How I Saved $85 on a Rental Car with Hotwire (and you can too!)

by Janis on June 1, 2012

In mid-May I made a last minute trip to Boston catch up with Mr. Jones to celebrate our wedding anniversary. Potentially missing anniversaries and birthdays is just one of the challenges of being a road warrior, but in this case we were able to celebrate together with a nice dinner.

Generally when I rent cars I use Avis (First/Preferred) or Hertz Gold, loving the convenience of getting into your rental car, showing the guard your drivers’ license and zooming on your way.

Taxes and Fees Can Dramatically Change the Cost of Your Rental Car

I was half-way through booking my Boston car on the Avis website when suddenly at check-out the price went up dramatically after the taxes and fees where added.  My 3-day intermediate car rental was $150 but the taxes and surcharges added another $70.05, bringing the rental total to $220.05.

Hotwire Pricing Includes Taxes and Fees

So decided to I checked out Hotwire, where I was guaranteed an airport location rental car from Hertz, Avis, Budget, National or Enterprise.  The catch was that I wouldn’t know which brand until I purchased a pre-paid, non-refundable rental.

The same in car rental cost $134.48 including all taxes and fees.  $85 savings for a three day rental was too good to pass up, so I hit the purchase button.

My Hotwire Car Brand is Revealed

After making the non-refundable purchase, my rental car company was revealed.  And my car was from”;.Avis.

I got the exact same intermediate car from Avis for $85 less because I bought though Hotwire. 

There Are Some Trade-Offs When Renting Through Hotwire

There was one difference in my rental experience.  Avis doesn’t recognize the Avis Preferred or First membership on Hotwire purchases, so rather than being let off at my car, the shuttle bus driver let off at the reservations line.  Luckily, it wasn’t long, but it still took about a half hour to get my all of my details like credit card number and driver’s license into Avis rental system (even though it’s usually already there.)

This time-consuming process was combined with a long upsell process from the polite but persistent agent repeatedly trying to convince me that I needed insurance, no thanks, Sirius Satellite radio, no thanks, a GPS, no thanks, insurance (again, no thanks) or a bigger car.

After declining all of those up-sells I was upgraded to a full-size car with Satellite radio and a sun-roof.

Finally, I was in my car, then out of the lot, and then  on my way to face Boston traffic at rush hour.

The car was perfect for my trip, and since I was not in a hurry I was willing to trade off the extra half hour of time for $85.

Hotwire  Not Recommended If You Are In a Hurry

If I had been trying to get to a business meeting and beat rush hour traffic, the extra cost would have been worth the time savings. I also would not have used Hotwire if there was a chance that my travel plans had changed and that I would need the rental a longer or shorter time.  (Early returns don’t get a refund.)

But if you are willing to spend a little extra time, check out Hotwire the next time you rent a car.  

Have you rented through Hotwire?  If so, please comment on your experience below.

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