Consumer expert Clark Howard’s column appears here each Thursday in conjunction with Deal Spotter, a weekly print section in The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
I have a method for saving money on car rentals that’s a bit cumbersome but has worked for me. Now a new website promises to automate my clunky old process.
My method is tested and proven: When I book my flight weeks or months before the actual date of travel, I also book my car rental at the same time. Then a week before my travel date, I reshop the car rental rate. At least 90 percent of the time, I find that I can book a new car cheaper at the last minute, so I just let my old reservation go.
My family and I took a ski trip in December and we needed to rent a car. My price went from just under $300 when I booked the flight to just under $100, including all junk fees, when I reshopped the rate a week before travel.
But AutoSlash.com has automated my process. AutoSlash keeps re-shopping your rate for you every single day after you book. If they find a cheaper rate, bam — it’s yours! The company claims that 85 percent of the time they’ll end up saving you money.
A New York Times reporter tried out the service and agrees with the company line. He wrote, “It’s enough to make AutoSlash my first and only stop for auto rental booking.”
That assessment is a bit overboard for my taste, but you should still check out this site when you need to rent a car.
Meanwhile, I recently read a tip that struck me as sound advice for any car renter. Ed Perkins of SmarterTravel.com advises that you use your cell phone camera to document any damage to the vehicle before you leave the car rental lot. This should be done 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.
-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 1-3 p.m. Monday through Friday on WSB 750 AM and 95.5 FM.