Want to save money on that Florida trip? There’s a semi-secret way to do it if you’re willing to add a little drive time. Here’s how to take advantage of the seasonal flow of Florida’s rental car fleet to snag a one way deal!
Why Do One Way Car Rentals Cost so Much?
If you’ve ever looked up the cost of a one way car rental you may remember being shell-shocked. Sometimes the prices quoted make it feel like you’re putting a down payment on the car, not just using it for the week, blowing a big hole in your vacation budget. Drop fees can be high, especially if you’re taking a vehicle from a high demand location to one where demand isn’t as high. These fees factor in lost income from the car, wear and mileage on the car and the need to get the car back to its home fleet.
The best way to avoid those high one way car rental costs? Time your trip with a car rental company’s drive out or drive in program.
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Florida’s rental cars are constantly in flux as vacationers and retirees leave and enter the state with cars from different fleets. During spring break and the summer, demand goes through the roof for rental cars. When demand’s low, rental car companies need to move their fleet to other locations. How do companies manage that flow? By using super low one way rental car deals to get cars into and out of Florida. Here’s how to find one of these money saving car rental deals!
TravelingMom Tip: With rental car booking at an all-time high as travel starts to come back to life, we aren’t seeing as many deals for spring. However, we do believe that in the fall when many kids return to school face to face, we’ll see fall deals.
Best Times for One-Way Car Rental Deals
In the spring and fall one-way car rental deals can be found with much friendlier price tags. You’ll pick the car up in one spot and drop it off at a different location, hence the drive out and drive in program names. Most of the time these drop sites need to be in two different states. However, that doesn’t necessarily mean they need to be far from each other.
One year I picked up a car in Orlando. We spent time on the beach after a Disney trip and then I returned the car to Atlanta. We were flying home from there. It only added a couple hours of driving and got us to a major airport with cheap flights. The cost savings though? HUGE!
Bigger families can benefit the most from these sales. As a mother of 4, our family needs a larger SUV or minivan when we travel to fit all 6 of us. When these sales come up, most companies will set all car tiers at the same price.
With these deals being seasonal, you’ll find that in the spring (think April and May after most spring breaks have ended) deals can be found going from Florida back to the north and Texas. In the fall those deals flip-flop and you’ll do better booking a car out of state to drive into Florida. Choosing to drive and fly in the same trip with a one way car rental deal will provide savings that you can use towards other parts of your trip.
How to Book One Way Car Rental Deals
The easiest way is to book on a site like Expedia. Since it covers most major car rental companies, you can compare and book in one place with less research. When you book through Expedia, make sure you’re a part of their free rewards program. You’ll save money and earn points.
When you look on Expedia be sure to enter the city you’re looking at as a whole. Prices can vary wildly between airport and city locations. Be sure to check several drop off points as well. For instance, there was a $400 price difference when I looked between dropping a car off in Houston vs. College Station, Texas.
Learn about more car rental secrets and tips on this post.
TravelingMom Tip: NEVER NEVER wait for the deal. Car rentals are a hot commodity right now. Always book a refundable, cancellation-eligible car as soon as you need it. It protects your vacation plans until you can find a better deal. You don’t want to wait and wind up with no car or a car that costs hundreds more.
What You Need to Know about One-Way Car Rentals
Here’s the deal. We all know that the pandemic has impacted the travel industry. As a whole flight prices are down and rental car prices are up. Availability is low on some rental car lots as more people than ever are choosing to drive themselves around at their destination rather than use public transport. The deals in 2021 may not be as amazing as in prior years. You might not find a $5 a day car. It might be a $30/day car. But that’s still $60/day below all the other prices. As the travel industry recovers, we are sure to see more one way car deals return.
When you’re looking for deals be aware of the following:
- Historically, these car rental deals run in mid-September until shortly before Christmas for drive in deals. Drive out deals happen in the spring traditionally in April and May.
- Play around with dates and the length of the rental. Sometimes hanging onto the car for a few extra days can make a large difference in the final cost of the rental.
- Only some Florida airports qualify for these special rates. Being flexible with your drop off/pick up sites will help you snag a better deal.
How to Find the Lowest One Way Car Rental Price the Rest of the Year
We know that these specials exist at certain times of the year. Those who can travel during those times definitely benefit. But what if you’re not traveling in the off-season? Well, there are a few things to keep in mind.
- If you’re military or former military, you are eligible for a USAA account. I’ve frequently turned to Hertz using the USAA code 77694 for one way rentals where I’m trying to get from point A to point B.
- Use Expedia to gather a lot of prices in one place. Then click the I button next to taxes and fees to see if you’re being charged a one way drop rate. If there isn’t one, book a car to save it. Go back in and check closer to your trip dates to see if the price has fallen. Also, use Autoslash to let you know automatically if the price goes down.
- Car rentals are really a YMMV(your mileage may vary) deal. It’s always best to check a few times and try different options to see what the best deal for your situation is. The price quote one day could be hundreds off from one or two days later. Whenever possible book refundable, cancellation-eligible rentals, so you can snatch any specials that come up.