In general, I’m a fan of Priceline name your own price for Rental Cars. However, I’ve found three situations where the savings is not worth the inflexibility, and in fact may end up costing you more than a standard rental. Two may be self evident, but one snuck up on me, and may sneak up on you, too…unless you’re prepared.
Here’s a quick checklist of when NOT to Priceline your car rental:
- Are your dates firm? If there’s even a small chance you’ll need to cancel, Priceline is not worth the pain. Stick with a cancellable rate.
- Is your trip longer than four days? Three days or less and Priceline’s service fees and the time spent researching may pretty much eat up your savings.
(And the one that has trapped me more than once…)
- Are you the only driver? More than one of Priceline’s partners (notably Alamo/National) charge extra driver fees, even for spouses, of up to $10/day! $70/week more than negated the savings the “negotiator” had gotten for me more than once.
If, however, the trip is longer than four days, my dates are firm, and I’m flex for only one driver, there’s a good chance I’ll do best with Priceline name your own price. I’ll outline basic strategy here:
I’ll select “name your own price”, and bid 25% (assuming I have more than a week till departure date) or 15% (if I have less than a week) under the Hotwire price for the same rental. You can only re-bid once every 24 hours, which is why I include that caveat. Make sure you add in $5 for the Priceline fees. There are sites out there that tell you recent winning bids (and even Priceline will tell you), but I find that 25% under the Hotwire price is a super deal so I don’t bother.
Priceline will often pop up a screen at this point that tells you that you have a very slim chance of winning and that you should raise your bid. Ignore it! Submit your bid, and you’ll get an answer immediately. If you win, you’re done! If you lose, don’t give up, re-bid! Just select the next larger car class, up your bid by 1.00 a day, and submit. You can repeat as many times as you like. Three days later you can do it again!
In my case, there was only a $20 difference between the Priceline bid and the Expedia price, so I just went with Expedia. In the past, there has been a great difference…last year in Orlando I got a full size car for 7 bucks a day!
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Please leave comments below about any other topics you would like covered or any tips you have!