Does It Make Sense to Prepay for Your Rental Car? - AutoSlash (2023)

Last Updated on September 7, 2022 by Jonathan

Does It Make Sense to Prepay for Your Rental Car? - AutoSlash (1)

Shopping online for a rental car can be a confusing process in the best of times, but this year is unlike any other. Coming out of the pandemic, we’re still facing a car rental shortage, which has driven up prices. The best way to protect yourself is to choose the “Pay Later” rate for your rental car so you keep your options open and don’t risk missing out on a better deal.

We all want a cheap car rental, but don’t always know how to get the best price. One of the first choices you’ll face is when to pay. When you make a reservation, you might choose to simply provide your contact information and pay for the car at the counter when you pick up the car.

Alternatively, you can opt for a prepaid, non-cancellable rental in which you pay up front in full when you make the reservation. Is it a good idea to prepay for a car rental? Or do you get a better deal by paying later?

In most cases, a publicly available “Pay Later” rate will deliver the lowest price. (After booking, be sure to ask us to track your reservation for price drops. A prepaid rate locks you in and you’ll miss out if a better price comes along.)

(Video) How to Save Money on Rental Cars with AutoSlash | How I Saved $250 on My Recent Car Rental

No Shows and Prepaid Rental Cars

The no-show rate in the car rental industry as a whole can approach 30%. That means that up to one-third of people who make a reservation for a car rental will not pick it up. To protect themselves, car rental companies must overbook in order to get close to renting the majority of vehicles available. But it can backfire. You may show up with a confirmed reservation, only to find out that there are no cars available in the class that you reserved.

Ask AutoSlash for a Quote on a Cheap Car Rental

Most customers do not secure their reservation with a credit card, which leads to no-shows. This means that there is no consequence if someone books a rental car and then fails to show up to claim it. The industry has grappled with no shows for some time, which led it to introduce a prepaid model. Prepayment provides financial accountability for the renter to actually show up for their rental. If you don’t show, you will either pay a penalty or you will forfeit the entire amount paid.

How Car Rental Companies Get You to Prepay

When booking a vehicle online, you’ll sometimes see two prices—one for “Pay Later” and one for “Pay Now”. Not every rental company offers a “Pay Now” or prepaid option, and typically not on every vehicle category. Yet when this option is available, the price will typically be 5% to 15% lower than the standard rate.

By paying upfront, you’re signaling to the rental car company that you’ll show up for the rental. In return, the car rental company gives you a bit of a discount as a reward for taking some of the risk out of equation.


If your plans are firm, then a 15% discount might be a tempting offer, but it’s important to keep a few things in mind before hitting the “Pay Now” button. First, if you decide to cancel your reservation, you’ll virtually always be hit with a cancellation fee. One major rental company website states that if you cancel your reservation more than 24 hours before pickup time, it will charge you a $25 cancellation fee. Cancel within 24 hours, and it bumps up to a $50 cancellation fee. If you don’t show, you’ll forfeit the entire amount paid.

There is an exception, however. AutoSlash’s prepaid rates are cancelable up to 48 hours with zero penalty. That means if you book one of our prepaid deals three weeks in advance of your trip, you can track the rental with us for better deals right up to the 48-hour mark and still be able to cancel and re-book if a better deal comes along, with zero penalty.

In contrast, if you make a prepaid reservation elsewhere and need to cancel, you will pay a penalty no matter what.

Save with Slash Deals—Low Prepaid Rates, No Cancellation Penalty

The other thing to know about a prepaid rate is that the discount is typically off the published rate only. If you apply a discount code or coupon, the “Pay Now” option often disappears. You’d be wise to check the rental company website for coupons and compare other discount codes for which you might be eligible.

(Video) State of the Industry & Save Money on Your Auto rentals with Jonathan Weinberg, Founder of Autoslash

Prepaid Car Rentals on Opaque Websites

Sites like Priceline and Hotwire sometimes offer what are known as “opaque” deals, because they offer you a deeper discount in exchange for not revealing the rental company until after you’ve paid. Priceline calls them *Express Deals* while Hotwire calls with *Hot Rates.” Whatever the name, the most important thing to know is that once you’ve paid, you are locked in. You cannot cancel for any reason. Don’t like the rental company? Change of plans? Sorry, you’re out of luck. No changes or refunds.

Let AutoSlash Track Your Car Rental for Price Drops

Certainly there are great deals out here, but the major drawback is that the policies are even more restrictive than if you book directly with the rental companies. For example, you may encounter language like this:

“Rentals are final and cannot be cancelled, refunded, changed, exchanged or transferred. Your account will be charged for the total price shown, regardless of whether the reservation is used.”

Naturally, rental car companies love prepaid bookings. For them, it’s guaranteed money in the bank. From a consumer’s perspective, the attractiveness really depends on how good a deal is, and whether you’re certain you’ll be able to make trip as planned. For a small discount, it may not be worthwhile, But if the price differential is large, prepaying may be tempting. It’s important to evaluate all of your options before making a decision in order to get the best deal.

(Video) Car Rental Questions? MilesTalk LIVE with AutoSlash

Does It Make Sense to Prepay for a Rental Car?

Prepaying for your rental, either through the rental company’s website or through one of the opaque booking sites can offer you a discount off the standard rate. Typically the discounts offered by the opaque sites tend to be more aggressive than the rental companies themselves, but there are also more restrictions, so be sure your plans are 100% firm.

Also keep in mind that rental rates can change multiple times a day. What may look like a great rate today can look like a rip-off tomorrow. Savvy renters have learned to let AutoSlash search for the lowest rate and then track your price automatically. But if you’re locked into a prepaid rate, then you will miss out on potential savings if rates drop after you book. (Remember, the exception is if you book AutoSlash’s prepaid rates, you can track your reservation and cancel up to 48 hours before pickup without any penalty.)

The bottom line? We rarely find that prepayment is a good deal unless you’re booking last minute. So long as you have not yet paid for your rental, AutoSlash can usually find a better deal through price drops.


  • 6 Reasons You Should Never Prepay for Gas in a Rental Car
  • Should You Buy Car Rental Insurance?


Should I pay for my rental car ahead of time? ›

Luckily, you probably won't have to deal with any initial costs when you book a rental car in advance. Most companies don't charge any upfront fees—you're simply reserving the vehicle at that set price. You won't pay until you go pick up the rental, or sometimes you won't pay until you turn in the car.

How does prepay work for car rental? ›

When you pay in advance for a qualified reservation: Your Pre-Pay discount will automatically be applied to your rate. This discount is 5% off. Since your reservation is prepaid, you'll spend less time at the rental counter and get on the road faster!

How can I avoid getting scammed on a rental car? ›

  1. Your defense: Call your insurance and credit card company ahead of time to see whether you can avoid an unnecessary purchase. ...
  2. Your defense: Take photos or video with a digital or camera phone when you first get the car — and again when you return it.

How do you beat high car rental rates? ›

But high demand means that supply for rental cars might be lower.
  1. Skip the airport. Renting at the airport is convenient when you're flying into a new city. ...
  2. Shop around online. ...
  3. Turn to discount brands. ...
  4. Leverage memberships. ...
  5. Opt for economy cars. ...
  6. Stick to one driver. ...
  7. Use your own insurance. ...
  8. Forgo the extras.
Feb 1, 2022

Is it cheaper to prepay for a rental car? ›

Some rental car websites will ask you to pay now or pay later and sometimes – the difference in rate can be a thing. In most cases, you'll find that prepayment cost will be around 5-15% lower than your standard reservations.

Is it better to rent a car in the morning or afternoon? ›

Make sure you get to the car rental agency early in the day. If you arrive before noon, there's a good chance you'll get a wider selection of vehicles at a better price. When you reserve a vehicle in advance, be sure to get there at the designated time.

Is it better to prepay fuel at Hertz? ›

If your day is spiraling off schedule and you know you'll be rushing to return your car, then prepaying for gas can be a better deal than risking not being able to refill the tank before you return the car.

Can you prepay for a rental car with a debit card? ›

Paying for Your Rental Car with a Debit Card

Renters have the option to prepay for a rental online with a debit card. Some locations may require a credit card at the time of pickup, but you can still pay for the rental with a debit card.

Do they run your credit when you rent a car? ›

Rental car agencies are one of many types of organizations that will check your credit before accepting an application or opening a new account. Even if you don't plan on renting with a debit card soon, you may want to regularly check your credit reports for incorrect information.

Will Enterprise charge me for a small dent? ›

Minor damage to a rental car, such as scratches, dents, or a chipped windshield are covered by the Damage Waiver. The Damage Waiver is an optional protection product you can purchase with your car rental.

What is the rental car company scandal? ›

For years, the rental car company Hertz falsely accused hundreds of innocent customers of stealing its vehicles — accusations that, for some customers, resulted in arrests, felony charges and jail time. Now, the company will pay $168 million to settle those claims, Hertz announced Monday.

How do you avoid screwed renting? ›

Just like you can with cellphone contracts, you can sometimes get a better price by agreeing to a longer term.
  1. Talk to Existing Tenants. Advertisement. ...
  2. Get Everything in Writing. Advertisement. ...
  3. Document Your Move-in with Photos. Advertisement. ...
  4. Know Your Rights. Advertisement. ...
  5. Be Honest. Advertisement.
Nov 30, 2010

How can I lower the cost of renting a car? ›

Here's how to go about renting a car so you can drive off the lot without totaling your bank account.
  1. Book early — especially during peak travel season. ...
  2. Avoid booking at airports if possible — they can pile on fees. ...
  3. Use a credit card that will cover primary insurance. ...
  4. Plug in your Costco, AAA and other memberships.
Mar 31, 2019

What is the cheapest website to book a rental car? ›

The 12 Best Websites for Finding Cheap Car Rentals [2023]
  • Priceline.
  • Skyscanner.
  • Travelocity.
  • Hotwire.
  • Costco Travel.
  • American Express Travel.
  • AutoSlash.
6 days ago

Which is cheaper Hertz or Enterprise? ›

Is Hertz cheaper than Enterprise? We ran multiple quote comparisons and by large, found Enterprise to be more expensive than Hertz. Prices differed from $70 to up $200 for both prepay and pay on pick-up options.

What's the best day to rent a car? ›

Weekends are the best days to rent a car because most people do not need them on the weekend. Weekend rentals are a great way to take a day trip somewhere if someone doesn't want to rack up miles on their own vehicles. Most car rental places will offer price points that include unlimited mileage.

What is the best time to pick up a rental car? ›

Arriving a few minutes early at the counter is less of a problem than arriving late. Most rental companies will let you take the car early if it's available. As a general rule, leave 45 – 60 minutes between expected landing time and the car rental pick-up time.

Is it better to pay upfront or monthly for a car? ›

Paying cash for your car may be your best option if the interest rate you earn on your savings is lower than the after-tax cost of borrowing. However, keep in mind that while you do free up your monthly budget by eliminating a car payment, you may also have depleted your emergency savings to do so.

Is it cheaper to rent a car for a week or by day? ›

Sometimes it's cheapest to rent for only the days you need the car, sometimes it's cheaper to rent for a week even if you only need a car for a few days. In other words, be sure to check both before you book—just make sure the rental car company won't charge a fee if you return the car early.

Is it better to rent a car at the airport or online? ›

Outmaneuver Fees and Industry Quirks

For example, cars rented at the airport are almost always more expensive because of added taxes and fees. Rent at an off-airport location and you could save 20 percent or more.

Is it better to reserve a rental car in advance or at airport? ›

Reservation in advance is a good approach. In this way, the car rental seldom cost you the money. Rental companies let you book a car free of costs, using the credit cards only when the customers arrive for pick up at the main franchise or counter.

Does it make sense to prepay gas on a rental car? ›

You never want to pay more than you have to for a rental car—and that includes gasoline. The agent at the rental car companies will likely try to sell you on their prepaid gas program. That's where you get charged for a tank of gas at a cheaper-than-average per-gallon price.

Is rental car fuel purchase option worth it? ›

Usually, it's a waste of money to choose the fuel purchase option, but safety and convenience can provide reasons to do it. Remember to check the receipt to make sure you're charged the correct amount. A: Choosing the fuel purchase option can save time and hassle when you return a car, but it almost never saves money.

Is it better to prepay? ›

The Benefits of Prepayment

Paying down the principal faster will also allow you to pay down the loan faster, so you'll be mortgage-free sooner than the scheduled end of your 30- or 15-year term.

Is it better to rent a car with a credit card or debit card? ›

However, debit cards aren't always accepted for car rentals, and even when they are, you're much better off opting for a credit card anyway. Credit cards offer better consumer protections, such as fraud liability, and some cards cover rental car insurance.

What car rental companies accept prepaid cards? ›

rent a car with a prepaid card

Enterprise and Hertz both allow you to use a prepaid card to pay for your rental car. Some Enterprise locations accept cash and money orders for final payments only, while others allow you to secure a rental this way. Hertz accepts prepaid cards for final payment only.

What happens if you don't have a credit card for car rental? ›

Put down a deposit

The rental car company may ask you to put down a deposit using another source of funds, such as a cashier's check, personal check, or money order. Upon returning the vehicle, you will get the deposit back, assuming that there is no damage and you did not exceed your rental time limit.

What is a good credit score to rent a car? ›

For the best shot of being approved for favorable lease terms, you should have a credit score of at least 700. Some companies may be willing to lease to you with a lower credit score, depending on the cost of vehicle, down payment, and other credit or contract terms.

Can I rent a car with a 500 credit score? ›

Renting a Car With Bad Credit

Your options will be limited, but you can still rent a car. You won't have access to luxury or premium vehicle. In most cases you'll be limited to economy cars and older models. When renting with a debit card, you'll have to place a large deposit on the vehicle.

Does renting lower your credit score? ›

Yes: your landlord reports your rent payment as delinquent

That missed rental payment will act as a negative mark on your payment history and as payment history is one of the most important factors in calculating your credit score, your score will likely go down.

What damage does enterprise look for? ›

Impact Damage (body, undercarriage, glass, etc.)

Scratches larger than 2”, or multiple scratches per panel, will be considered damage. Damage will be considered a scratch if it is through the paint. Generally this can be determined if a fingernail catches on the scratch when running fingernail along painted surface.

Why does enterprise charge $200 deposit? ›

Like all car rental companies, Enterprise will put a hold on your credit card or debit card when you rent a car. The hold is equal to the rental rate plus a security deposit. The company holds this sum to guard against scenarios like an accident, late return or additional fuel charge.

Can you negotiate prices with Enterprise? ›

Can you negotiate prices at Enterprise Car Sales? There's no negotiation in the Enterprise car-buying process. The final sales price is posted on each vehicle.

How do I know if my car rental is legit? ›

First, inquire from friends, close family, business associates, or coworkers. If these people have hired car rental services before, they will be very resourceful to help find a reputable company. This is one way of finding reliable vehicle rental companies. You can also read online reviews.

What are the disadvantages of car rental? ›

The main disadvantages of renting a car
  • Higher prices. It is a fact that the rental prices are higher than the prices of public transportation. ...
  • Strict terms. ...
  • Extra charges. ...
  • Limitations.
Jul 18, 2019

Can car rental companies blacklist you? ›

So, every car rental business maintains a “Do Not Rent List” that will blacklist customers who deem to be a risk. If your name is listed in the Do Not Rent List, you will be denied by all car rental companies from renting a vehicle. Avoiding the do not rent list is best for you, if you frequently rent vehicles.

What is the best way to secure a rental? ›

10 tips for securing a rental in a tight market.
  1. Attend inspections as soon as possible. ...
  2. Put your best foot forward. ...
  3. Consider what the landlord is looking for. ...
  4. Account for your rental history. ...
  5. Be upfront about any past issues. ...
  6. Prepare your paperwork. ...
  7. Write a cover letter. ...
  8. Prepare your references.

What should you not tell your landlord? ›

  • 'I hate my current landlord' Every potential landlord is going to ask why you're moving. ...
  • 'Let me ask you one more question' ...
  • 'I can't wait to get a puppy' ...
  • 'My partner works right up the street' ...
  • 'I move all the time'
May 11, 2017

How do I stop wasting money on rent? ›

How to Save on Rent
  1. Get a Roommate. This one is obvious, and it will save by far the most money. ...
  2. Negotiate When You Renew a Lease. Landlords want to keep good tenants. ...
  3. Pay Upfront. ...
  4. Sign an Extended Lease. ...
  5. Give Up Your Parking Space. ...
  6. Look for Apartments in the Winter. ...
  7. Private Rentals. ...
  8. Consider a New Location.
Nov 3, 2022

How long can you keep a rental car without paying? ›

Failure to Return a Rental Car

Most companies offer a grace period between 29 minutes and 2.5 hours. If you realize you may be late, call the rental company as soon as possible. They can charge late fees, however, which tend to pile up.

Is prepaid fuel worth it? ›

If your day is spiraling off schedule and you know you'll be rushing to return your car, then prepaying for gas can be a better deal than risking not being able to refill the tank before you return the car.

How do I avoid expensive car rental? ›

Joining a car rental company's loyalty or rewards program can sometimes eliminate extra driver fees for spouses or domestic partners. Companies like Dollar, Hertz, Sixt and Thrifty offer this perk for members. If you're a Costco member, renting a car through Costco Travel can also be a good move.

Should I wait until last minute to rent a car? ›

But when it comes to rental cars, this might surprise you: The best time to rent a car is last minute, when they tend to be cheaper. That's according to a NerdWallet analysis conducted in March 2022 of 360 rental car prices from eight major car rental companies in the United States.

Is it OK to show up late for car rental? ›

Two (2) hours after the reserved pick-up time the reserved vehicle will be made available for other customers. If you arrive at the location more than two (2) hours after the reserved pick-up time, we will try to provide a vehicle for you, however, availability cannot be guaranteed.

What happens if I return rental car 1 hour late? ›

If you drop off your car late, some car hire companies (such as Avis and Hertz) will apply a lateness fee and charge you the cost of an extra day – even if you're only a couple of hours late. Some other companies (such as Sicily By Car) will charge you for an extra day.

What happens when you prepay too much for gas? ›

If you prepay too much for gas with a credit card, you will only be charged for the purchase amount and the remainder of the prepaid amount will not be charged to your card. The gas pump will stop when you reach the prepaid amount or when the tank is full.

What does prepay gas mean rental car? ›

When you prepay for the gas, you're paying for the full tank. If you bring it back a quarter full or even 90 percent full, there's no refund for the gas you left in the tank. If you don't use every last drop, you're paying for gas you didn't use.

Do you get cheaper fuel with a fuel card? ›

Yes! Fuel cards get you savings at the pump. This can be between two-three pence a litre, although the rate can vary. If you have a fleet of cars, vans, electric vehicles or HGVS, this provides massive savings on a long-term basis.

Are car rental prices negotiable? ›

If you're standing at the company's rental desk, and they are that close to renting you a car, they're probably willing to negotiate. And sometimes they will negotiate a lot. Even if you find haggling embarrassing, just go for it.

How much does budget rental car hold on your credit card? ›

Credit and Debit Card Rules

Generally, at the time of a U.S. corporate-operated location rental, we'll require a credit card hold of total estimated rental charges plus 25% or $200, whichever is greater.


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