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Car rental tips that aren't effective anymore

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Over the years, we've seen a lot of tips with ways to save money on car rentals. Some are easy to follow: like saying no to upsells like prepaid gas, toll pass, additional driver etc. Others need a little bit legwork: like saying no to unnecessary insurance. And then there are "tips" that send you on a wild goose chase taking up hours of your time (hey, how about a tip that makes it easier?). Today, we're going to show you just how (in)effective and (in)efficient some of these popular tips really are

    Check out the deals section on the rental car company's website for coupons

    As you probably know, each car rental company has multiple offers & coupons up for grabs at any time. Simply head over to their website and you can easily spot the deals section with all the current promotions. For the road test, we went to the deals page of every major rental car company and after skipping the coupons that were in clearly marked for international rentals or for AAA members or Frequent Flyer programs, we counted 78 coupons spread across the eight major rental car companies. 

    In case you're wondering why we're going through coupons across all rental agencies and not just the one with the cheapest rate, read this.

    Methodology: We decided to test out the coupons for a weekly rental in Miami, FL three weeks out. For this part, our objective was to quickly browse through coupon headline/summary and eliminate the irrelevant ones - its easy to see that a weekend / monthly rental coupon isn't going to work for our weekly rental. As we came across a coupon that seemed relevant, we punched in the travel details and ran through the reservation process to check the final discounted price (including taxes). Simple enough, eh? 

    Execution: We identified 35 relevant coupons and were able to find a decent discount for every single vendor (except for Enterprise) in a total of 18 minutes. Considering this to be the performance of an average user, 78 coupons were evaluated in 18 minutes or roughly 14 seconds/coupon. Not bad at all.
    Result: Even though we found a decent discount for almost every rental car company, it is unlikely that this is the best deal out there. Here's why
    • Some rental agencies don't show all their ongoing promotions on their deals page.
    • Alamo, Avis, Budget, Hertz & National allow you to stack coupons and use two discounts for a single rental. However, coupons on the Deals page are rarely stacked.
    • If you're a member of AAA, AARP, BJs Club, Costco or a number of other associations, there are many more discounts (including stackable discounts) available to you. 
    • Even if you don't belong to an association offering car rental discounts, its easy to signup for most of the Airline/Hotel Reward programs for free and use the discount codes they offer. 

    Subscribe to their Email, Facebook and Twitter feeds for exclusive discounts

    We come across this tip way too often and wondered if there's any truth to it. Are there really any out of the world discounts reserved exclusively for Email subscribers and Facebook/Twitter followers?

    Methodology: For this part of the road test, we subscribed to special offer emails from every major car rental agency and followed them on Facebook and Twitter. The idea was to gather all offers published by rental car companies over the course of a month and compare them with coupons available to non-members to see if subscribers actually get a better deal. 

    Execution & Result: By the end of the month, we had received 29 emails in total. Most of these emails simply included offers that were also publicly available on their website. Guess where? Yup, the deals section. However, Budget sent out 3 exclusive offers and Enterprise sent out 1 exclusive offer to its email subscribers.

    On Facebook, the rental agencies collectively came up with 150 posts. Of the 150, only 24 were coupon related, most of which were also available in the deals section on their website. Only 2 of the 150 updates included coupons that were exclusively available in the Facebook feed only. 

    While we found some exclusive coupons via Email & Facebook, they were identical to offers available on their website, the only difference being the discount code.

    Google "car rental coupons" or check out popular Coupon Websites

    There are probably a million coupon websites on the internet and if you've seen a few, you've seen em' all. Its not hard to notice that most are copycats of the popular coupon websites like RetailMeNot and CouponCabin. Head over the coupon website, type the name of the vendor and voila, you get a page full of coupons. But, that's about as far as they go. Now it's upto you to punch in different codes to see which one works better than the rest. How hard can that be? Lets see.

    Methodology:  Use popular coupon websites to find the best deal for a rental car across all major car rental companies. 

    Execution: RetailMeNot shows two types of coupons. One is called Top Rated Coupons and the other in their own words - Unpopular Coupons - These might not work, but give 'em a try. Across the eight major car rental agencies, RetailMeNot shows 108 Top Rated Coupons and 209 Unpopular Coupons. By the earlier established average of 14 seconds to evaluate a coupon, it would take a staggering 74 minutes to get through these, which is well over an hour!

    Similarly, CouponCabin also has two types of coupons. One of them is called Active Coupons and the other, in their own words - Recently Expired Coupons - Sometimes coupons or promo codes become active again before we’ve had a chance to fully test them. Here are some recently expired promo codes that may still work -- give them a shot! Across the eight major car rental agencies, CouponCabin shows 76 Active Coupons and 179 Recently Expired coupons. Using the 14 second per coupon average, it would take 59.5 minutes to get through these, which is almost an hour!

    Result: In reality, its likely to take much longer as its hard to sustain the same pace over an extended period of time. Most of us try a few coupons, some of which work and some don't. After some time, we give up and settle for whatever worked best for us until then. More often than not, its not the best deal out there!

    Wrapping it up

    Looking for car rental coupons can be a long, frustrating and seemingly never-ending ordeal. With an endless supply of coupon codes, most of us want to check just one more to see if it works better than the current one. 

    At Zalyn, our focus has been to get out of this rat-race and evolve car rental coupon search techniques to help travelers find the best coupon with minimal effort. As of today, you can search through over 400 active coupons and find the one that works best in just a few minutes. Its that simple.

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