted to as AS still offers the lowest price).

Alli August 13, 2018 - 4:43 am

You can prepay but still cancel? Are you paying through Priceline?

A F August 12, 2018 - 12:24 am

I’m pretty sure that any taxes that are based on price fall off at pickup with Hertz. At least that was my experience with Hertz free day vouchers.

joeheg August 12, 2018 - 9:01 am

The two times I’ve used them before, I’ve always had to pay the taxes on the rental. I’ll have another DP shortly. If they fall off, I’ll let you know.

joeheg August 17, 2018 - 11:03 pm

@A F – Finished the rental. Taxes and fees didn’t drop off but the price did go down. I’ve updated the article accordingly.

Rob Perelman (@veeRob) August 12, 2018 - 8:37 am

I get what you’re doing here for sure, but I try to be mindful of using the codes Autoslash finds. When you modify a reservation like this, Autoslash doesn’t get paid for their service. Not sure if there was a way to cancel and rebook the car with points, but in the future try to do so so these guys can get paid!

joeheg August 12, 2018 - 9:02 am

Agreed. Im all for having services get paid for the work they provide. This was a special case because I was using points.

swoopest August 12, 2018 - 10:04 am

I’ve wondered about why Autoslash now often uses Priceline as a middleman. But I agree, Autoslash is still the best way to rent a car.


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