Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
When it comes to leisure travel, re-shopping your rental car or hotel the week before your trip can save big bucks.
With rental cars, the most common pattern is that when somebody books an airline ticket, they also book their rental car. But rental reservations are, as a general rule, fully changeable and you pay no money upfront, just at the time you rent the car. So I routinely shop the rate again about seven days before my trip.
For example, my family and I recently went to Denver for a ski trip. I originally booked the car for a week at $273 a good while ago. But when I re-shopped just before the trip with another company, I found a rate of $99 including junk fees. That was a lot of money back in my pocket!
Anecdotally, I’d say I save money at least 90 percent of the time by using this method. I can’t say it works 100 percent of the time because there are some times when it’s actually more expensive. In that case, I just stay with my original booking.
One more tip on the rental cars. Use your built-in camera on your phone to make a visual document of the car as you walk around looking for dents and nicks. Do this in addition to — not in lieu of — having the damage noted by hand before you take off. It’s just another way to protect yourself if there’s a dispute about damage.
When it comes to hotels, you can usually change or cancel your booking at least up to 72 hours before your scheduled arrival. If you re-shop the week before your travels, you will be stunned how much you save.
-by Clark Howard, Save More, Spend Less, Avoid Rip-offs
Find more answers to your consumer questions, plus Clark’s new book “Living Large in Lean Times,” at ClarkHoward.com. Listen to his radio show live 1-4 p.m. Monday through Friday on WSB 750 AM and 95.5 FM.