Study Shows Rental Charge Decreases Closer to Pickup Date

A car rental pricing experiment conducted by examines how the price of a rental car changes as you get closer to the date you plan to pick the car up, according to the Cars Blog at

In the experiment, a compact car was booked through Alamo and was to last 12 days and be picked up from Boston Logan International Airport. The first quote, which took place a little over three weeks before the pick-up date, was for $482.89, even with a coupon and a group discount.

But sharp price cuts took place closer to the pickup date. A quote of $260.81 was given two days before the scheduled pick up, which represents a price cut of nearly 46 percent, or $222.08, over the three-weeks-out price.

The Cars Blog writer, Claes Bell, wrote that the experiment was limited in covering only one car rental carrier over one time period in an industry known for its seasonal price fluctuations. Bell acknowledges that waiting to make a reservation can increase the risk that all the rental cars will be taken.

But the experiment suggest that you can get a better deal by making the reservation with less time to spare, around five days before the day you plan to pick up the rental car.


  1. Tom [ September 8, 2010 @ 10:39AM ]

    I wouldn't even call this an experiment. One inquiry, on one car from one rental company. This does not deserve even a mention.

  2. Jim Tennant [ September 8, 2010 @ 10:55AM ]

    Everyone knows that rates are adjusted up or down to make the flow of reservations match available vehicles, hoping to have just enough reservations and walkups to keep the fleet on the road. One sample is not meaningful -- it would be necessary to repeat this experiment many times to reach a conclusion on whether rates trend up or down as you get closer to the pickup date. Whichever way they trend, it would certainly not be a 46% change!

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