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How to keep tabs on ever-changing car rental rates & discounts?

Wednesday, November 01, 2017


We checked the rental rate for an Economy car at a major car rental company at a large US airport 106 days before pickup. Then, we re-checked the rate every single day until the pickup date. Here's how the rate varied over time.

Its no secret that car rental rates change often, but no one can predict when (or if) they'll rise or fall & by how much. Most car rental companies use yield management software that automatically vary rental rates based on demand & supply to maximize revenue. That is why most travel experts recommend that you re-run your search whenever possible, to see if a better rate is available. Since you can book a rental car without an upfront payment & cancel anytime without penalty, you're free to jump onto a better deal at any time. But, this is easier said than done!

The Problem

Most of us have busy lives and despite our best efforts, we may struggle to find time to re-run our car rental search periodically. Even those of us who find time, may run out of patience when they don't see any rate drop after a few attempts. After all, rates may not drop for weeks at a time and then suddenly drop multiple times in a single day.

It is also important to note that in most cases, the lowest rate for each rental vehicle is not the standard rate, but a discounted rate based on a coupon or a discount code. This means that can't simply check just the standard rate, but also need to consider the numerous discounted rates that are available to you. As you can imagine, this is a lot of work to do every single time!

The Solution

We're excited to announce the launch of our latest feature Automated Search, that makes all of this work a whole lot easier. Its simple - you define your search criteria (rental location, dates, etc), your schedule (how frequently you want to re-run your search), your preferences (coupons, preferred vehicle & rental agency). Based on your settings, your search re-runs periodically and emails you a report with the top picks.
Sign into your Zalyn account and search for a rental car. When you get to the search results page, look for the Automate your Search button & hit it. A new page will open, where you can setup & customize your automated search by making the following selections:

Schedule


No one knows when (or if) rates change, so your best option is to re-run the search periodically & hope that you catch every rate drop. It goes without saying that the more frequently you re-run your search, the more likely you'll catch rate drops. However, re-running your search hourly or daily may not the best option for every rental.

To ensure everyone gets a fair shot, your automated search is powered by your user credits. Its fairly simple, you earn credits in a variety of ways & you use em' to power your automated search. Since you'll use some of your credits every time your automated search runs, you need to figure out the right balance so you can keep tabs on rate drops & not run out of credits too soon. Some things that may help you decide the ideal schedule (you can change it at any time) -
  • Rates tend to vary a lot more at busy airport locations than at neighborhood locations.
  • Rates are mostly flat more than 90 days from the pickup date.
  • Rates show a gradual downward trend with a few spikes leading upto the pickup date.
  • There's usually an upward trend in the last week leading upto the pickup date.
  • Most coupons & discounts are available in the last 45-60 days to the pickup date. 

Vehicle & Rental Agency


If you're looking for the cheapest set of wheels, leave everything checked in this section.

However, if you prefer to rent only with certain rental agencies or want to exclude some for any reason (e.g discount & regional brands), you can set your rental agency preference here.

Similarly, if you're looking for a specific type of vehicle like a Minivan or SUV, or want to exclude certain vehicle types that don't meet your rental needs, then you can set your vehicle preference here.

Discounted Rates


You rental may qualify for dozens of coupons & discounts, but its a lot of work to check discounted rates for each & every coupon. Moreover, in a majority of cases, it is a complete waste of time & effort. After all what's the point of checking a $20 off coupon if you have a $30 off coupon that already works?

Whenever your search runs, we find qualifying coupons for your rental & then crunch some numbers to assign a rank to every coupon. These coupons are then arranged by rental agency so you have a top ranked (most promising) coupon for every agency. Similarly, you may have the second-best coupon for each agency and so on.

The discount rate search is powered by user credits, so the more coupons you check, the more credits you'll use. Our data shows that checking just the top 2 ranked coupons across all rental agencies gives you a 81% chance of finding the lowest rate & doing it for the top 3 improves your odds to 93%. This is what we use as the default.

Coupon stacks are a great way to possibly save even more. You can set the number of top ranked stacks you want to check for discounted rates. We default this setting to 1.  

Email Settings


By default, you get an email report, every time your automated search runs. However, you can choose to receive it only when the cheapest vehicle matching your preferences falls below a certain amount (that you can set). We believe its better to receive your email report every time. Here's why -
  • It confirms that your search is actually re-run, so you're not left wondering if you didn't get an email because there isn't a better deal or if you search wasn't re-run for some reason.
  • While the cheapest rate may not always change, there's a chance that other vehicles that were previously too expensive are now within reach & possibly worth the upgrade.

Search Report


Whenever your automated search runs, you get an email (subject to your settings) with a summary of your search results. The report shows you the 3 cheapest rental options for each vehicle type based on your vehicle & rental agency preferences.

The report may also include tips to help you find better deals based on your rental location, dates, discounts & your automated search setting. The report also includes search statistics that tells you how many active coupons were analyzed, how many qualifying coupons were found and how many of those were applied based on your settings.




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