California Car Rental Agencies cost of travel

Travel Savings Tip for rental cars, check rates again and again

a silver car parked in a lot
Rental car Monterey Airport MRY.

Rental cars are a travel expense I don’t need as frequently as hotels and airplane tickets. The coolest aspect of rental cars is flexible cancellation or even no-show with no cash penalty. The worst part of rental cars is it can be quite difficult to find a good value rental sometimes and there is little alternative to a rental car when you need to travel between places on your own time schedule.

I view risk factor in terms of potential money loss as airplane tickets high-risk, hotels medium-risk and rental cars low-risk.

My car rental strategy to drop rate from $250 to $188 (25% price drop)

Since I am not a super frequent renter and usually only drive places one-way, my booking strategy for rental cars is simplistic.

Costco Travel Rental Cars often has the best price I can easily find. I only dig deeper when I think the Costco price is high. Occasionally I find an even lower rate elsewhere. Usually I don’t.

California road trip in a rental car is in my travel plans.

  • $250.09 all-in 6-day rental – 31 days ago on Oct 12, I reserved an intermediate-size car with company B.
  • $208.87 all-in 6-day rental – 11 days ago on Nov 2, I reserved a full-size car with company A, canceled company B $250 rental.
  • $196.68 all-in 6-day rental – 4 days ago on Nov 9, I reserved a standard car with company A, canceled $209 reservation with company A.
  • $187.66 all-in 6-day rental – today on Nov 13, I reserved a full-size car with company B, canceled $197 reservation with company A.

Will I see $179 tomorrow?

$175 all-in anyone?

Main point is re-check car rental rates for price drops, even if you have previously booked.

I follow this same strategy for hotels, where I tend to book a flexible rate early in the travel planning, then recheck periodically looking for lower flexible rates. Keeping note of the advance purchase rate, I tend to switch my reservation to nonrefundable rates when I am confidently certain my travel is going to happen as planned.

a car parked in a lot
Rental car Monterey Airport MRY.

My most common rental car booking is simply to drive one way between Monterey Airport and some other San Francisco Bay Area Airport at SFO, SJC or OAK. Or from one of those airports to Monterey MRY when parking cost would have exceeded rental car cost for the days away from California.

Rental car rates in these airports range from $30 one way to $120 one way in summer for a 24-hour rental.

Those $120 summer days when I need a car rental to get to an airport is a drag. There are few transportation alternatives in this part of California. Lack of convenient public transportation is one of the greatest weaknesses to the lifestyle around most of California. Cars rule here.

A private hotel shuttle bus service between Monterey and San Francisco for 2 persons is $188 round trip. Public transportation to/from Monterey to SJC or SFO is possible for $30 per person or less, but requires a minimum 4 to 5 hours to reach airports by bus and train 75 and 110 miles away.

The drive in a car takes 1.5 to 2 hours.



  • Sammy November 13, 2018

    You can also use AutoSlash to track price drops on car rentals.

  • Jackie November 13, 2018

    That is EXACTLY my car rental strategy! I book something early that I can live with, and then I randomly periodically check for lower rates, cancelling and rebooking as necessary. If the rate goes up, I’m glad to have my original booking. But often enough, I am pleasantly surprised to find a much lower rate as my travel date approaches. PS – I like booking through whichever car rental company is affiliated with AARP. It used to be Alamo. Now it is Budget. In addition to a good discounted rate, it allows a free extra driver AND a max of $5k in the event of collision damage. And AARP membership is cheap, provides other types of travel discounts & perks, and helps support AARP’s activities advocacy for senior issues.

  • Ric Garrido November 14, 2018

    @Sammy – I have found the best deal through AutoSlash in the past. Thanks for the reminder.

  • Ric Garrido November 16, 2018

    Loaded my request in Autoslash the day I posted this article and immediately got a better rate through Hertz. Booked $167 rate.

    Today checked Costco again and rate dropped another $23 to $144 all-in.

    Autoslash through Priceline returned the same $144 price as Costco.

    Back to a Costco rental and rate dropped from $250 to $144 over past month, from $209 to $144 in past two weeks and from $197 to $144 in past 7 days.

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