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Hertz Cyber Supersale - Now through CyberMonday

Hertz cyber super sale
Thanksgiving marks the busiest shopping weekend of the year. The day after Thanksgiving has gained notoriety for outrageously good deals (at least for the door-busters). Luckily, those of us who don't want to trample others or be trampled have the option of scoring similar deals from the comfort of our home or office on Cyber Monday - the Monday following Thanksgiving. Car rental companies are not big on the deal frenzy during this period, probably because they have deals all the time. The only exception is Hertz, that is currently offering a Cyber SuperSale with a discount of 25% on rentals booked now through Cyber Monday (Dec 2, 2013) using promotion code (PC) 194832. Read on for more details about this promotion and the results of some of our tests.

Weekly rental in Denver

For a weekly rental at Denver International Airport (DEN) from Dec 11 - Dec 18, the standard rate for the cheapest vehicle was $399. Using the Hertz Cyber Supersale coupon, the total dropped to  $316, a saving of 20%. Not bad at all.

Hertz weekly rental discounted
Weekly Rental (DEN) - Discounted Rate

Hertz weekly rental regular rate
Weekly Rental (DEN) - Standard Rate


Weekend rental in Seattle

For a weekend rental at Seattle Tacoma Airport (SEA) from Jan 10 - Jan 13, the standard rate for the cheapest vehicle was $343. Using the Hertz Cyber Supersale coupon, the total dropped to $273, a saving of 20%. The savings are in line with what we saw for the weekly rental in Denver.

Hertz weekend rental discounted rate
Weekend Rental (SEA) - Discounted Rate
Hertz weekend rental standard rate
Weekend Rental (SEA) - Standard Rate

What's the catch?

This offer is valid on vehicles picked up by Feb 14, 2014, but the reservations needs to be done in the next 6 days, now through Cyber Monday (Dec 2, 2013). In order to qualify for the discount, your rentals must be 3 days or longer (upto 14 days). The deal is valid on rentals in  the U.S., Canada, and Puerto Rico, but excludes locations in Arizona, New York, New Jersey and Florida. It's pretty common to see good deals blocked out for rentals in the New York area, but it seems Hertz is now starting to restrict such deals in other locations too. Another Hertz deal from a few weeks back also excluded rentals in Florida and Phoenix (AZ).

Deal or Dud?

While saving 20% on your rental car may sound compelling, it's not out of the ordinary. There are dozens of Hertz coupons available at any time, some of which can be stacked together for a double discount. So, how does this deal compare with other available deals?

Using Zalyn to check other available Hertz deals, we quickly found an Economy car for $205 for the weekly rental in Denver. This is a huge saving compared to the standard rate of $399 and the Hertz Cyber Sale rate of $316. 

For the weekend rental in Seattle, we found a Compact car for $105 using this deal, which is way cheaper compared to the standard rate of $343 and the Hertz Supersale rate of $273.

Based on our limited testing, the Hertz Cyber Supersale appears to be a dud!

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The fatest way to earn free rental days


Car rental reward programs get a bad rap for being primitive compared to the much more sophisticated Airline and Hotel reward programs. While this is true for the most part, some of them like Hertz Gold Plus and National Emerald Club are actually pretty good. Check out this post for a comparison of various car rental reward programs. Aside from standard rewards that earn points or credits on completed rentals, which can be redeemed for free rental days, some rental car companies run promotions that can help you get there way faster. Here's a quick roundup of such ongoing promotions.

Avis Break Free

Avis Break Free - Free Rental Days

Avis Break Free promotion is available to Avis Preferred (signup for free here), Avis First and Avis President's Club members. Registered members earn a free rental day after completing two qualifying paid rentals through March 31, 2014. You need to register for this promotion before your rentals count towards this promotion.

Unlike other similar promotions, not all of your rentals count towards this promotion. Notable exclusion include -
  • Economy and Compact car rentals don't qualify
  • Certain discounted rentals (government, travel industry, tour, wholesale or convention rates)
  • Rentals booked through Priceline or Hotwire
  • Rentals that earn reward points and miles (airlines miles, hotel points, etc)
  • Rentals using a Break Free Rental Reward Day coupon
It is important to note that it'll be a long wait of 4-6 weeks before Rental Reward Day coupon arrives in the mail (yes, it's a paper coupon). The coupon applies only to a rental of Subcompact through Full-size or a Premium car. Don't forget to redeem the reward coupon before June 30, 2014. You can earn an unlimited amount of Break Free Rental Reward Day coupons during the Promotion Period and use upto four Free Rental Reward Day coupons for the same rental.

National One Two Free

National One Two Free - Free Rental Day Reward

National One Two Free is available to Emerald Club members (signup for free here) and like the Avis Break Free promotion, it offers members a free rental day reward with every two qualifying rentals through Jan 31, 2014. 

Emerald Club members normally earn 1 credit for each completed rental of upto 4 days (and 2 credits for rental of 5-8 days) and can redeem 7 rental credits (6 for Emerald Club Executive members and 5 for Execute Elite members) for a free day certificate. This promotion gets you to a free day in a third of the time it normally takes to earn one.

Once you earn the 600 points required for a Free Day coupon, you'll receive the reward coupon within 48 hours which is way better than the 4-6 weeks with Avis Break Free. However, while Avis allows you to use upto four Free Day coupons for a single rental, National caps it a three. Don't forget to use the reward coupons before they expire on June 17, 2014.

In addition to earning free day reward using earned credits, you can also earn free day reward by earning 600 points. Here are some ways to get to that mark -
  • Download the mobile app and earn 25 points
  • Rent you next vehicle using the mobile app and earn 75 points
  • Visit a Drive Alliance site and earn 25 points
  • Refer a friend and earn 300 points
  • Connect with National on Facebook and earn 50 points

Hertz Free Days

Hertz Free Days

Hertz Free Days promotion is available to Hertz Gold Plus members (signup for free here) and registered members can earn upto 350 bonus points (in addition to regular reward points) for each rental of two days or more through Dec 15, 2013. You need to register for this promotion before your rentals count towards this bonus.

It is important to note that neighborhood rentals earn 250 bonus points, while airport rentals earn an additional bonus of 100 points bringing the total to 350 points. In addition, members earn 50 points just for registering and another 50 points for completing a quick three question survey. 

If you're not a Gold Plus member and are signing up today, please note that you'll need to wait for 48 hours before you can register for this promotion. 

Gold Plus reward points can be redeemed for a free weekend rental day for as low as 550 points, which you can easily earn by completing two paid rentals. 


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Why are car rental promotions so finicky?

finicky car rental coupons
Few things are as annoying as getting excited at the prospect of scoring a big fat juicy discount only to realize that it's not going to work! For reasons that are beyond my understanding, marketers seem to think that this is a very effective strategy and continue to flood our inbox with insane promises on a regular basis. Sure, some of us are likely to fall for great-sounding offers but after being let down a bunch of times I believe that most people will realize that it's a case of the boy who cried wolf and stop paying attention. Shouldn't that make this marketing strategy ineffective? I digress, the topic of today's post is to examine why car rental coupons are so finicky and if we can do something to get a leg up. Lets get to it.

Terms & Conditions

The most common reason why coupons don't work is when you don't meet all the requirements stated in the dreaded Terms & Conditions. It doesn't help that most of us have the attention span of a goldfish and the fine-print is purposely designed to be boring, lengthy and hard to skim through.

Based on our analysis of hundreds of car rental coupons introduced in the past year, the average car rental coupon fine-print is a whopping 231 words long and includes an average of 4 requirements that need to met in order to use the coupon. Sure enough, a lot of disappointments can be avoided just by ensuring that you meet all the requirements.

Since most of us have better things to do than reading coupon requirements and fine-prints, Zalyn is designed to automatically handle this for you. In most cases, this eliminates over 2/3rds of all active coupons.

Participating Locations

Analyzing the fine-print is challenging, but it is something we can do to ensure that a coupon works. However, in-spite of meeting all requirements the coupon still may not work, especially if you're renting at a location that is not participating.

Huh? What the heck is a participating location and how do I know which one is participating? Unfortunately, that information is not available anywhere. You'll only find ambiguous stuff like this in the fine-print - 

Avis: Offer is available for U.S. and Canadian residents only for rentals at participating locations in the U.S.
Hertz: This offer is redeemable at participating Hertz locations in the U.S.
Dollar: A limited number of vehicles are available at this promotional rate at participating locations.
National: The availability of this offer is limited to participating locations in the U.S and Canada

While the fine-print may occasionally mention that the promotion is not valid in New York Metro or is valid only in the Contiguous U.S., there are plenty of non-participating locations that are never mentioned. Unfortunately, it is virtually impossible to know if your rental location is participating unless you try using the coupon. If you're lucky, you'll see a error message that tells you that the location is not participating. In most cases, you'll either see a random message which really doesn't tell you much or you'll be taken directly to the list of available vehicles and you won't know if you got a discount unless you go to the very end of the reservation process. This can eat up a lot of your valuable time.

Most car rental companies have different types of rental offices. Some are classified as Airport locations and some as neighborhood locations. Some are corporate-owned and some are franchise locations. A lot of coupons don't work at franchise locations and of course coupons for airport rentals don't work at neighborhood locations. Some coupons are a little more informative and specify what kind of rental office they're valid in -

Enterprise: Valid at participating neighborhood locations within the U.S. and Puerto Rico only for rentals reserved in advance
Hertz: Valid at Airport and Off-Airport locations through December 31, 2013 in the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico.
Budget: Pick up at participating Budget airport locations in the U.S. from August 15, 2013 through December 15, 2013.

Blackout Dates

blackout datesBlackout dates are specific times during the year when travel rewards and other discounts and promotions are not available. These dates typically fall on or around major holidays and other national or regional peak travel periods. Coupons and promotions are meant to augment demand and since the demand is usually high during the blackout periods, rental car companies don't need to provide any additional incentives.

The good news is that there are still quite a few discounts that will work even during the busiest travel periods. It's important to remember that you're likely to run into a lot more coupons that don't work than you normally would. However, if you are aware that this is likely to happen and have the right expectation, there's no reason why you shouldn't be able to score a good deal even during blackout periods.

Promotion may be stopped anytime

Finally, the last reason why car rental promotions may not work for you is because rental car companies retain the right to discontinue the promotion at any time. It is not clear why they would do this but a fair assumption is that they have reasonable amount of demand and no longer need to provide additional discount to increase demand. It is likely that they have the ability to stop a promotion at only certain locations where it was previously available, if the fleet utilization is already where they want it to be.

The other reason (pure speculation) is that the rental car companies allow only a certain number of reservations using a discount code and when the threshold is crossed, the promotion is automatically discontinued.

At Zalyn, our focus is to help you find the best deal as soon as possible. While we're able to handle certain things like dealing with the coupon requirements, there are a few things that are beyond our control. If a coupon doesn't work, don't lose faith. Move to the next coupon and very soon you'll be on your way to great savings. 
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Save 50% on your Hertz rental - 24 hours only

Save 50% on your Hertz rental
If you  are renting a vehicle in the next three weeks, this is something you should definitely check out. Hertz is currently running a very limited time promotion that could probably save you big bucks. Hertz is offering upto 50% off all rentals booked in the next 24 hours. If you've used rental car coupons in the past, you probably know that a upto 50% is almost never a 50% discount, but far lower. However, before you dismiss it as another gimmick meant to grab your attention give it a shot and see how it works for you. We checked it out for a few different itineraries and the savings were impressive. This doesn't mean it will work just as well for everyone,  but it is certainly worth a shot.
 

How does it perform?

Check out the results of a rental at Denver International Airport (DEN) from Nov 4, 2013 - Nov 7, 2013. The regular or rack rate for this rental comes out to $136. When we add Promo Code 194036 to the rental, the total drops to $80. That's a saving of $56 or a saving of 41% off the regular rate. 

Hertz rack rate for a Economy car in Denver
Hertz Weekday Rental in Denver - Regular or Rack Rate


Hertz discount rate for a Economy car in Denver
Hertz Weekday Rental in Denver - Discount Rate


We saw similar results for a weekly rental in Atlanta Hartsfield International Airport. The regular rate was $288 for a Compact car and the discounted rate with this promotion was only $180. That's a saving of over $100 and reflects a 37% discount. Not bad at all.

Hertz Weekly Rental in Atlanta - Regular or Rack Rate

Hertz Weekly Rental in Atlanta - Discount Rate

What's the catch?

As always, there are a bunch of terms and conditions you need to meet in order to qualify for the discount. Check out this quick summary to see if you qualify for this amazing deal

- Offer valid for reservations booked Oct 27 - Oct 28, 2013 for vehicle pickup from Oct 27 through Nov 15, 2013.
- Offer is redeemable at participating Hertz locations in the U.S, and Canada (excluding NY Metro, Florida and Phoenix, AZ)
- Valid on economy through Full-size cars and small SUV’s

How do I use the coupon?

Hertz coupon code 194036Simply head over to Hertz.com and enter Promotion Code 194036 during your reservation. Unlike other coupons, you don't have to go all the way to the end of the reservation process in order to see the discount. The approximate total amount shows right below the vehicles listed in the search results and the total amount includes the discount.

What's the verdict?

We tried a bunch of different itineraries (daily, weekly and weekend rentals) at a few different locations and the savings were always north of 30% off the regular rates. That's a pretty good deal. Give it a shot and see if you can score a big discount. Hurry up, this offer is good only for a day.
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Primer on Car Rental Coupon Codes

car rental coupon codes

If you shop online (who doesn't), you're probably familiar with the concept of entering a coupon code to get a discount. Over the past few years, coupon adoption has increased dramatically and it seems most retailers now offer a variety of physical (paper) and online (digital) coupons. Most of the retail websites accept a single type of coupon code during the checkout process. On the other hand, rental car companies offer a few different types of coupons and it is important to know what kind of coupon you have and enter it in the correct field or you won't see a discount. While this can sometimes be confusing, especially if you're new to it, the good news is that you can use more than one coupon code for a single reservation and get multiple discounts. 

What are the different types of car rental coupons?

Most car rental coupons fall into one of the following two categories or a combination of both -
 
Contract Rate Code: A unique code that identifies a negotiated rate, typically a percentage off the regular rate (e.g. 10% off standard rate) or a fixed-rate (e.g. a mid-size car for $29.99/day) irrespective of the current market rate. In most cases, contract rate code discounts are applicable to those with specific affiliations (members of certain clubs, groups and associations), although that's not always the case. Avis, Budget and Hertz frequently offer contract rate discounts that are available to the general public.

Coupon Code: Coupon or promotion codes (as they're sometimes referred to) are generally available to everyone and don't require any specific affiliation. They can also be in conjunction with Contract Rate Code for a stackable discount. Coupon codes offer all types of discounts - anything from a dollar value discount (e.g. $10 off), free rental day or perks like a free upgrade, free GPS, etc

Hertz has a few more discount types like the Hertz Rate Code (RQ) that mostly offers fixed-rate discounts like the Hertz $14.99 weekend deal.

Avis

Avis AWD code

On Avis.com, the fields for the various discount codes don't show up by default. In order to see them, you need to click on the I have a Discount Code checkbox. 

Avis Worldwide Discount (AWD) number is a unique number assigned to an Avis account or program that identifies eligibility for contracted features or rates. It's usually a combination of one letter by six numbers (e.g. A123456).

Avis Rate Code requests one specific or rate promotion instead of checking all available rates. This code must be entered during the reservation process in order to receive the discount on the rental.

Coupon Number (e.q. MUFA045) entitles you to a discount that is applied to your estimated total during your reservation.

Budget

Budget BCD Code

On budget.com, click on the use an offer code checkbox to see the fields for BCD and coupon code.

Budget Customer Discount (BCD) is a seven-character code, one letter followed by six numbers (example: L######) associated to a specific discount. The discount can represent a negotiated corporate rate, a membership discount associated with a Budget partner, or it can originate from a specific ad or coupon that can help you qualify for special rental offers.

Hertz

Hertz CDP
On hertz.com, click the Enter a Discount or Promo Code checkbox to see the various discount fields.

Hertz Counter Discount Program (CDP) is a contract or program that has been established in cooperation with a company or organization under which individuals with specified characteristics are entitled to rent on rental terms that differ from those generally offered to the public. Examples of CDP’s include corporate rate plans and credit card and travel club discount programs. A CDP Number consists of numerical values and is between 1 and 10 digits long.   This number can also be used in conjunction with a PC (Promotion Code), RQ (Rate Code) or CV (Convention Number).

Hertz Promotion Coupon (PC) is a six-digit number associated with a special offer or promotion.  This number can also be used in conjunction with a CDP (Discount Program) or RQ (Rate Code) if the special offer or promotion requires additional information be included in the reservation.

Hertz Rate Code (RQ) is a four to six digit code that is used to trigger discounts off of standard leisure rates. This number is often displayed in a special offer with the text I was told to ask for. RQ can also be used in conjunction with a CDP (Discount Program) or PC (Promotion Code) if the special offer or promotion requires additional information be included in the reservation.

Dollar & Thrifty

Thrifty Promotion Code
Dollar and Thrifty are part of the same corporate group - Dollar Thrifty Group, which is owned by Hertz. Not only are their websites pretty similar, they generally tend to have the exact same promotions, even share the same codes! 

Corporate# is a unique code that identifies a negotiated rate typically applicable to the government, military or businesses having a corporate relationship with Thrifty.

Promotion# are available to the general public and come in all forms and flavors.
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Under 25 Car Rentals & Underage Surcharge

under 25 car rental
At 18 years, you are considered a legal adult in the US. As an adult, you can take up a job, rent an apartment, participate in contracts, vote and join the military. By 21, you are considered responsible enough to become a police officer, firefighter and purchase alcohol. However, you need to be at least 25 years to be treated at par with other car renters. While no one rents vehicles to those under 18, some agencies will rent to 18-20 year-olds and most will rent out vehicles to those over 21 years. Unfortunately, renters under 25 years are charged an exorbitant underage surcharge for the privilege. In many cases, this can more than double the cost of a rental car.
 
Rental car companies quote the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration that says drivers who are younger than 25 are significantly more likely to get into accidents than older drivers. After age 25, the crash rate declines dramatically and continues to drop until the driver reaches 85. In order to rent out vehicles to "risky" drivers, they believe an underage surcharge is justified.

The underage policy varies between rental car companies and locations. In general, you need to be 21 or older to rent a vehicle and must have a valid drivers license and credit card. As a young driver, you may be subject to a driving record or license check to ensure that you're a safe driver. A surcharge of $10 - $25 per rental day will apply and certain expensive vehicles will be off-limits. The table below compares important aspects of various underage policies.

Agency 18-20 years 21-24 years Surcharge included in total
Only in certain states with surcharge:
New York: $52/day 
Michigan: $41/day
Underage surcharge:
US: $27/day
Canada: $35/day
Only in New York and Michigan Varies by location. Usually $20 - $25 per day
Only in New York and Michigan Varies between $20 - $35 per day
Can't specify age online Mostly $25/day
Only in New York and Michigan. Can't be booked online. Varies between $10 - $20 per day
Hertz rents to 20 year olds Normally $20 - $25 per day
Only in certain states with surcharge:
New York: $66/day 
Michigan: $26/day
Usually $25/day surcharge. 
New York: $23.50/day 
Michigan: $14/day
Can't specify age online Mostly $25/day

 

Avis Underage Renter Policy

Avis primarily rents to customers 21 years and older, although 18 year olds can rent in certain states. An underage surcharge is applicable to young renters and reflected in the estimated total when you reserve a vehicle. The surcharge is generally $27/day in the U.S. and $35/day in Canada (see full policy). There are a few exceptions:

Washington DC: Minimum age to rent is 25, except at Washington Dulles Airport (IAD) where 21-24 can rent with a valid credit card and driver's license.

New York State: Minimum age to rent is 18. A $52/day surcharge applies to 18-20 year old renters and a $35/day surcharge to 21-24 year olds.

Michigan: Minimum rental age is 18 with a $41/day surcharge for renters 18-20 years old and a $28/day surcharge for 21-24 year olds.

Quebec: Minimum age to rent is 21 with an under age fee of $20/day for 21-24 year old renters.

Saskatchewan: Greatest place to be an underage renter! Minimum age is 18, with no underage fee. Can't beat that.

Government Personnel on business have the underage surcharge waived, but leisure rentals by government personnel are still subject to the surcharge. Young renters are not allowed to rent certain types of vehicles like Full-Size & Premium SUVs, Luxury vehicles, Minivans & Passenger Vans.

Alamo Young Renter Policy

Minimum age to rent a vehicle is 21, except in NY and MI, where the minimum age to rent is 18. Rental rates may be higher for renters and additional drivers under the age of 25. Details of the applicable young driver fee shows up on the reservation page on alamo.com. Certain specialty and larger sized vehicles may not be available for rentals when the renter or additional driver is under 25.

Budget Underage Surcharge

Minimum rental age in the U.S. is generally 25 — except in locations where an individual 21-24 years may rent specific vehicles. An individual 21-24 years of age may only rent an economy, compact, intermediate, standard, full-size or premium car or an intermediate or standard SUV. Underage surcharge varies from $20 - $27 based on location.  (see full policy).

Dollar Underage Renter Policy

Every local car rental office has their own set of rules, but in general, the following policies apply:
  • Style Series cars like BMWs, Mercedes-Benz and Mini Coopers are strictly for the over-25 group
  • Under-age Driver fee: The charge varies by location but is generally around $25/day.

Enterprise Youthful Driver Fee

The minimum age to rent a vehicle is 21 years. Enterprise has the lowest underage surcharge among the major rental car companies. Surcharge varies between $10 and $20 based on the location.

Hertz Age Differential Charge Policy

The minimum age is 25 without an additional Age Differential Charge, and 20 with an additional Age Differential Charge. The minimum age for Prestige & Adrenaline Collections, as well as select high performance vehicles, is imperatively 25. Certain corporate accounts have agreements with Hertz which permit rentals to young renters.

Thrifty Underage Renter Policy

The minimum age requirement is 21 years old unless otherwise mandated by state law. Thrifty Business accounts may waive the underage driver fee as a negotiated corporate account benefit for qualifying companies.

The biggest problem with the Thrifty website is that it does not add the underage surcharge to your estimated total. As a result, you'll be in for a big shock once you get to the rental counter.

National Underage Policy

National has a standard minimum age requirement of 21 years of age. In some states, the minimum age required is 18 years of age and an insurance recovery charge applies. The minimum age for Military/Government personnel renting on a government rate is 18 years old (see full policy). Certain specialty and larger sized vehicles may not be rented to drivers under 25.
  • New York state: The minimum age for NY is 18 years of age. An $66.00 per day additional charge applies to 18-20 aged renters and a $23.50 per day additional charge applies to 21-24 aged renters.
  • Michigan: The minimum age for MI is 18 years of age. A $26.00 per day additional charge applies to 18-20 aged renters and a $14.00 per day additional charge applies to 21-24 aged renters.

Payless Underage Surcharge

Renter must be 25 years of age with a valid drivers license and a major credit card in his/her own name. Renters 21 through 24 years of age add an additional $25.00 per day surcharge. Underage surcharge will not appear in total pricing. Renters 21 through 24 years of age may rent only Economy, compact, Intermediate, Standard, Full, Premium Sized cars and Minivans.

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Need a car? Rent it from your neighbors

Few weeks back, we did a post on how the hourly car rental business is making it easier for people to ditch their cars and still retain the convenience of having one when you need it. With all the big players now offering hourly car rentals (similar to Zipcar), more and more vehicles are  available in a growing number of neighborhoods.

A few startups are putting an interesting spin on this business - instead of waiting for these companies to offer cars in your neighborhood, why not just rent the cars that are already in your neighborhood, owned by your neighbors. This model is generally referred to as Peer-to-Peer (P2P) car rental and is gaining popularity as more and more urban dwellers make the environmentally friendly choice of living without owning an automobile. Some of the main players in this market include -

RelayRides


RelayRides connects people looking to rent a car, truck, or SUV with owners willing to rent our their vehicles to make some extra money. RelayRides is available throughout the country, including a few airports, but is not available in New York. Prices vary, largely depending on the make, model and market. Learn more about How RelayRide Works

Renters are asked to provide their mobile number, driver's license and credit card when they signup. This is done to run a check on the renter's driving history in order to protect car owners from renters with a bad record.

While it may sound similar to Zipcar, there are a number of notable differences -

Booking: With Zipcar, users can see which vehicles are available and for how long. Users can book available vehicles online and that's the end of the booking process. With RelayRides, the process is slightly longer. Renters select one or more vehicles in the desired location and a request with your desired pickup and dropoff time is sent to the owners. The owners may accept, decline or suggest an alternate time. Once both parties agree, the vehicle is considered to be booked.

Pickup & Return: Zipcars are usually in public parking lots and members can unlock booked vehicles simply by scanning their zipcards. It is quick and convenient. With RelayRides, you're dealing with an individual and not a company and renters are generally required to meet the owner at the pickup time, who then hands over the keys to the renter. The same thing happens when you return the vehicle.

Gas: Another notable difference is that with Zipcar, the cost of gas (upto 180 miles) is included in your rental. Another thing of convenience is that if there is more than a quarter tank of gas, you can return the zipcar without filling it up. With RelayRides, you are required to replace the gas you used before you return the vehicle.
 
After the rental is complete, the owner and the renter share their feedback to ensure accountability and transparency.

GetAround

GetAround car rentals
GetAround offers a similar service, although it is available in fewer markets compared to RelayRides. GetAround is currently available only in Austin, Chicago, Portland, San Francisco and and San Diego.

Despite its smaller scale, GetAround offers some interesting features that set it apart. Owners who register their vehicles have the option to get the GetAround CarKit installed in their vehicles for free. The CarKit is similar to the technology used by Zipcar in its fleet. It allows for the vehicle to locked and unlocked remotely, tracked via GPS and even immobilized, if required.

The CarKit eliminates the need for the renter and owner to meet in order to exchange keys and scores major convenience points from everyone involved. GetAround also offers 24/7 roadside assistance and customer support and a comprehensive insurance that includes liability, collision, property damage, and uninsured motorist protection.

Getaround also has a two-way rating system designed to surface community perspectives about the cars available for rent, and the people renting them.



Have you rented a vehicle from RelayRides, GetAround or a similar service? Please share your perspective in the comment below.

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Blue Ridge Parkway - One of the best Fall Foliage Drives

Is it any wonder every Virginian marching to war would sing,

Oh Shenandoah, I hear you calling,
Hi-Ho, You rolling river.
Oh Shenandoah, I long to hear you,
Hi-Ho, I'm bound Away.
'Cross the wide, Missouri.

In late September and October there are few highways that thrill the eyes and touch the heart more with what is so marvelously on display on either side of its edges than the Blue Ridge Parkway. Stealing breath both from its residents and its visitors, it carries travelers along the high ridges of the Appalachian Mountains, from Virginia to North Carolina, some 469 miles, through clouds and between acres and acres of multi-colored trees.

Shocking oranges and yellows and reds dress the forests that climb down into multicolored valleys ruggedly cut and halved by roaring rivers. Old farm houses dot the landscape, standing  like confederate sentries and meadows cut from the forest. “It’s the greenest grass you’ll ever see,” the Virginian soldier may boast. “Outside ‘o Carolina,” his sergeant may counter.

If you are traveling North from the old South, you’ll first hit the parkway at the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and the Cherokee Indian Reservation in North Carolina. Before you know it you’ll be in the Shenandoah National Park in Virginia and have your choice to travel Skyline Drive or The Blue Ridge Parkway. Both highways offer spectacular views of the most visited national parks in the USA.

The entire area was originally called the Appalachian Scenic Highway when it was constructed in the 1930s and 40s. It was a public works project, first begun  by crews from the Emergency Relief Administration, and later finished during WWII by conscientious objectors in the Civilian Public Service program.

Sites to  visit along the highway include Rockfish Gap, Humpback Rock, and Sherando Lake.  Names of places carry stories, you bet, like “Yankee Horse Ridge,” where it said a hard riding Union soldier’s horse fell and had to be shot. “Smart View” appropriately got its name for having “a right smart view” from there. And at the 189.9 mile marker you’ll happen upon “Aunt Orelena Puckett Cabin Exhibit,” the home of a long dead, but not forgotten midwife.

Overlooks to pull off and take pictures from are plentiful as well; like East Fork Overlook at mile post 418, and  Black Balsam Knob, Graveyard Fields at mile post 419. And maybe you’ll want to stop at mile post 63.8 to see The James River and Kanawha Canal, and walk across the footbridge leading across the river to the restored canal locks and exhibits. A self-guiding trail follows the river bluff.

If you do plan to travel The Blue Ridge Parkway in September, and especially October,  watch the weather reports because sometimes parts of the mountain highway are closed because of bad weather. You’ll be planning for your eyes and heart, and maybe for your singing voice when you travel on the Blue Ridge Parkway during your east coast adventure.

Image credit: http://www.blueridgeparkwayblog.com/
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Why Southwest Rules The Skies

Southwest is not only one of the most popular domestic airlines in the U.S. but also one with a consistent record of profitability. It shows that if you care for the customer, the money will follow. For some reason, almost every other airline has problem understanding this and they continue to torment customers with high prices, less legroom and hardly any flexibility. Southwest has some great policies that set it apart from the crowd.

Bags Fly Free

Back in 2008 when the aviation fuel prices rose, all major airlines started charging passengers for checked-in bags. Southwest realized this was not a very popular move and decided to break away from the pack by allowing two free checked bags. What makes it an incredibly good deal is that on other major airlines, this could cost over $100!

No Change Fee

Ever tried to change the travel dates of your booked flight on other airlines. It's a nightmare and most of them charge a $200 change fee. Everyone understands that if you cancel or change your ticket at the last moment, the airline is forced to fly with an empty seat, but for some unknown reason they even charge you the same change fee even if you call in a month before your flight!

Southwest shines yet again with its No Change Fee policy that effectively saves you $200 in change fee compared to other airlines. Until recently, customers were not even required to cancel their ticket. No shows also qualified for airline credit in the amount of your ticket. However, Southwest recently announced that no shows will no longer qualify for airline credit.

No Seat Number

While this may not sound like a great policy, it sets the right expectations. You board the plane when it's your turn and then you're free to sit anywhere. Doesn't this give the other airlines an edge? Don't the other airlines let you book a specific seat and avoid the hassle? Yes, they do but more often than not they want you to spend more money to book a seat you want. Increasingly, even if you book a flight well in advance, they show all seats as occupied and allowing you to pay extra to pick one of the better seats. Not cool.  

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Hourly Car Rentals Make Ditching Your Car Easier Than Ever Before

According to the latest Your Driving Costs report - the annual study conducted by AAA since 1950, the cost of car ownership in the US is over $9,000 per year. This reflects an increase of almost 2% over last year's numbers, primarily due to a whopping 11.26% increase in car maintenance cost. With the rising cost of gas, parking, maintenance and great public transportation options in some major cities, more and more people are picking the car-free option. But, as the Zipcar commercial cleverly puts it, sometimes you just need a car. Whether you're stocking up on groceries, planning a day of furniture shopping or simply running errands around the town, there are times a car comes in handy. While Zipcar is the pioneer in the hourly car rental business, traditional rental car companies are taking notice of this growing trend and are stepping up their game. This is great news because we now have more options than ever before. Here are some of the top picks for hourly car rentals -

Zipcar


Zipcar was the first to see a market for hourly car rentals, especially in urban centers with excellent  public transportation options like Boston, New York and Washington DC. Zipcar launched it's service back in 2000 and experienced rapid growth. Recent numbers show that they have over 800,000 members and nearly 10,000 vehicles in over 5 countries. Zipcar was recently acquired by the Avis Budget Group, which is expected to help Zipcar improve its service and scale.

Hertz 24/7


Hertz noticed the growth of the hourly car rental business and was rumored to be interested in buying Zipcar at one point, but later decided to build their own hourly car rental business from the ground up. Launched in Dec 2008, the Hertz version of Zipcar has gone through a few avatars - formerly known as Connect by Hertz and Hertz on Demand. It is now being branded as Hertz 24/7. The service is currently available in seven countries - U.S., Canada, U.K., Germany, Spain, France and Australia and is growing rapidly. Hertz plans to offer the 24/7 service at over 2000 locations by the end of the year.

Enterprise Car Share


Not to be outdone, Enterprise jumped into the hourly rental business by acquiring Mint Cars On Demand, PhillyCarShare and WeCar to create Enterprise Car Share. While the hourly car rental locations are currently limited, with over 5500 neighborhood locations, Enterprise already has tremendous physical presence in the U.S. It's only a matter of time before they have a substantial number of locations offering the hourly car rental service.
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Firefly Car Rental Enters the U.S. Market


Hertz recently unveiled a plan to bring its budget friendly brand Firefly to the U.S. The first location will open for business in Orlando on September 15, 2013 and will rapidly expand to other major airports, including San Francisco, Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. They plan to have approximately 20 Firefly locations by the end of the year. Firefly currently operates over 30 locations in Europe, catering mostly to leisure resorts in Spain, France, Italy and Switzerland. 

Back in November 2012, Hertz acquired the Dollar Thrifty Automotive group with the simultaneous sale of its budget friendly brand Advantage (as mandated by the FTC). The FTC mandate didn't apply to the Advantage locations in Europe and Hertz continued to operate Advantage over there and recently re-branded the Advantage brand to Firefly. With the arrival of Firefly in the U.S., Hertz will compete with the smaller rental car brands like Advantage, EZ, Fox, Payless and Sixt.
 
It seems Firefly's inventory is not currently available on some of the popular booking sites like Expedia and Kayak, but is showing up on Orbitz and Priceline. Firefly's website allows users to check rates and reserve vehicles and is also offering a weekend promotion with rates starting from $9.99 per day for an Economy car in Orlando valid from 9/19 - 10/15. They're currently not offering one-way rentals.

Based on a bunch of random searches using different dates and rental durations (daily, weekly and weekend) in Orlando, Firefly's rates seem to be in line with the smaller brands (Advantage, EZ, Fox, Payless and Sixt) and slightly cheaper than Hertz's other budget brands - Dollar and Thrifty. 

Bigger brands generally tend to have better reliability and higher customer satisfaction rates, while the smaller brands face the challenge of meeting customer expectations at a much lower price point. According to the reviews on TripAdvisor, Firefly has run into some of these challenges in Europe and it'll be interesting to see how Hertz tackles similar issues with Firefly in the U.S.

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Price Match Guarantee - The Truth About It

Price matching has been around for a while and a number of major retailers offer price matching in one form or other. Major players include Walmart, Target, BestBuy, Lowes and a bunch of other major retail chains. The strategy has worked wonders for BestBuy, recently bringing it back from the brink of oblivion. Every now and then, another retailer jumps into the bandwagon making the headlines. The most recent case was the announcement by Toys R Us, which sparked yet another  debate on the pros and cons of price matching. Does it really work? Who does it benefit - the consumer or the retailer? Both? Lets get to it.

What is price match & how does it work?

The concept is pretty simple. If you're in a retail store and see an item priced higher than another store, you can ask the store to match the competitor's price in return for your business. This works great for you because you
  • get the most bang for your buck
  • save time (& presumably money on gas) spent in picking up the item from another store
But what's in it for the retailer? Aren't they taking a hit on their profit margin and going through all the hassle to sell you an item for less? Not quite -
  • Chances are that since you're in the store, you'll pick up other items
  • If you have a nice experience, you are more likely to turn into a returning customer

There's gotta be a catch!

Although, price match sounds like a win-win for both the consumer and the retailer, very few people have the patience to make it work to their advantage. 

One of the biggest problems is that each retailer has its own policy around what qualifies for a price match. For example, BestBuy will match the price of a major retailer only within 25 miles of the store location. ToysRUs will price match online retailers like Amazon, but will factor in the shipping costs.

The other problem is that a lot of store employees are not aware of the store's price match policy. This can lead to confusion and wasted time at the checkout counter. In the end, depending on the clerk or the store manager, you may walk out with a price match on a item that was not eligible or you may be denied a price match for an eligible item. Crazy, right?

For most people, this is just too much hassle and not worth the time and effort involved, unless a big ticket item is involved. Given the planning, effort and patience involved, I have to say kudos to the ones who make it work!

What about price match by rental car companies?

Before I spent some time researching, I was absolutely certain that no rental car company offers a price match. I was partly right because no one is currently doing a price match, but I was surprised to see that back in 2011, Hertz promoted a special offer called the Hertz Ultimate Challenge advertising that they will match the weekly or weekend rates of any other major rental car company, plus give you $50 off a future Hertz rental! 

This is unbelievable, considering that Hertz is generally one of the most expensive car rental companies (for good reason). Out of curiosity, I dug deeper to see how this slam dunk of a deal worked out for renters back then. It turns out that just like price match at retail stores, this deal had its own share of problems that renters had to contend with. For starters, the price match was subject to some stifling conditions:
  • Reservations made through auction sites like Priceline and Hotwire don't qualify
  • Like other car rental specials, this deal was valid only at participating locations. While it was probably safe to assume airport locations would be participating, those renting at Hertz Local Editions (HLE) were probably not so lucky
  • Price match was applicable to base rate offered by other major car rental company and the renter was required to present a hard copy at the rental counter. The rate could not be booked in advance! Some people reported waiting in line for over 30 minutes, only to be denied price match for one reason or the other.
While no rental car company currently offers a price match, a number of them advertise their Best Rate guarantee, which claims that you won't find a lower rate on any other website. Unlike a price match in which they would undercut a competitor's offer, the Best Rate guarantee simply means that the base rate on their website won't be lower than any other site. Since the guarantee excludes Priceline, Hotwire and discounted rates (using coupons, contracted rates, etc) in general, it pretty much makes this guarantee redundant.
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Hertz Weekend Special Returns - $14.99 per weekend day

This week Hertz announced the return of its weekend special - which gets you an Economy car for $14.99 per weekend day. This came on the heels of Budget's Wendie weekend deal announced last week, which in turn came right after Enterprise came out with their $9.99 per weekend day deal.

So, what's the deal?

Hertz is offering a Compact/Economy car for $19.99 per weekend day at participating Hertz corporate locations in the U.S. If you're willing to pay upfront, you can save $5 per day and book your vehicle for $14.99 per weekend day with the Pay Now option.Weekend rental require pick-up Thursday 12:00 noon to Sunday 23:59 PM and the vehicle must be returned by Monday at noon or higher rates apply. Thursday and Friday pickups require a Friday night keep.  The deal is valid on rentals commencing through 11/30/2013. 
 
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Budget Weekend Car Rental Deal - Wendie Deal


This must be the perfect time to announce Fall and Winter deals on weekend car rentals. Last week, Enterprise announced the return of their popular $9.99 Weekend Deal and today Budget is stepping it up with the return of its own special offer for weekend rentals. While it may seem hard to beat a $9.99 per day deal, the Enterprise deal has a few shortcomings (not valid at airports, 100 mile per day limit) that this deal addresses making it a pretty attractive deal.

So, what's the deal?

Also known as the Wendie deal (thanks to Budget spokesperson Wendie Malick who features in the commercials), Budget is offering
  1. Economy or Compact car for $17 per weekend day or $119 per week
  2. Intermediate SUV for $22 per weekend day or $139 per week
The deal is valid at participating Budget airport locations in the U.S. from August 15, 2013 through December 15, 2013. Weekend rental period begins Thursday at noon and car must be returned by Monday 11:59 p.m. Thursday and Friday checkouts require a Friday night overstay.

There's gotta be a catch

There's always a catch - usually a number of them
  1. Unlike the Enterprise weekend deal which is valid only in neighborhood locations, this deal is valid only at airport locations. So, if you're thinking of picking up a car at the Budget location around the block this weekend, this deal is not for you. 
  2. Rental cars at airport locations tend to have higher taxes than similarly priced rentals at neighborhood locations.
  3. The deal is only valid at participating locations and specifically exclude New York and Hawaii. You were expecting that, weren't you?

What are my alternatives?

Sure, this sounds like a pretty good deal, but it may not work for everyone for a variety of reasons, including the ubiquitous mention of participating locations in the fine-print.

Luckily, most major rental car companies offer a variety of Weekend deals
  • Special weekend rates like the Enterprise $9.99 weekend deal
  • Free Weekend rental day offer by Avis, Budget and National
  • $10 - $20 off coupon for weekend rentals. The best part is that the coupon can be combined with a rate code (AWD, BCD, CDP) to double up on discount and save even more!

What's the verdict?

A pretty good deal that has been around for a few years now (excluding the summer months) that has the potential to save you a lot of money on your next weekend rental. As with all deals and offers, it may not work for everyone. Its best to compare all your options to be sure that you're getting the best deal.