Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Autoslash for Car Rental

A few weeks ago, we mentioned how you can use Citi Thank You points to get a free car rental. I also referenced a website called Autoslash.com, but didn't go into too much detail. I thought that we would revisit Autoslash this week after the website saved my father about $75 in about 3 hours.

As I mentioned, we added a Free One Way flight to Phoenix for one last family vacation before I no longer qualify for free lap child status. Unlike Manhattan, the Phoenix metro area isn't as public transportation friendly, so you'll probably really need a rental car.

Unfortunately, rental car rates were running $333-500+ for the 5 day period we were looking at. While that comes out to $65-100/day (not incredibly horrible), we were hoping for something lower.

But unlike booking flights, you can make a rental car reservation without any cancellation penalties. That's super important because we're using Autoslash.com to find us better rates.

Step 1 - The Dummy Booking
First, you have to make a rental car booking. Counter-intuitive, but you should NOT use Autoslash for this part. The rental car agencies that allow primary bookings through Autoslash are very limited (I think just 2-3, and not the ones you'd want). The other major agencies do allow secondary bookings, however, but not primary.

Instead, I recommend searching and comparing rates using aggregators (Expedia or Travelocity), but don't book with them either.

When you find a rate you like, head to the actual rental car website (Hertz, Avis, Dollar, National, Budget, etc) and book directly with them. That way, you don't have to deal with the middleman to cancel and rebook.

Note:  While you have no intent to actually keep this reservation, you should still pick the lowest rate at an agency you're comfortable with (in the off chance that you end up using it). You'll notice that Advantage, Fox and Payless will often have the lowest prices, but we NEVER book with them. Too many horror stories of not honoring reservations, not having car availability or having painfully long lines. We generally prefer the high levels of customer service and newer cars at Hertz and Avis, but often prioritize cost and go with Budget, Thrifty or Dollar which are usually good enough.

In our case, we booked with National for $333.47 (including all taxes and fees) for 5 nights (October 25-30) at the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport location.

After you complete your booking, you will get a confirmation / reservation #. Keep this handy.

Step 2 - Autoslash
Next you will head over to Autoslash.com and then input your information into the TRACK A RENTAL section of the page (and not the Search section).

You will notice the section where you need to input your confirmation number. This will allow them to monitor your reservation and continually identify opportunities to lower your rate using a variety of discounts, coupons and special promotions that you probably would never even know about.

The best part is, you're done at this point. Everything is 100% automated (either that or they have massive rooms filled with Southeast Asian children searching every possible combination and permutation of discount codes). Either way, you can just sit back and wait.

Step 3 - Check Your Emails
While not 100% guaranteed, we've used Autoslash about 5-6 times and we've been able to find lower rates every time except once. Anywhere between a few hours or days/weeks later, you may get one of two different emails:

The Rebook Now Email

About 90 minutes after inputting the information into Track A Rental, we received a "Great News" email from Autoslash.
Hi Baby Songer, 
Thanks for tracking your upcoming car rental with AutoSlash. We review each reservation daily to see if we can find additional savings for our customers. We found a better rate on your upcoming rental in Phoenix on 10/25/2013. 
You are currently booked at the rate of $333.47 with National. AutoSlash is able to offer you a lower rate of $272.34 with National for the same vehicle, a savings of $61.13. 
If you'd like to take advantage of this lower rate and lock in the savings, just click here to book through AutoSlash. Better act fast though, as rates can change quickly. We'll even check your rate each day, and if we find a price drop, we'll re-book you automatically to lock in the savings!  
If you decide to take advantage of this lower rate, please remember to cancel your old reservation by clicking here
Weren’t able to find the lower price we quoted above? Rental car companies change prices constantly. While this provides an opportunity for you to score a lower rate, it also means you have to act quickly when rates drop.
So in our case, we received this email about 3 hours after we signed up with Autoslash. We clicked through the first email link and it pulled up the Autoslash search engine which showed several rental car options for the same dates/times as our original reservation.

But instead of just showing the 2 companies we didn't want, it also showed National for $272.34. After a few clicks, we booked a new reservation with National and then cancelled our original reservation.

We quickly saved $61.13 in less than 2 hours. More money to buy me ice cream!

The We've Automatically Rebooked You Email

Just 1 hour later, we received another "Great News" email from Autoslash.
Hi Baby Songer,
Thanks for booking with AutoSlash. We review each reservation daily to see if we can find additional savings for our customers. We found a better rate on your upcoming National rental in Phoenix on 10/25/2013 (AutoSlash Trip ID: #######27).
You were originally booked at $272.34, and the price has now dropped to $257.61. We've automatically re-booked your rental at the lower rate. You've saved $14.73 without even lifting a finger! Please note that your rental confirmation number has changed. Your new National confirmation number is ######909.
Please provide this new number to the agent when picking up your rental to ensure you receive the correct rate.
If you do not have the latest confirmation number with you at the time of the rental, request the agent look up your reservation by your name. If you have not received the updated confirmation, please check your SPAM folder before contacting us, as emails are often mistakenly classified as SPAM.
We'll continue to track your rental rate each day, and if we find additional savings, we'll be in touch. If you need to change or cancel your reservation, just click here.
I think that since we made the second booking using Autoslash, they were able to automatically rebook us without us needing to do anything. So far, we've already saved about $75 and still have another 3 weeks before our trip. Crossing my baby fingers!

Conclusion
Since's its a 100% free service for the consumer, we can't imagine NOT using Autoslash to track all our existing car rental reservations.

Of course, there's a chance we may still be able to find better rates on our own if we checked back manually on Expedia or Travelocity, but I've become a pretty busy toddler these days now that I'm in daycare 3 days a week.

Thank you, Autoslash.
UPDATE [October 7, 2013]

We decided to test Autoslash and see if there were any better rates by manually looking up rental car rates on Expedia a week later. While the regular passenger cars were actually higher now than last week, we did find an SUV from Alamo at about $239 for the same 5 days. It would only be a savings of about $18, but we'd get a nicer car with more space. So we made a new booking, but kept the original just in case it would get even lower. Now we had 2 bookings - one for a regular car (National) and another for an SUV (Alamo).

Next, we used Autoshash to Track Rental for the new Alamo SUV rental. About an hour later, we received another "Great News" email from them.
AutoSlash is able to offer you a lower rate of $217.27 with Budget for the same vehicle, a savings of $38.39.
Wonderful. When we clicked through Autoslash, we saw Budget listed with Sixt and Payless. In addition to Budget's Standard SUV (Ford Edge) for $217, they also listed a cheaper Intermediate SUV (Ford Escape) for $191. So we rebooked yet again with Budget and cancelled our Alamo reservation.

Remember when we started this whole car rental process with rates of $333 for 5 days? Now, we were at $191.




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