Best Car Rental Deals: Are the Brokers Really Cheaper than the Rental Firms?

PUBLISHED ON May, 28 2023

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A recent study found that in 39% of the cases, car rental prices offered by online brokers (also known as comparison sites) are not cheaper than the price offered by the rental company.

The study by CarInsuRent.com, a leading provider of stand-alone car hire excess insurance, looked at the cost of hiring a full-size car (Hyundai Elantra / Ford Fusion, or similar) for a week, from 1 August – 7 August 2023, in ten destinations (Charlotte, Chicago, Dallas, Denver, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, New-York, Orlando, Phoenix, and Seattle) with six rental companies, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, National, and Sixt, and compared these to the same week in 2022. Our study compared the prices offered by the rental companies on their website, with the prices for the same type of vehicle and the same rental company, using 5 different online brokers – Auto-Europe, Cheapcarrental.com, Discover, Expedia, and Rentalcars.com

Before we dive into the figures, let’s have a better understanding of why you should compare car rental prices and what is the role of car rental brokers in this industry.

Compare Car Rental Prices and Find the Best Car Rental Deals

It is highly recommended to compare car rental prices before making a reservation. Here’s why:

  1. Cost Savings: Car rental prices can vary significantly among different rental companies and booking platforms. By comparing prices, you can identify the most affordable options and potentially save money on your rental. It allows you to find the best deals, discounts, or promotional offers available at a given time.
  2. Transparency and Convenience: Comparing car rental prices provides transparency and allows you to make an informed decision. It helps you understand the different rates, fees, and rental terms offered by various providers. Many online platforms offer convenient tools that allow you to compare prices side by side, making it easier to find the most suitable option within your budget.
  3. Availability of Vehicle Types: Car rental companies may have different vehicle options available in their fleets. By comparing prices, you can also assess the variety and suitability of vehicles for your specific needs. This is particularly important if you have specific requirements such as a larger vehicle, specialty car, or specific features.
  4. Customer Reviews and Ratings: When comparing car rental prices, you can also take into account customer reviews and ratings of different rental companies or platforms. This can give you insights into the quality of service, reliability, and overall customer satisfaction. Evaluating these aspects can help you make a more informed decision and choose a reputable rental provider.
  5. Flexibility and Extras: Some car rental providers may offer additional benefits, such as flexible booking policies, free cancellation options, fair fuel policies, or no extra fees. By comparing prices, you can also consider these additional factors and choose a rental option that best aligns with your preferences and requirements.

Car Rental Brokers

Car rental brokers typically operate as intermediaries between customers and car rental companies, providing a platform or service that allows customers to compare and book rental vehicles from multiple rental agencies.

Car rental brokers specialize in aggregating and comparing car rental options from various rental agencies. They gather information about available vehicles, prices, rental terms, and additional services from multiple providers and present them on their platforms for customers to review and choose from. They primarily operate through online platforms or websites where customers can search for rental cars based on their desired location, dates, and other preferences. The brokers’ platforms often feature user-friendly interfaces, advanced search filters, and tools that facilitate easy comparison and booking.

Car rental brokers can often offer cheaper rates compared to renting directly from car rental agencies. Several factors contribute to this price difference:

  1. Bulk Purchasing: Car rental brokers have the advantage of booking a large number of rental cars in bulk from various rental agencies. This allows them to negotiate lower rates and pass on the savings to customers.
  2. Competitive Pricing: Car rental brokers operate in a highly competitive market. To attract customers, they often offer discounted rates and special deals. By comparing prices across multiple rental agencies, brokers can provide customers with the best available rates.
  3. Dynamic Pricing: Car rental brokers leverage dynamic pricing algorithms that continuously analyze supply and demand. This enables them to adjust prices in real-time based on factors like location, rental duration, and market demand. As a result, customers may find lower rates through brokers.
  4. Exclusive Discounts and Partnerships: Brokers may have exclusive partnerships and agreements with certain car rental agencies. These partnerships can provide access to discounted rates, promotional offers, or unique inventory that may not be available when booking directly.

Car rental brokers offer the convenience of comparing multiple rental agencies and their rates on a single platform. This saves customers time and effort, allowing them to easily find the best available deal.

Are Car Rental Brokers Really Cheaper?

It is recommended to shop around online and look at sites like Rentalcars.com, Discover, Expedia, Kayak, Cheapcarrental.com and others to compare your options and narrow in on the best deal.

Our study found that in 61% of the cases, online brokers offer the best car rental deal. In 33% of the cases, the price offered at the car rental website is the same as the price offered by the online brokers, and in 6% of the cases, we were able to find that the price offered by the rental company is cheaper than the price offered by the broker.

According to our study, if you choose to rent a car with National prices offered on the company’s website are identical to those offered by the online brokers. For example: the price for 1 week rental in Orlando International Airport is $671 at the rental company’s website, and on Rentalcars.com and Expedia.

When renting a car from Sixt at the same airport, renting directly from the rental company will save you 7%-11% – US$ 453 compared to US$ 487 from Expedia or US$ 508 if you choose Rentalcars.com.

Another example is when renting a car with Enterprise at Charlotte/Douglas International Airport – The car rental company will charge you US$ 746.56 per week, while Rentalcars.com will charge US$ 746.55 and Expedia will simply round it to US$ 744. If you choose to rent a car at the same airport from National, the price is US$ 865 regardless if you choose it directly from the rental company or from Rentalcars.com and Expedia.

Moreover, our study found that in 11% of the cases, if you choose to “pay now” instead of paying at the rental desk, the price offered by the rental company is cheaper than the price offered by the broker. For example The price offered by Budget for 1-week rental in Las Vegas Harry Reid Intl. Airport is US$ 733. This is equivalent to the price offered by Rentalcars.com, Carrenals.com, and Expedia. However, if you choose Budget’s “pay now” option, paying ahead saves you money and the price drops to US$ 664. This is 10% discount. If you choose this option, you should bear in mind that when canceling up to 24 hours before the scheduled pick-up time, a fee of up to US$ 50 will be charged.

CarInsuRent’s 2023 rental car study found that Dollar Car Rental and Sixt are ranked among the cheapest rental car companies. Whereas the average price for a weeklong rental from the most expensive brand, Avis, was $865, it was just $605 with Sixt.

Final Thoughts

By comparing car rental prices, you can optimize your rental experience by finding the most cost-effective and suitable option. Look at different comparison sites then visit the rental company’s website. If you do it that way, especially if you have the “Pay Now” option, you might receive an even more significant discount. Remember that most upfront rental payments are subject to a cancellation fee.

It’s essential to consider factors beyond price alone, such as the rental provider’s reputation, including features, terms and conditions, and customer reviews. Comparing prices helps ensure you get the best value for your money while meeting your specific needs and preferences.

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