Technology has come a long way in helping you save money on travel. But to get the truly best travel deals, you still have to do a lot of your own legwork.
One company is setting out to change that. By offering a unique way to rent a car, upstart AutoSlash is taking a revolutionary new approach that's threatening to disrupt the entire industry.
What AutoSlash promises is simple: the best deals on rental cars. Specifically, it does three things to get you the best rates. Like other travel portals, it looks at multiple rental car companies to find the lowest prices. It also goes out and looks for coupons and discount codes to get you additional discounts. However, its most innovative feature is that rather than just settling for the best deal available when you first book, AutoSlash keeps looking for even better rates -- and grabs them automatically when it finds them.
Why Renting a Car Is Different
With many travel services, if you want to make a reservation, you have to pay for it up front. So if you buy an airline ticket and then later see that a cheaper fare is available, you can't just cancel your old ticket and book a new one. Instead, you have to go through the much harder process of changing your existing ticket to a new one.
Most airlines charge expensive ticket-change fees that wipe out any savings from a slightly lower fare. (Similarly, cruise lines typically charge high cancellation fees that increase as your travel date gets closer.)
With rental cars, though, the rules are much different. Most car companies let you book a reservation without a credit card. You can cancel at will, but you don't even have to do that if you don't want to -- if you just don't show up, there's no penalty.
The Easy Strategy to Save Big on Rental Cars
This lack of restrictions on rental car reservations lets enterprising customers get the best deal. Here's the simple strategy:
Book the best deal you can find now.
Check back every once in a while to see if the rates have changed.
If they're lower, book a new deal and cancel the old one.
Using this strategy can cut hundreds off the cost of a rental. But because rental car companies tend to raise and lower their rental rates seemingly at random, you have to be diligent about rechecking those rates day after day if you don't want to miss out on the best deal.
Even if you use an online portal to make your rental car reservation, traditional portals don't keep their eyes open for future price drops.
That's the problem that AutoSlash addresses. Booking your initial reservation looks a lot like it does on regular travel portals, where you get to pick from among rental companies to find the best rate.
But after that, AutoSlash checks back in with those car companies several times a day to see if they're offering a better deal. If it finds one, then it doesn't force you to do the legwork -- it just rebooks your reservation at the lower rate. That way, you can take advantage of everything from early bird specials to last-minute discounts, all without spending hours at your computer rechecking everything yourself.
Will It Last?
AutoSlash's methods are powerful enough that the rental car industry is fighting back. Enterprise and Avis Budget (CAR) aren't allowing their cars to appear on the site. And while Hertz (HTZ) and Dollar Thrifty (DTG) do still appear, you have to wonder whether that'll last long.
In the long run, AutoSlash may prompt rental car companies to change their car reservation policies to stop this behavior entirely. In the meantime, though, AutoSlash's method could get you a far better rental-car deal than you'd ever get on your own.
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Motley Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has spent far too much time doing what AutoSlash does automatically. You can follow him on Twitter here. He doesn't own shares of the companies mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of Hertz Global Holdings.
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